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Family Preparedness

It's that time of year again...

...time to make the preparations for another severe weather season. To those who have read the various incarnations of this page over the past eight years, this should be an easy task. For those who have never done such a thing before--still easy.

As a preface: the ability of the Storm Prediction Center of NWS to outlook severe weather events in advance has grown by leaps and bounds. If you use the SPC's pages as daily guidance like we at SEMA do, you know this. The most intense and violent events of the last several years have been subjects of SPC outlooks as much as 5-7 days in advance. And, it's all based on solid science, not "let's give it a name and get the popcorn". SPC forecasts are something that you can use for guidance with confidence. You owe it to yourself to become familiar with them.

First, BUY and USE a SAME-capable NOAA Weather Radio. Having one of these radios is the single best thing that you can do to help assure your family's safety in case of severe weather. It's just not enough to depend upon broadcast media, cable overrides, or especially outdoor warning sirens (see below). The other methods named get their warning information from the Weather Service. It takes time to pass that warning and either get it on the air or into the local decisionmakers' hands who activate the sirens. That time can be utilized by you to get your family out of harms' way. Get a NOAA Weather Radio and get the warnings faster directly from the people who generate them. See our NOAA Weather Radio page for more details.

Second, IDENTIFY a shelter area in your home. Broadly, this area should be in the center of your home, in the lowest possible level, and with as many walls between you and the exterior as possible. Basements are best, if you have one. Take cover under a staircase, sturdy workbench, or other large object. If you don't have a basement, an interior room or closet with no windows is good. Bathrooms work well, due to the piping in the walls to add extra reinforcement. Sheltering in the bathtub covered with sofa cushions is a favorite on the Plains. Whatever you choose, make sure that your chosen spot is away from windows. The old business about the southwest corner of the basement hasn't been valid for many years. Find a place low in the house and centrally located. Do not waste time opening windows. Homes don't 'explode' from pressure changes in a tornado. Stopping to open windows only leaves you vulnerable to injury from that window breaking. It also steals precious time that you need to get under cover. 

Third, ASSEMBLE a 'ready kit' to leave in or near your shelter area. This kit should contain thick blankets to cover up with against debris, a working battery powered broadcast radio (AM or AM/FM), and a working flashlight. This kit should be checked periodically to make sure that the light and radio will work when the time comes. The radio will be used to monitor a local radio station to keep track of the storm.

Last, BE AWARE of changing weather conditions. Check a GOOD weather forecast daily, preferably the one gotten via NOAA Weather Radio. Don't bet your or your family's lives on media weathertainers who are interested in gaining viewers and not in accuracy. (The Weather Channel quit being about weather a long time ago.) The Hazardous Weather Outlook is broadcast frequently on NOAA Weather Radio, and is updated several times daily. Check the weather frequently on days when severe weather is expected. Know where the people for which you are responsible are on those days, so you don't spend precious time looking for kids rather than taking cover.

NOW is the time to review your preparations for severe weather. You won't have time to do it while the wind is blowing, the hail is falling, and you can't find the kids.

"All persons must assess, for themselves, what their risk is. If this is done, it is our contention that in many instances (especially in this age of increasingly instant communication) it is possible to have enough information to avoid being in the path of a severe storm in the first place!"
From "Highway Overpasses as Tornado Shelters: Fallout from the 3 May 1999 Oklahoma/Kansas Violent Tornado Outbreak"
Daniel J. Miller, Charles A. Doswell III, Harold E. Brooks, Gregory J. Stumpf, NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman OK
Erik N. Rasmussen, NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Boulder CO

"At the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself and your own safety. We're here to help."

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