Every year, thousands of people are impacted by severe weather threats such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Preliminary data for 2012 shows there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries.
Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, and although some more than others, everyone is at risk. You can take steps to prepare for when severe weather strikes in your area. Knowing the most common weather hazards in your area, your vulnerability, and what actions you should take can save your life and others.
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property before severe weather:
- Build an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car in case you are told to evacuate. This kit should also include a pair of goggles and disposable breathing masks for each member of the family.
- Make a Family Communications Plan. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
- Continually monitor the media – Be aware of storms that could impact your area.
- Know how you will be warned in an emergency (NOAA weather radios, local media, local emergency notification systems).
- Know where to shelter (ie: basement, interior room/hall, bathroom, closet, etc) if conditions warrant and where shelters in your area are located.
- Ensure your home is ready – Elevate items in the basement which could be flooded. Bring in outdoors items such as children's toys, patio furniture, garbage cans, etc. which could be blown around and damaged. Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage.
- Know how to shut off utilities, including power, water and gas, to your home. Have proper tools (i.e.: wrench) ready and nearby.
- Find out what types of events and kinds of damages are covered by your insurance policy. Keep insurance policies, important documents and other valuables in a safe and secure location.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone knows how to use them.
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property during severe weather:
- Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.
- Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Tornado danger signs included dark, almost greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud or a load roar, similar to a freight train.
- Heed shelter or evacuation requests made by officials or announcements on radio/television.
- Gather family members, bring pets indoors and have your emergency supply kit ready.
- Close outside doors and window blinds, shades or curtains. Stay away from doors, windows and exterior walls. Stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.
- During lightning, do not use wired telephones, touch electrical appliances or use running water. Cordless or cellular telephones are safe to use.
- Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
- If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flash flood.
- Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet.
- Stay indoors and limit travel to only absolutely necessary trips. Listen to radio/television for updates.