Severe Weather Safety
As spectacular a display as a lightning storm creates, the potential for injury is very real. And when it comes to tornadoes or hurricanes/tropical storms, knowing what not to do is sometimes the most important way to stay safe.
Understanding basic storm terminology is a good start to knowing how best to prepare. If a “watch” is issued, it indicates that conditions exist which might produce a lightning storm, hurricane/tropical storm or tornado, so it’s best to stay alert and think about making preparations. If an actual event has been spotted or picked up on radar, a “warning” will be issued. That’s when it’s time to take shelter.
Watches and warnings are always listed based on the county in which they are sighted, so always know your location — especially when traveling — during severe weather.
Lightning storms kill more people than both tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Additionally, lightning strikes leave behind 90 percent of its victims with lifelong injuries or disabilities.
Take the following precautions:
- When a storm is approaching, seek shelter inside immediately. There really is no safe place outside — especially under tall objects like trees and light posts, in open areas, or areas containing water. Buildings with metal in their frames provide the best source of protection. If you can’t reach a building, take shelter in a car. Cars offer good protection because the metal contained in their frames conducts electricity from lightning away from the inside of the car and into the ground.
- During a storm, stay away from electrical appliances, light switches, electric sockets and corded telephones. Don’t use water, as lightning’s electricity can travel through the water source directly to you. Stay away from windows as well.
- When seeking shelter in a car, don’t touch any of the interior, including the steering wheel, gear shifter, radio or ignition. Electricity from a lightning strike can actually travel through the car’s wiring and enter your body through contact.
- Stay indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning. More than half of lightning strike deaths occur after the actual storm has passed.
While a tornado with enough strength can penetrate almost anything, there are still steps you can take to safeguard you and your family should you find yourself in the path of one:
- Listen for weather updates on the radio or television and watch the horizon for any funnel-shaped clouds.
- Find shelter in a basement or storm cellar, or on the lowest level of the building you are in, in a windowless interior room like a bathroom or closet. Bathroom fixtures like bathtubs and commodes are commonly anchored directly into the ground. Get into the bathtub and cover yourself with furniture cushions or a mattress. If you find yourself in a room or hallway, try to protect your head from flying objects by hiding underneath something sturdy like a heavy table.
- If outside, lie in a low-lying area like a ditch. Don’t seek shelter under a bridge or overpass as wind speed increases as it is squeezed through the opening, thereby increasing the risk of being blown away or hit by flying debris.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
While the potential for serious injury/damage usually lies along the coastline, hurricanes/tropical storms have the capacity to produce extremely heavy rainfalls accompanied with high winds in inlying areas. If you live close to the coast, know all evacuation routes available to you and leave immediately once the order has been issued. Other precautions you should take include:
- Make sure your home meets building codes and has storm shutters; if you don’t have shutters, protect your windows by covering them with plywood boards.
- Secure outside objects to prevent them from becoming flying debris.
- Monitor the storm on the radio or television; remain indoors when the eye moves over your area because the storm will resume. Make sure the storm has passed completely before going outside to evaluate the situation/assess any damage.
Assemble an emergency kit and store it in a location that is easy to find in the dark in the event of a loss of power. The kit should include:
- A battery-powered or emergency crank weather radio
- Extra batteries
- Bottled water, non-perishable food items
- First aid kit
- Written instructions on how to turn off the utilities in your home
Conduct annual family emergency drills so that every member knows exactly what to do in the event of severe weather. Designate a contact person in another city that everyone in the family should call and check in with in the event the family was separated during the weather incident.