What to do before, during, after severe weather

Friday, July 27, 2018

A few days ago in this space, we encouraged readers to take advantage of available weather alert platforms and pay attention when the forecasters call for severe weather. The failure to acknowledge and heed these type of warnings led to 17 deaths on a Duck boat in Branson.

Today, we want to tout other tools families should use before, during and after a storm.

For the most part, we're talking about severe weather in the form of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms capable of producing flash floods. While these storms most often occur in the primary storm season (March and April), they are also prevalent in the secondary storm season (October and November), but tornadoes have struck the United States in every month of the year. Some of Missouri's deadliest tornadoes occurred in May, June and September. And don't sleep on flooding. A foot of water running across a road can push a vehicle into a raging torrent.

So, before a storm arrives, what should families do to prepare?

* Put together an emergency kit. Odds are, you have most of these items around the house. Gather them up in one place. A flashlight or two. Nonperishable food for a few days. Bottled water. First aid supplies. A week's worth of any prescription medications. A radio, preferably one not requiring batteries -- many inexpensive models are available with hand-crank charging capability and a USB port to charge a cellphone. An extra set of clothes and blankets. Make sure everyone knows where these supplies are.

* Determine where the "safe spot" in the home is. That's the rally point. Make sure each family member can find the safe spot even in the dark.

* Identify a relative out of the area as the designated check-in. In the aftermath of a storm, communications in the immediate area may be difficult. It's often easier to contact someone not in the affected area, and remember, texts are easier to send than phone calls. Speaking of communication, jot down family members' cellphone and home numbers, make a copy for everyone and have them keep the list with them at all times. Why? If you lose your cellphone, could you remember Aunt Martha's number?

Most of the time, weather forecasters know when conditions will be ripe for severe weather. Often, they will provide advance notice of a day or more. So, as the chance of severe weather approaches, take caution.

* Be aware of the forecast not only for today but for the next couple days. This will be especially helpful if a family member will be traveling for work or a school event. If that is the case, scout out potential places to shelter if the need arises.

* Keep phones, flashlights and other electronic devices charged and ready.

* If authorities warn of a storm heading in your direction, take their word for it. Don't try to ride it out. Go to your shelter and stay there until the coast is clear.

Unfortunately, the danger may not end with the passing of the clouds. So, know what to do in the aftermath.

* Know where the water and gas shut-offs are, if applicable. As important, know how to turn those utilities off.

* Unless you are a master electrician, do NOT try to do anything with electrical hazards. Get out of the area.

* Implement your communications plan. Check in with your designated relative. This not only ensures your safety and the safety of your family, but it lessens the chances first-responders waste time looking for someone only to find out the person isn't in harm's way.

Finally, practice your safety plan occasionally. You don't have to go through the whole thing, but review what should happen and make sure everyone remembers where things are, because the wrong time to try to remember how that weather radio works when the radar is showing a debris cloud bearing down on your neighborhood.

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