Some of the most violent weather occurs during the spring, and now is a good time to turn our attention to how to prepare for and deal with the aftermath of severe storms. Most of the country is impacted by severe weather to one degree or another, whether it is from tornadoes, high winds, flooding or torrential rain. All of these can throw local communities into chaos and isolate us from access to basic services.
While winter storms can produce significant damage and cause major disruptions, hunkering down during a blizzard is a lot different than being able to seek shelter from a fast moving storm. The emphasis on preparedness shifts from relying on supplies to ensuring that we know where to go and what to do when we are in the path of severe weather.
The most important thing to do during severe weather is to seek adequate shelter. Ideally, the best place to be when a major storm or tornado is heading your way is somewhere else. Unfortunately, we still don’t have a lot of lead-time when warnings are issued, so decisions need to be made quickly and options are often limited.
A good rule of thumb is to always be within 5 minutes of shelter in the event that a severe storm is heading your way. It is important to monitor weather forecasts and have contingency plans in the back of your mind as the day progresses. Most major storms strike in the afternoon or overnight hours, and these are times when we are most vulnerable to being caught off-guard.
Consider the route you take as you commute home from work. Where can you quickly get off the road and seek cover if you are in the path of a destructive storm? Think about how you will hear weather warnings in the middle of the night when you are sleeping or can’t see the sky. Consider how you will gather your family and move to a safe location in a timely manner.
These are all threats that are situation-specific, and it is up to you to develop contingency plans that will be most effective and practical. However, you should always be in a position where you are within minutes of finding adequate shelter.
You also should seriously consider obtaining a weather radio in order to be kept abreast of the latest developments. You may not hear warning sirens. Television or radio stations can get knocked offline before broadcasts are aired.
If you are impacted by a severe and destructive storm, one of the most important things to consider is how to communicate with loved ones. Know where your loved ones are before a storm strikes so that you know where to look for them after it passes. Choose someone who is not in the area who can act as a liaison, relay information and contact emergency services if a member of your family turns up missing. Consider establishing a rendezvous point where everyone can meet if you are not together when the storm strikes. These are just a few examples of things that you can do in order to minimize stress, worry and anxiety and get you reunited as quickly as possible.
Make sure that you have some food, water and a first aid kit in your bug-out-bag. Make sure to grab your survival kit before you seek shelter. Make sure that your shelter, if you have one, is stocked. Chances are that if you suffer a direct hit from a major storm, it can take at least a day before recovery efforts kick into high gear, and you may need to rely on these supplies to carry you through. Even if you don’t suffer a direct hit, you can still be impacted by disruptions in basic services, and it’s important to be prepared for this contingency as well.
Remember that the more you can do to prepare now will make it easier to weather the storm and minimize the impact of its aftermath. Take time to walk through various scenarios. Have discussions with your family and be explicit about what to do or where to go if you are going to experience a direct hit.
These are just a few general guidelines to help you start to think about what to do before, during and after a devastating storm. Only you can decide how to develop a primary as well as a couple of contingency plans that will work best based on your location and circumstances. The important thing is that you think about this now so that if you do get caught up in a destructive storm, you know how to react appropriately and minimize the chances of becoming a victim.