Recently we have seen pictures on the news of what severe weather can do to our homes and properties in areas of the country recently hit by two hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. Homes around the country have been damaged or destroyed by fire, flooding and high winds. Forms of severe weather events vary but all types can be potentially hazardous. Storms, including tornadoes, high winds, hail, lightning or excessive precipitation, are the most common types in Minnesota. But, severe weather can include excessive heat and drought conditions that can spark wildfires, which be dangerous as well.
While severe weather can't be prevented, there are some simple steps everyone can take to stay safe and protect themselves and their homes whenever severe weather threatens. These include staying informed, proper planning and preparing an emergency kit.
Events like the flooding of the Minnesota Rivers in 2010 devastated communities. The first signs of a storm, like high winds, flash flooding or even blowing snow can become a natural disaster within seconds. So, the question you need to be able to answer is this, "what are the appropriate actions I need to take to protect myself, my property and the lives of my family?"
Currently, critical information is sent out immediately when disasters are anticipated and confirmed. But, it's only valuable if it reaches the public in a timely manner. When faced with the possibility of severe weather, radio, TV, and print mediums are great places to turn to stay informed. Also, don't overlook the value of various government and weather-related websites and social media. In fact, many Emergency Management Agencies rely on Facebook and Twitter to send out severe weather alerts. Also, it's interesting to note that during the recent flooding in Houston numerous individuals were rescued because they used social media to send out their pleas for help.
It is also strongly recommended that you purchase a NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio. These radios alert you to any watch or warning hazards with an alarm and descriptive message.
Finally, The Emergency Management Agency says, it's important for people who are outside to pay attention to warning sirens in their neighborhood. You may not hear them indoors, and that's not what they're designed for. Rather, they are designed to warn people who are outside playing, recreating or working, so they can get inside and find out what's going on. Because smartphones, tablets and other new technology can crash, the use of older devices like the battery-operated radio is still encouraged. If you seek shelter you should have your radio with you and you know what's going on in the outside world. Whether you use one informational tool or another, having access and staying informed is crucial.
The type of severe weather that might impact your geographical area should dictate how you plan for it. Severe weather events include flooding, high winds and power outages, which can be caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, hail storms or snow storms. One plan does not fit all. The link below is a great tool on how to prepare for varying disasters.
WWW.ready.gov is also an excellent resource for emergency planning for severe weather. There you will find tips on protecting yourself, your family, your property and yes, even your pets.
DISASTER SUPPLY KIT
By the time severe weather hits, it's already too late. Disaster preparedness is about having an established safety plan. Whether it's preparedness for floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or fires, the key to survival in disasters is planning. A disaster supply kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. You should have a kit at home, in your vehicle and one at your place of work. At work, try to include a pair of comfortable shoes in case you need to walk to a shelter area. It's best to assume that in the event of an emergency or natural disaster, roads will be inaccessible by vehicles, and public transportation will be shut down. As I write this tip, I am thinking about the earthquake in Mexico City and I wonder how many were prepared for this terrible disaster.
Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment's notice and take essentials with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them. You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days. Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, even a week or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.