Severe Weather Awareness Week: Have a plan

I know. You’ve heard this a thousand times: Make a disaster plan.

It’s sad, though. Most people read it, then make excuses – I’m too busy. Bad things don’t happen here. There’s not much of a chance we’ll have a disaster here. No worries, first responders will be on it right away. Disasters always happen somewhere else. I’ll worry about it if it happens.

The truth is disasters – particularly weather-related disasters – happen all the time in the US. Last month several tornadoes swept through the south destroying homes and lives. Just this week, flooding has wiped out many towns and communities in the midwest. And, there will be plenty more lives disrupted in the coming weeks and months.

Disasters don’t have to be big. The widespread flooding in the midwest is certainly a big disaster. But small disasters happen all the time. It only takes one wind storm to knock a tree through your roof; One small tornado to take out your house; One heavy rainstorm to flood your basement; One hail storm to wipe out your field of corn. Any one of these is a disaster – for you and your family (or business).

Things can be insured and replaced. Lives, not so much.

Look. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. It might take you a whole 30 minutes to put some kind of severe weather and disaster plan together. But, when your plan is in place, you have a huge advantage in surviving the next tornado or other severe weather event.

  • Determining your severe weather safe spot like a basement, interior closet or bathroom
  • Have a way to get warnings and alerts from the National Weather Service and local officials even without electricity
  • Deciding on a location to meet if you’re separated
  • Have a communications plan in place to contact absent family members
  • Identifying an emergency contact in and out of town (communication is sometimes difficult during an emergency due to cellular networks being down or overwhelmed)
  • Taking photos or videos of your home and its contents and keeping them in a separate location such as a safe deposit box or relative’s house
  • Locating and knowing how to operate your home’s gas and water shut-off valves
  • Having emergency cash on hand since running debit and credit cards requires electricity
  • Filling up your gas tank
  • Making sure pets have their tags and vaccinations up to date in case they get out


  • A helmet for each person (protection from falling and flying debris)
  • A whistle
  • A permanent marker
  • A small radio, either battery or self-powered radio
  • A flashlight, either battery of self-powered flashlight
  • A pack of extra batteries
  • A cell phone
  • A few water bottles
  • A first aid kit (Band-Aids, cloth, ect.)
  • Cash (preferably small bills)
  • A car charger for your cell phone
  • Any meds you and family members need
  • A spare set of keys to your vehicle and home
  • Anything you may need for pets
  • Anything you may need for children
  • A pocket/multipurpose knife.

Review your plan with your 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 (and adults) often learn better by doing. Make sure they know how important it is to listen to your weather radio and take the warnings seriously. Update your emergency plan accordingly when changes arise.

Creating your family’s 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.



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