Image Credit: Nikos Koutoulas via Flickr
I love spring! Flowers, flowering trees, buzzing of life, warmer weather, grilling out, and storms. Yes, I LOVE storms. My husband’s and my favorite thing to do is to sit outside and watch the sky get darker with clouds, see the lightning, hear the rumbling of the thunder, and feel the temperature change.
However, there is a major risk that comes with these storms. Wind, hail, lightning, and tornadoes. Living in what is called “tornado alley” myself, I get to experience these strong storms, but often they can turn deadly. Since we are in tornado season, this is a good week to talk about storm safety and get prepared.
Being prepared before a storm hits is very important. It can save you precious time instead of scrambling to gather up food, water, and other things your family would need in case you have to leave your home. It can save you a hassle with the insurance company by having all of your paperwork in order and knowing what is in your home that may need to be replaced.
- Go through out your home and make a list, room to room, of your belongings that are valuable that may need to be replaced.
- Have all of your important documents like social security cards, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc., put in a safe place. Obviously, a fire safe is great, but if you don’t have one, the freezer is the best alternative.
- Know where the tornado shelters are in your area.
- Know how to turn off utilities to your home.
For your children
- Talk to your children about the different watches and warnings: thunderstorm, tornado, flood, flash flood, etc. Have them watch the weather with you and discuss it.
- Make sure they know what county they live in and also the surrounding counties.
- Have each person in the family make a personal emergency bag. You can go as far as having heat reflective blankets, extra clothes, a few Meals ready-to-eat (MREs), duck tape, lip balm, hand sanitizer, small bottles of shampoo and body wash, paracord, two way radios, etc. Basically a whole 72 hour Bug Out Bag. Click here for ideas. But at the very least, it should include bottles of water and juice, flashlights and extra batteries, energy bars, other easy to carry non-perishable foods, first aid kit, whistle, identity cards with your contact information and medical information, colors and coloring books, other things to keep kids entertained and a little room for them to add their favorite stuffed animal. For the parents, it should include more like pocket knives, cash, bug repellant, lighters, identification, prescription medicines, battery powered radio. I have heard people suggest to make the bags out of pillow cases, however I personally would prefer the bags to have straps on them so both hand are free. An old book bag that is still in good shape with no holes or rips would be great. Make sure these bags are kept in a place easily accessible but up enough that small children can’t get them and play with the contents. Also, make one for the car in case you are caught out in a storm and cannot make it back home.
- Have your children make a layout of your home, front and back yard, pointing out exits and where they need to go during the storm. Also, put a place to meet up in the front of the house and back in case you guys get separated.
- Make sure your children know your and your spouse’s full name, address and phone numbers.
- Have them help you fill out an emergency contact list and put it in a common place in your house.
Image Credit: Anthony Quintano via Flickr
Other things to talk about
- Lightning. One great thing to teach your kids is how to tell how far away the lightning is by counting the seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder. The rule of thumb is how ever many seconds you count, that is how many miles the lightning strike was. As spectacular as lightning is, it can also very dangerous. If they are outdoors, teach them to come in as soon as they see lightning or hear thunder. Stay away from windows, running water, and stay off of phones. If they are outside and cannot get inside, avoid high places, open places, and anything metal. Since lightning will strike the tallest object, getting underneath a tree or canopy may not be the best option. They should crouch down and cover their ears.
- Down power lines. If there has been a tornado or high winds, chances are there are power lines down. Those should be avoided at all costs. Teach them what to look for by pointing out what power lines look like, if they are not already aware, next time you are out driving.
- Hail can be very dangerous by shattering windows. During a storm that has hail, stay indoors and away from windows. If you are driving, stop. If it is safe for you to get under cover, do so. But do not continue driving since hail does have to possibility to break your windshield making it difficult to see through.
- Trees seem like a great place to hide under if there is no where else you can go, but they can also be dangerous since they can be uprooted and even big branches can be ripped off during strong enough winds. Even after the storm, branches that are no longer attached to the tree can get its little branches hung up causing it to dangle from the tree and can come down at any time.
- Wind. Even if there is no tornado in a storm, strong enough winds can be just as dangerous by ripping at the roof of a home, causing power lines to come down, knocking over trees, and causing flying debris. In our area, we will occasionally have what is called a derecho which is a sever storm with extremely strong winds and lasts for at least 240 miles.
Image Credit: BrianKhoury via Flickr
Plan for the worst
- Have a contact point outside of your neighborhood in case your family gets separated and you can’t call each other. One example is if your spouse is at work and you have to leave your home with the kids and the cell towers are busy. Pick a place, like a specific restaurant or gas station where you guys will meet up.
- Make sure your babysitter or any family member that might watch your children know all of your contact information and know your contact point as well.
- Plan places to stay in case you have to leave your home. A family members home or hotel that is in a different city.
- Talk to your children’s school. Find out their plan, where they take the children to, what their policy is about a parent picking them up.
- Know your area, especially if you have just moved there, and plan different escape routes in case you need to leave your city but some roads are blocked.
- Keep up with the weather including purchasing a weather radio.
- Have a plan for your animals.
- Teach your children what they should do in case they get separated from you. Using their whistles, staying where they were last with you and using their two way radios or phone to call you.
Make a plan and practice it
Just like in schools, there is an emergency plan in place that is practiced. Setting forth an emergency plan and practicing it in your home can save your family time, keep things from getting chaotic, and teach your kids good habits for when they are older.
- Put on shoes and make sure to be fully clothed.
- Put on protective gear like a bicycle helmet.
- Have everyone do their designated assignments like unplug electronics, grab pillows, blankets, mattress, battery operated radio.
- Grab emergency bags and other important personal items like wallets.
- Go to your home’s safe place like your basement or storm shelter. If you do not have one, go to an interior room of your home that does not have windows.
- Plan what to do if you are driving or outside and cannot make it into a shelter. Lay flat in a ditch or low lying area and cover your head.