An afternoon at the movies or training in natural disaster preparedness?

"Tornado Alley": Up close and personal with the storm 

The Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee’s event this Saturday is one and the same.

The special free screening of “Tornado Alley” at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3-D Theater marks the first Community Partners in Preparedness and the launch of the American Red Cross tornado app.

“Community Partners in Preparedness is a Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee Communications Committee initiative to bring together local organizations who can help us better reach out and educate the community on the importance of being prepared in case of an emergency or local disaster,” said Stan Gibert, regional director of communication for the Red Cross East Tennessee Region.

The organization is joining forces with the Scenic City’s downtown landmark and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga to present the film.  

The theater can accommodate 400 people, all of who will get the up-close chance to watch Sean Casey of “Storm Chasers” fame drive pedal to the metal next to a twister.

“Tornado Alley” debuted at the IMAX in September 2011, just five months after the devastating slew of storms in the Southeast. The film tackles the complex science behind tornadoes—much of which scientists still find baffling—and captures firsthand footage from mere feet of the storm inside Casey’s "tornado intercept vehicle."

If you go

What: "Tornado Alley"

When: Saturday, April 27, doors open at 9 a.m., movie begins at 10 a.m.

Where: 201 Chestnut Ave.

How much: Free

“It’s not a matter of if a disaster like a tornado will occur, but a matter of when,” he continued. “By having more people prepared, more lives can be spared.”

The tornado app is yet another tool to increase community preparedness. Its sister product, the Red Cross hurricane app, was downloaded by more than 400,000 people during and after Superstorm Sandy.

The app operates on iPhone and Android smartphones, iPads and other tablet devices. Free of charge in English and Spanish, the app provides location-based, audible tornado alerts as well as weather maps, a toolkit and the locations of Red Cross shelters.

“Tornadoes often happen in the overnight hours when people are sleeping,” Mary Beth Birge, emergency services director for the Red Cross East Tennessee Region, said in a prepared statement. “The audible alerts in this app can save lives—even if users can’t monitor the weather because they are away from radio, TV or in places where weather band radios may not work.”

During the 2011 tornadoes, the Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee operated four shelters, served 14,500 meals and snacks, and distributed 3,700 bulk items to families and individuals affected by the storms.

Those interested in volunteering should email David Hartsoe to register for emergency response vehicle training in the month of May.