NOAA 03-058
Contact: Ron Trumbla

NOAA News Releases 2003
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Turn Around, Don’t Drown are literally – words to live by. The slogan is the cornerstone of a nationwide flood safety public awareness campaign designed to help reduce flood-related deaths in the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NOAA National Weather Service) is working with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and other partners, to enhance public awareness of the dangers of driving or walking into flooded areas. NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

Storm data records, accumulated over a 30 year period (1972 - 2001), show the average annual death toll for floods is 127 – compared to 73 for lightning, 65 for tornadoes and 16 for hurricanes. Approximately 80 percent of those deaths occur when people drive or walk into moving water.

“While it is clear that flooding from tropical cyclones or inland thunderstorms is our nation’s number one, weather-related killer – the real tragedy is that most of the deaths are avoidable,” said Bill Proenza, director, NOAA National Weather Service Southern Region. “It only takes two feet of moving water to float most vehicles and as little as six inches to knock someone off their feet. If we can reach people with the simple message ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown’ – we will save lives.”

“Turn Around, Don’t Drown introduces good common sense into life or death decision-making,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of FLASH. “It will save lives because it teaches the dangers of inland flooding while giving all of us an easy way to remember the risks. That’s what effective public safety campaigns do, and why we are honored, along with our many partners, to be part of this one.”

Colorful posters, depicting the Turn Around, Don’t Drown slogan on a barrier blocking access to a flooded roadway, and small (4" x 4") automobile window stickers were created for the campaign. The image will also appear on the Flooding Safety card in the Alliance’s FLASH Cards weather safety package distributed to and through its participating partners in government, the insurance industry and the non-profit community.

The poster, a Turn Around, Don’t Drown sign, window sticker, FLASH card and a NOAA National Weather Service flood safety brochure are also available online at: Visitors are encouraged to download, re-produce and distribute the images through community civic organizations, schools, government agencies or private businesses.

The announcement was timed to coincide with National Hurricane Awareness Week 2003 (May 18 – 24). Each day centers on a different hurricane-related weather event and today’s focus is Inland Flooding.

The campaign concept originated with Hector Guerrero, warning coordination meteorologist for the NOAA National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in San Angelo. It began when he was teaching a SKYWARN storm spotter training class which included firefighters from Harlingen, Texas.

“We came up with Turn Around, Don’t Drown and I thought it was quite appropriate to have firefighters in the creative mix. Since they are usually the first to respond to flood emergencies, their lives are at risk along with the people they are trying to rescue,” Guerrero said.

Based in Tallahassee, Fla., FLASH is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preventing and minimizing personal injury and property damage suffered in natural or man-made disasters. Formed by a coalition of private companies and public agencies with expertise in disaster prevention and relief, FLASH was created in 1998 to educate and inform people about preparing for and dealing with disasters. Originally established as the Florida Alliance for Safe Homes, FLASH expanded its mission beyond Florida last year and now serves the Southeastern U.S.

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

Detailed safety information about preparing for and dealing with weather-related disasters is available online at both FLASH and NOAA National Weather Service web sites.

Turn Around, Don’t DrownTM is a Trademark used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.

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