Lessons learned from April 27: Six years after the storms

(WIAT) — Six years have passed since deadly storms swept through the state, killing more than 240 people. The April 27,

The April 27, 2011 tornadoes impacted communities and cities across Alabama, and today, emergency management officials are remembering lessons learned that day, hoping to save lives in the future.

“It shook this state. It woke a lot of people up,” said Jim Coker, EMA Director for Jefferson County.

You can see the evidence of that wake-up call in Gadsden, where Gadsden/Etowah EMA Director Deborah Gaither says she has seen an increase in people signing up to be CERT, or Community Emergency Response, volunteers. She says she’s also seen more young people attend events geared to severe weather awareness and a larger number of people taking alerts and warnings seriously.

“April 27, 2011, there were so many people that thought they were prepared, but they learned that today they were not,” said Gaither.

Since that day, more cities and towns have installed community storm shelters, and there are more ways to get watches and warnings than ever before, thanks to an increase in digital outreach. However, Coker says there is still one big factor concerning him-complacency.

“Yes, we are six years down the road from those storms. We do not want people to get complacent,” Coker said.

That vigilance means continuing to stay aware and alert for severe storms, coming up with a plan for your workplace, school, and home, and always taking the threat seriously. That’s especially true now, as April and May have proven to be some of the deadliest months for severe storms.

“Say alert, make sure you have multiple ways to get information, have multiple way to get warnings,” Coker said. “Make sure you can get them. Daytime, evening, nighttime. You’ve got to get them, because your life may depend on it.”

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