Homeland Security stays ahead of storms at operations center

A video wall at the Regional Operations Center helps officials stay in front of severe weather.
Published: .
Updated: .

The threat of severe weather has emergency services on alert.

The Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security prepared for the oncoming storms in the Regional Operations Center - "the ROC" - Tuesday night. If they see conditions getting worse, they'll know about it first and call more people in to handle what comes.

In the meantime, families across central Indiana are also preparing in their homes in the event they have to take cover.

"One of my presents was this weather radio," said Laura Smith as she held up a device she's had for the past six years.

TORNADO WATCH until 5 a.m.

Smith and her family planned to sleep near that weather radio in the basement of their Greenwood home Tuesday night.

"I grew up in Rockford, Illinois and we had quite a few strong storms and tornadoes," explained Smith.

That's why she and her family have been prepared for severe weather with charged cell phones, flashlights, even bright sticks.

"You literally just crack the thing and then shake it," said Smith, demonstrating how the light stick works.

One measure many people forget in storm preparation is to leave shoes by the bed in case they have to run to safety quickly. Many injuries during storms happen when people run through broken glass in their bare feet.

"I hadn't even thought about that, which is smart," said Smith.

While Smith and her family will be sleeping, the people at the Indianapolis Homeland Security Regional Operations Center won't be.

The center was quiet at 10 p.m. Tuesday, but said the department's chief, Gary Coons.

"It could change in an instant. We can get ramped up very quickly," Coons said.

If a tornado or severe weather threatens Marion County, the people at Homeland Security will be able to see the storms coming by monitoring radar and wind speeds.

"We watch the direction of it, the severity of it and then we make some determinations," said Coons.

Some of those determinations are like whether to call in more police and fire to check buildings in the area that could be in danger of high winds.

"If we need to call in the Red Cross because of any structural collapse or any issue like that, we'll have them here as well," said Coons. "We're always telling people to be prepared for any kind of response."

That's a lesson Smith has already taught her family when severe weather is a possibility.

"Every family should have a plan," she said.

See all watches and warnings here.

WTHR.com weather tools

Sign up for Personal Forecast - This allows you to receive text or email alerts whenever there is a watch or warning in the counties you have specified.

Interactive radar - Zoom in and get a closer look at the shape and path of the storm.

Live 13 Doppler Radar - WTHR's main radar page.

Get the WTHR SkyTrak Weather app! (for Droid and iPhone) This includes radar links plus alerts.

Share your weather pictures