By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Apr 17, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Welcome to Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

Media outlets throughout the state will be reporting on what to do in a weather emergency, culminating with a tornado drill on Thursday at 1:45 p.m.

"We'll tell them it's a drill, and when the sirens go off, we'll still get calls," said Brian Gotter of Storm Team 4 at WTMJ-TV. "This is the time for a refresher, this is one of our favorite weeks of the year."

When I worked in newsrooms, I learned first-hand how much meteorologists are teachers. This week provides another teaching opportunity.

"With severe weather awareness, it is about getting the public to know what to do before a storm," said Mark McGinnis with WDJT-TV CBS 58. "Do they know where to go? What to do?"

Gotter and McGinnis both said that this is the time to share weather tidbits and give them information that may stick with them.

"Severe weather starts ramping up April into May, but June has the most tornadoes," Gotter said. "People are always surprised to hear that lightning is the second leading weather killer; flooding is the first. So we need to tell people to avoid water, those sort of things."

For Mark Baden at WISN-TV Ch. 12, this week is truly about going beyond simply ramping up people's awareness.

"Really, we are fighting apathy. Apathy to warnings," Baden said.

He pointed to the devastation storm systems brought to the central parts of the nation this past weekend, and in larger storms in past years. "There was so much loss of life," Baden said of big storms last year, like the one in Joplin, Mo. "There may have been less if people paid attention to the warnings and knew what to do."

When the test hits the airwaves on Thursday, Baden plans on going on before and alerting the viewers that this is only a test, and if it was a real emergency, what types of warnings they would see on the screen.

"We have to get beyond the siren mentality," said Vince Condella at WITI-TV Fox 6. "With outdoor sirens, the lesson is you should not rely on hearing it."

Condella was getting to the heart of the matter with severe weather, that sirens are meant as an outdoor warning, but people need to plan beyond that. Chances are they could be too far away from a siren to hear it.

"This week with the test, it is a good way for viewers to decide on how they want to receive their warnings. They can sign up for text messages to their cell phones, or get a NOAA Weather Radio for their home," he said.

Meteorologists at all four major TV news outlets in this market were on the same page when it came to making sure people paid more attention to the watches and warnings when they are issued, and they approach the delivery in the same way.

"Part of the job is to calm people down, to be steady," Condella said. "This is a teachable moment to be aware, to know where to go, how to get information."

Condella said he and his team will have reports throughout the week and cover storm myths – for example, you don't have to open your windows in a tornado – and basics of differences between watches and warnings.

McGinnis and the team at CBS 58 will be presenting a story tonight on the upgrade to the radar in Sullivan. "It's pretty neat technology," McGinnis said. "The radar will be a lot more accurate with fewer false alarms. It was part of a nationwide upgrade that should be done by the middle or end of this summer."

Gotter and 14,000 children will be at Miller Park on Thursday as part of the Storm Team 4's Kids Day with the Milwaukee Brewers. "We give about an hour-long presentation on the jumbotron and talk about anything weather related," he said. "We'll cover storms, tornadoes, snow ... it is a nice field trip for
the kids."

General Assignment: Christina Palladino is the new night-side reporter at WISN-TV Ch. 12, meaning viewers will see her in the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. She comes from WOI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, where she was an anchor and reporter covering news and politics.

Four Nods: 620 WTMJ earned four regional Murrow awards. Dan O'Donnell was given an award in sports for his report on a 6-year-old Brewers fan who died as a result of a car crash. The ball club had his parents throw out the first pitch at a game and made a donation to build a baseball field in his name.

The news team won an award for breaking news coverage of the Groundhog Day blizzard in 2011, and was recognized for its continuing coverage of the events and protesting at the state capitol. The station also earned an award for overall excellence.

Batter Up: Time Warner Cable is adding MLB Network Strike Zone to its Sports Pass package on the digital tier. Strike Zone promises commercial-free updates from every game on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Continuing Coverage: WISN-TV Ch. 12 also won a Murrow regional award for continuing coverage of the collective bargaining story. This puts them in the running for a national award, like the one they were awarded last year for best newscast for the coverage of the structural collapse at the O'Donnell parking garage.

"This is such a nice tribute to the hard-working journalists that we have in our building, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. They strive for excellence each day, as they work to bring viewers the news that matters most to Southeast Wisconsin," President and GM Jan Wade said in a statement. "We are very honored and proud."

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.