Severe Weather 101: Have a Plan

March 18 to the 24 is Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week in Ohio. Each day this week I’ll post tips and ideas to keep you prepared and safe during our most active severe weather period – springtime.

Take some time this week to refresh your severe thunderstorm and tornado plan. Know what you and your family will do when severe weather threatens.

Today’s Subject: Have a plan for severe weather

Severe weather can occur anytime in east-central Ohio. To increase your chances of not becoming a victim of injury or even death, every household should create and practice a severe weather emergency plan.

Where is your safe place? Where will you meet if you become separated? How will you stay in contact with family members? Who will know where you’re at and if you’re safe?

Folks who have a severe weather safety plan respond quicker and increase their chances of survival should a tornado, straight line finds, flood or other severe weather event strike their neighborhood.

Many people assume that help will nearly instantaneously arrive immediately after a tornado, or flood, or other damaging weather. In reality, that’s not the case generally. First responders may have multiple areas affected by the event and it may take some time to reach you and your family. If you and your family are prepared and have a plan it will make a huge difference in the outcome if help is delayed in getting to you.

Creating a family severe weather emergency plan takes just a few minutes. It’s well worth the effort because having an emergency plan in place means there is a better chance of everyone moving quickly. Knowing exactly what to do and where to go could save lives before, during and after severe weather or other disasters.

  • FIRST: Have a SAFE PLACE – Most homes in east-central Ohio have a basement and this is the best choice as a safe place when tornadoes or high wind events threaten. If you do not have a basement, an interior room surrounded by walls is the next best choice. Even an interior closet or bathroom can serve as a safe place.
  • SECOND: Make sure EVERY member of your family knows where you safe place is and how to get to it quickly. Don’t assume the kids automatically know. Show them how to get to your safe place and where you will stay.
  • Have a bicycle helmet on hand for every family member to protect them from falling debris.
  • Know where your home’s gas and water shut-offs are and how to turn them off.
  • Keep basic emergency supplies at or near your safe place. Include flashlights (and batteries), a battery-operated or crank emergency radio or weather radio, some basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, pliers, utility knife, duct tape, and a small ax), a fire extinguisher.
  • Have an extra battery on hand for your cell phone or a mobile charger.
  • Soap, bottled water, moistened towelettes, dry towels, disinfectant, and a first aid kit.

IMPORTANT: Mobile homes are not safe during high wind and tornado events. Many mobile home communities have a community storm shelter. Practice with your family on how you will get to the shelter and where you will meet. If your community does not offer a storm shelter, you must go to the nearest substantial building. Do not stay in a mobile home when tornadoes threaten.

Many families are busy, especially when the weather is nice during the spring and summer. You may not all be together when severe weather threatens. How will you stay in touch?

  • Having a communications plan for when you’re separated is critical when severe weather threatens. Cell phones and texting are probably the first thing that comes to mind, but what will you do if your cell network is down?
  • Designate a meeting place for separated family members to go to in the event of a damaging storm. Again, practice meeting there so all members of your family know how and where to meet if you become separated.
  • Establish an out-of-town emergency contact person you can rely on so you can inform them of your situation. Disaster news travels fast and you’ll need to get word out to friends and family that you’re alright (or you need help).

A plan won’t be effective unless you share it and know how to use it. Review your plan with your friends, neighbors and family. Practice it at least twice a year with your children. Show your kids where the emergency supplies are, where to find you, whom to contact and how. Don’t assume they know already. Children often learn better by doing.

A resource for a basic Farm Emergency Plan



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