NOAA 2004-076
Contact: Pat Slattery

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Company planning and paying attention to developing storms were key factors in protecting more than 140 employees when an F-4 tornado demolished an Illinois manufacturing plant last month, officials from NOAA's National Weather Service said. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Forecast and warning services, including NOAA All Hazards Radio, worked as designed to provide timely public notice of an approaching severe thunderstorm and the tornado it produced, said NWS Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy, but the foresight of the plant owner in developing and implementing a severe weather plan gave workers extra minutes to take shelter. Not a single injury was suffered by any of the 140-150 employees on site at Parsons Manufacturing near Roanoke, Ill. The plan has been in effect since the plant was built in the 1970s.

“Employees at Parsons Manufacturing actually had the best of both worlds to keep them from harm when that tornado struck,” McCarthy said. “Our Central Illinois weather forecast office issued a severe thunderstorm warning which activated Parsons’ severe weather plan. A major factor of that plan was having a designated in-house storm watcher responsible for monitoring the storm. The storm and tornado actually formed near the plant and development was tracked by the storm watcher, who gave the initial word for employees to get to the three designated storm shelters.

“When our forecasters subsequently issued the tornado warning, employees were already moving to the shelters. That gave them an extra 5-7 minutes for the 140-150 individuals inside and outside the 250,000-square-foot plant to get out of harm’s way. In a situation where seconds can count in saving lives, extra minutes helped keep everyone from harm.”

Owner Bob Parsons said the time and energy invested in the plan over the years was paid back with dividends on July 13. He encouraged other business owners to follow suit.

“My life is more fulfilled because I don't have to kick myself because I failed at providing a safe workplace for my employees," Parsons said. "The money invested in shelters and your safety plan is just another piece of insurance against the unexpected. Along with that, is the moral obligation to do what is right to take care of your employees and protect your business."

In setting up a severe weather plan, Parsons said owners should, "Think about your own safety. Where would you go? Whatever you would decide to do as an owner or manager to keep yourself safe, you need to do for all your employees. You have a responsibility to your employees; it's not the employees' responsibility. They are not in the position to make that decision."

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