By: Tim Studebaker

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – According to the National Weather Service, severe weather disasters kill an average of 500 people and cause nearly $15-billion in damage each year across the US.  When severe weather strikes, it's important to have a plan in place to keep everyone safe.  That's the goal of a National Weather Service program called “StormReady.”

This Friday, Rhode Island is celebrating, because every city and town has earned the distinction.  Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to have all of its cities and towns receive the “StormReady” designation.  Friday afternoon, a ceremony was held at the Rhode Island State House with the Governor, National Weather Service officials, and representatives from communities across the state.

Back in 2012, only three of the state's communities had met the requirements.  Today, all 39 cities and towns have done it.

Each community met specific storm preparation standards to be declared "StormReady."  There are several requirements, all focused on the safety of residents.

Bob Thompson, the Meteorologist In Charge at the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Taunton says, "'StormReady' is a program that the National Weather Service has to help communities to be better prepared in the event of hazardous weather."

The program has been in place for several years, and communities across the country are getting on board.  The standards that have to be met for a city or town to be designated "StormReady" are rigorous.

Thompson says, "Requirements in terms of the communications [are] observation equipment in the area for weather information, the ability to disseminate information out when there is a warning or some sort of heads up of hazardous weather, and the plans that they have made for preparedness."

Businesses can also take part in the program.  They can choose to become "StormReady Supporters" by developing plans to protect their employees during severe weather.

We here at ABC6 became StormReady Supporters back in 2012, and we are proud to say we are the only StormReady Supporter listed in the state of Rhode Island.

It remains our mission to keep you informed before and during severe weather.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2018