You know the feeling. Severe weather is forecast for the night, and you’re constantly refreshing the weather app on your phone and checking the radar to see if the storm is going to hit, if it’s going to turn into a tornado, and if you need to take cover in the basement. Here are a few ideas from Alliance Insurance Services on how to be prepared so you feel ready when those nights roll around.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says about 100,000 thunderstorms form every year in the United States, about 10 percent of which reach severe levels. About 1,200 tornadoes occur in the U.S. each year. While severe weather is more common in the afternoon and evenings of spring and summer, it can happen anytime, anyplace, so always keep an eye out.
Watches and Warnings
Watches and warnings are the best way to know severe weather is coming. A severe weather or tornado watch means conditions in the atmosphere are highly favorable for severe weather to occur. They are usually issued for a particular time period and a specific area of the country, usually defined by counties or cities. Severe weather and tornado warnings mean the severe weather is imminent; it is either occurring or about to occur very soon. These usually last a shorter period of time than a watch and are also for a specific area. When watches and warnings are issued, think about where you will be and what activities you have planned during the alerts. Be prepared to take shelter at any time.
Any of several weather apps can send you notifications on your phone when severe weather watches and warnings are issued. You can also download the mobile app from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which gives you alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations. It also gives you safety and survival tips, lets you build an emergency checklist, and helps you locate emergency FEMA shelters when necessary.
Family Emergency Plan
Being able to receive severe weather alerts is just the first part of a good family emergency plan for severe weather. Ready.gov, a government website that provides recommendations and information to help you prepare for severe weather, says your plan should also include:
- A plan for shelter. For severe weather, this needs to be inside a solid structure, away from windows. An inside basement room is ideal. If you have kids, prepare ahead of time to distract them during a long wait for severe weather to clear. Fun activities can help the time pass more quickly. Bring some snacks and drinks as well.
- An evacuation route. If weather causes you to have to leave your home, make sure all family members are clear on the best entrances and exits. You should also designate areas outside your home (e.g., a neighbor’s house, a hotel in a nearby town) where you can meet, depending on the situation.
- A family communications plan. This includes everyone’s phone numbers as well as phone numbers of a designated contact outside your family. This contact can be useful if phone lines are down because if you are separated, everyone will know to reach this person, even if they have to travel to them.
Less than 40 percent of Americans have a family emergency plan. Don’t wait to put together your plan. Severe weather has a tendency to strike when you don’t expect it.
Clean Up the Damage
Once the storm passes, take action to fix any damage that occurred as quickly as possible. This ensures your family will remain safe inside the home and that small issues don’t turn into big ones. If any of your windows broke, for example, clean up the glass right away and search online for “window repair near me” to find a local contractor. Be sure to check out customer reviews of any pros you’re interested in hiring and inquire about their rate; Angi.com notes that it costs most people about $290 to repair windows, but you may pay more or less than that figure depending on the type of windows you have.
While there are a myriad ways that severe weather can impact you and your family, this information gives you a basic working knowledge of how to be prepared. For more, visit the websites of the government agencies mentioned above. You will find a wealth of resources there. Remember not to take unnecessary risks during severe weather, and stay safe!
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