If you hear a loud wail coming from the vicinity of the county administration building next Wednesday morning, don’t worry; it’s not an actual emergency, but simply the county’s emergency management office participating in an annual statewide tornado drill.
March 5-11 is South Carolina Severe Weather and Flood Safety Week. A joint effort of the S.C. Emergency Management Division, National Weather Service and S.C. Broadcasters Association, its purpose is to remind people that severe storms, tornadoes and flash floods are real dangers here, and that they need to take proper safety precautions.
The week always includes a statewide tornado drill, and this year’s drill will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 8. State and local emergency management offices, broadcasters, public schools and others will participate in the drill, which will mimic what would take place in the event of a real tornado.
The National Weather Service will use a real-event code on tone-alert weather radios that are set to receive tornado warnings.
Locally, the county’s emergency management office will activate its warning siren, which is located on top of the county administration building at Market and Marlboro streets in Bennettsville.
Emergency Management Director Steve Akers says the test will last for about 30 seconds. “In a real situation, it would be used to warn the folks within earshot of the siren of an actual tornado,” he said.
The county’s Code Red telephone system will be used to warn residents of the test ahead of time.
According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the purpose of the drill is to test communication systems, safety procedures, mitigation processes and other factors that would come into play in the event of a real tornado.
Though tornadoes may occur at any time during the year, they most commonly happen March through May, which is why the awareness week takes place the first of March.
Marlboro County’s most devastating tornado took place on March 28, 1984, killing nine people and causing widespread destruction of property.