Sign up now for March 17 Statewide Tornado Drill

March 2, 2015  //  

VDEM Press Release


10501 Trade Court
Richmond, Virginia 23226


Mar. 2, 2015

CONTACT: Dawn Eischen, VDEM
(804) 897-9730 or 674-2400

Bill Sammler, NWS
(757) 899-5732

Sign up now for March 17 Statewide Tornado Drill

More than 392,500 have registered for annual safety exercise

RICHMOND, Va. – Although winter is still upon us, tornadoes can happen any time of year, making preparedness for these potentially deadly storms even more important. To be better prepared, businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals can practice taking cover from tornadoes by participating in the annual Statewide Tornado Drill Tuesday, March 17, at 9:45 a.m. So far, more than 392,500 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

“Tragically, many Virginia families and communities have been affected by deadly tornadoes in recent years,” said Dr. Jeff Stern, state coordinator of emergency management. “Twelve tornadoes impacted the state in 2014, causing numerous injuries and more than $700,000 in property damage. Knowing what to do when a tornado warning is issued can save your life, so we encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming Statewide Tornado Drill.”

The annual drill is a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service.

“Receiving a tornado warning as quickly as possible can make the difference between life and death,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “One of the fastest ways for people to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio, which provides warning information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. However, cell phone apps such as Ready Virginia are also available that quickly provide critical warning information at little or no cost. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) also provide tornado and flash flood warnings via text message to any compatible cell within the warning area, even if you are visiting or just traveling through an affected area.”

To start the tornado drill, at 9:45 a.m. March 17 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, respond as you would during an actual tornado warning:

  • Go immediately to a safe place – usually the lowest level of your home, office or school – and stay there until the warning expires.
  • If there is no basement, go to a windowless interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway.
  • Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and covering your head with your hands.
  • In case of widespread inclement weather March 17, the Statewide Tornado Drill will be held March 18.

NOAA Weather Radios target warnings to single or multiple localities, using city/county specific codes. They 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, which can be valuable during power outages. In addition, special-needs NOAA Weather Radios can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information, and potentially life-saving warnings.

For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for the statewide drill, go to


Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund