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Fire and Rescue
DFR and Virginia Department of Emergency Management Encourage Residents to Register - Participate in Upcoming Tornado Drill
To help residents of Virginia practice tornado safety, a Statewide Tornado Drill will be held Tuesday, March 11, at 9:45 a.m. So far, more than 391,000 people have registered for the drill.
Registration for the tornado drill is not necessary, but people can learn more and show their support by signing up at Everyone in Virginia can participate, including businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals. 
“It’s vitally important to know what to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area. The Statewide Tornado Drill gives everyone an opportunity to practice,” said Brett Burdick, acting state coordinator of emergency management. “Knowing what to do can save your life.”
The annual drill is a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service.
“Tornadoes in Virginia don’t have a season. In fact, three tornadoes hit southeast Virginia Jan. 11,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “Tornadoes are possible in Virginia any time of year.  Every tornado warning should be taken very seriously, and if a warning is issued for your area, then you need to take cover.” 
To start the tornado drill, at 9:45 a.m. March 11 the NWS will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. The message will be picked up by TV and radio broadcasts, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning. 
When the test tornado warning is sounded, people should move as quickly as possible to a safe area in a sturdy building. Safe areas are basements and interior rooms on the lowest level of a building such as bathrooms, closets or hallways. In choosing a safe area, stay away from windows. Once in the safe area, people should crouch down or sit on the floor facing down, and cover heads with hands.
In case of widespread inclement weather March 11, the Statewide Tornado Drill will be held March 13.
“If you don’t have a NOAA Weather Radio, then make a point now to get one,” said Sammler.  “One of the fastest ways for people to get a tornado warning is by Weather Radio. With a Weather Radio, you get information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.  When we issue a tornado warning, the Weather Radio sounds an alarm or flashes lights and then gives information on where the storm is, which way it’s moving, and telling people in its path to take cover. This radio could be a lifesaver.”
NOAA Weather Radios with SAME alerts that target warnings to specific areas of the state are available at electronics and sporting goods stores, discount and department stores, and online.  They come in battery-powered models, and many also have AM/FM bands.  A special needs NOAA Weather Radio is available as well. The special-needs NOAA Weather Radio can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information.
For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for the statewide drill, go to
Here’s a look back at tornadoes in Virginia during 2013:
  • 5 tornadoes were recorded (4 EFO and 1 EF1).
  • There were no reported injuries.
  • Property damage was nearly $72,000.
  • One tornado occurred in April and four struck in June.
During 2012:
  • 11 tornadoes were recorded (8 EFO and 3 EF1).
  • There were no deaths, but six people were injured.
  • Property damage totaled $3 million.
  • The highest number of tornados occurred in June (6).
During 2011:
  • 51 tornadoes hit, the second highest number on record (87 struck in 2004).
  • In April, 10 people died and more than 100 were injured.
  • Most tornadoes occurred during April, but tornadoes also were recorded in March, May, August, September, October and November.
  • In April, 212 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed; more than 1,050 homes and businesses were damaged.
  • Nearly every part of Virginia experienced tornadoes, including mountain areas.
  • One-third of the tornadoes struck at night when people were asleep.
For more information on tornadoes and the tornado drill visit


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