Updated: Statewide tornado drill now set for Wednesday; Red Cross has mobile app

Updated: Statewide tornado drill now set for Wednesday; Red Cross has mobile app

A statewide tornado drill originally scheduled for Tuesday now will be held on Wednesday instead.

The threat of severe weather on Tuesday means the test, part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, will be delayed until 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to Rick Harper of the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency.

On Wednesday, Illinois National Weather Service offices will send a tornado warning as a test to local media outlets through the Emergency Alert System as well as to those with weather alert radios.

People are encouraged to use this time to practice their tornado safety plans at home, schools, businesses and anywhere groups gather.

The National Weather Service said eight people were killed and 108 injured when an early morning twister devastated the towns of Harrisburg and Ridgway with 180 mph winds on February 29, 2012. During the spring and summer of 2012, dozens of other tornadoes and damaging straight-line winds injured 17 people and killed one person.

Illinois averages 46 tornadoes and hundreds of reports of large hail and wind damage each year, a release from the weather service said.

For more information on being adequately prepared for severe weather, visit the weather service's "Severe Weather Safety" web page at: http://bit.ly/severe305.

Meantime, the American Red Cross has announced the availability of a free mobile application that gives folks instant access to local and real time information before, during and after a tornado.

Available in English or Spanish, the app gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone and tablet users a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals people when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued in their area — even if the app is closed.

An all clear alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been canceled.

"Tornadoes often happen in the overnight hours when people are sleeping," said Amy Whittaker, Red Cross spokeswoman. "The audible alerts in this app can save lives — even if users can't monitor the weather because they are away from radio, TV, or in places where weather band radios may not work."

Other features of the app include:

— Location-based NOAA tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood watch and warning alerts.

— Enhanced weather maps and information provided by Weather Underground, a digital brand of The Weather Company.

— One-touch "I'm safe" messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends that they are out of harm's way.

— Simple steps and checklists people can use to create an emergency plan and share it with household members.

— Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity.

— Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm.

— Locations of open Red Cross shelters.

— Badges users can earn through interactive quizzes and share on social networks.

Launched during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, the Tornado App is the latest in a series of mobile apps created by the Red Cross, the nation's leader in emergency preparedness. The apps have been used to help save lives during hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.

"The Red Cross has made great strides in putting vital information in the hands of people who need it during emergencies. In fact, our apps are now on more than 2 million mobile devices across the country," added Whittaker.

The Red Cross said that during Superstorm Sandy more than 400,000 people downloaded the Red Cross Hurricane app and nearly 6 million NOAA weather alerts were sent.

The Tornado App, along with the others, can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. Apps can help prepare people for disasters, but they are not a substitute for training. Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED training empowers people to know how to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed. People can visit redcross.org/takeaclass for course information and to register.

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