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Tornadoes and terror

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On April 23, the Perham and Otter Tail County Emergency Management Teams will be conducting a drill involving a critical incident at Prairie Wind Middle School.

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The Perham Fire Department, Perham Police Department, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office, Perham city staff, Perham Emergency Medical Services, Perham Memorial Hospital, and the Perham School District will all be involved in this drill.

The focus of the drill, in part, is to test the procedures and policies currently in place as well as the abilities of the participating agencies to communicate during an emergency situation.

The exercise will start around 4 p.m. at Prairie Wind Middle School and will last for several hours. Perham school staff and students, as well as students from the Fergus Falls Community College, will participate as role players in an effort to add realism to the incident.

This drill has been preceded by two table top drills, which were conducted at the Perham

Emergency Services Building and served to prepare the participants for the actual drill.

This exercise also meets the requirements set forth by the state in an effort to prepare communities and emergency management teams for disasters, emergencies and other critical incidents.

Otter Tail a high-risk county for twisters

Tornadoes have struck Otter Tail County 46 times over the past 57 years--second only to Polk County, which experienced 52 incdidents.

With the severe spring-summer weather season approaching, Perham is participating in a statewide awareness campaign.

Families, schools, and businesses are encouraged to participate in tornado drills next week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 21-25 this year, with the statewide tornado drills on Thursday, April 24.

At 1:45 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning, and outdoor warning sirens will be activated. At 6:55 p.m., a second drill will take place in Otter Tail County for families and second-shift workers.

"Everyone should practice their safety plans during Severe Weather Awareness Week", says Brian Nelson, Perham Chief of Police. "There is no pattern to these things; a tornado can happen any day - without warning - and your preparation time is well spent."

According to National Weather Service data, tornadoes have occurred in every Minnesota county at some time during the past 57 years.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross, sponsors Severe Weather Awareness Week annually to promote weather knowledge and planning. Their Web site, at www.severeweather.state.mn.us, contains tornado safety information along with instructions on surviving thunderstorms, hail, straight-line winds, heat waves, floods and lightning.

For local resources, contact the Police Department or go to www.severeweather.state.mn.us.

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