Weather Safety

Disaster Prevention

Develop a Family Plan

Planning ahead will help you have the best possible response to disaster.

  • Discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live. Establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Designate alternates in case someone is absent. If a family member is in the military, also plan for how you would respond if they are deployed. Include the local military base resources that may be available.
  • Choose two places to meet after a disaster:
    • Right outside your home, in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
    • Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.
  • Each adult in your household should learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water and gas. Ask your local fire department to show you how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Tell everyone in the household where emergency information and supplies are kept. Make copies of the information for everyone to carry with them. Keep the information updated.
  • Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case main roads are impassable or gridlocked.
  • Include your pets. If you must evacuate, take your animals with you. If it is not safe for you to remain, it is not safe for them.

Make a Kit

Have at least three days of supplies in an easy to carry evacuation kit with additional supplies on hand. Remember to check your kit and replace the stock every six months.

Your kit should include:

  • Map
  • Food
  • Flashlight
  • Medications
  • Radio
  • Tools
  • Personal items
  • Sanitary supplies
  • Money
  • Contact information
  • Pet supplies

Store your disaster supplies in sturdy yet easy-to-carry containers, in a place that is easily accessible. Keep a smaller version of the kit in your vehicle. If you become stranded or are not able to return home, having some items with you will help you be more comfortable until help arrives.

 

Additional Information

For Severe Weather Safety Information view this PDF provided by the National Weather Service.

View the Red Cross Flood Safety Information

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

Child Safety Tips

  • Make sure your child's safety seat and safety belt buckles aren't too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks--even at home--and keep keys out of children's reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't leave sleeping infants in the car ever!

Adult Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires.Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids.Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
  • During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don't get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

 

Safe Shelters and Indoor Safety

Key Indoor Lightning Tips

  • Stay OFF corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones
  • Don't touch electrical equipment or cords. Unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives.
  • Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

What is a Safe Shelter?

A safe shelter is a building with electricity and/or plumbing or a hard topped vehicle with windows closed. Picnic shelters, dugouts, small buildings without plumbing or electricity are NOT safe.

Stay Safe While Inside

Stay off corded phones. You can use cell phones or cordless phones if they are not in a charger. Don't use computers or equipment directly connected to electricity, such as your stove. Stay out of the shower and away from other plumbing as well. You should also stay away from windows and doors. Small cracks in the frames can let lightning in.

Remember Your Pets

Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or chained to wire runners can easily fall victim to a lightning strike. Bring pets inside.

Protect Your Personal Property

In addition to direct strikes, lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will NOT protect equipment from a lightning strike. The American Meteorological Society has tips for protecting your electronics from lightning. Do NOT unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be struck.

How Lightning Enters a House or Building

There are three main ways lightning enters homes and buildings:

  • A direct strike
  • Through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure
  • Through the ground.

Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Lightning Risk Reduction Outdoors

When a Safe Shelter is Nearby

Run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder. Do not shelter under trees. You are not safe anywhere outside.

Plan Ahead!

Your best source of up-to-date weather information is the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). Portable weather radios are handy for outdoor activities. If you don't have NWR, stay up to date via internet, TV, local radio or cell phone. If you are in a group, make sure all leaders or members of the group have a lightning safety plan and are ready to use it.
If you are part of a large group, you will need extra time to get everyone to a safe place. NWS recommends having proven professional lightning detection equipment so your group can be alerted from significant distances from the event site.

When a Safe Shelter is Not Nearby

Remember, there is NO safe place outside in a thunderstorm. If you absolutely can't get to safety, this section may help you slightly lessen the threat of being struck by lightning while outside.

Being stranded outdoors when lightning is striking nearby is a harrowing experience. Your first and only truly safe choice is to get to a safe building or vehicle. If you are camping, climbing, on a motorcycle or bicycle, boating, or enjoying other outdoor activities and cannot get to a safe vehicle or building, follow these last resort tips. They will not prevent you from being struck by lightning, but may slightly lessen the odds.

  • Listen to the weather forecast for the outdoor area you plan to visit. The forecast may be very different from the one near your home. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, stay inside.
  • If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  • Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

 

Tornado Safety Rules

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement, or
    safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Abandon mobile homes and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy
    building.
  • If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
    • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
      • Stay in your vehicle with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
      • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car, and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
    • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstance

 

Know the Difference

Flood/Flash Flood Watch—Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning—Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Flood Safety Rules

  • Avoid driving, walking, or swimming in flood waters.
  • Stay away from high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. Even moving water only six inches deep can knock you off your feet. Move to higher ground.
  • Do not let children play in the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for
    possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical
    information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher
    ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is
    above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly
    moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

View the American Red Cross Flood Safety Checklist for information on how to make a flood kit, and what to do during and after a flood has occurred.

Winter Storm Safety Tips

Before the Storm

  • Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat (preferably one that covers your ears).
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
  • Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non­frozen drinking water.
  • Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel­burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.

After the Storm

  • Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold.
  • Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.
  • Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose­fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.
  • Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Check on your animals and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles. If possible, bring them indoors.

Cautions of Carbon Monoxide

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal­burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

 

Prevent UV Damage

The UV Index is a forecast of the probable intensity of skin damaging ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface during the solar noon hour (11:30-12:30 local standard time or 12:30-13:30 local daylight time). The greater the UV Index is the greater the amount of skin damaging UV radiation. How much UV radiation is needed to actually damage one's skin is dependant on several factors. But in general the darker one's skin is, (that is the more melanin one has in his/her skin) the longer (or the more UV radiation) it takes to cause erythema (skin reddening).

Minutes to Burn Chart

This image shows a look up chart where by one can cross check his/her propensity to burn versus the UV Index. For those who always burn and never tan the times to burn are relatively short compared to those who almost always tan.

The EPA has devised general guidelines as far as what to do to protect oneself from overexposure to UV radiation. These are shown in the table below.

Exposure Category UV Index Protective Actions
Minimal 0, 1, 2 Apply skin protection factor (SPF) 15 sun screen.
Low 3, 4 SPF 15 & protective clothing (hat)
Moderate 5, 6 SPF 15, protective clothing, and UV-A&B sun glasses.
High 7, 8, 9 SPF 15, protective clothing, sun glasses and make attempts to avoid the sun between 10am to 4pm.
Very High 10+ SPF 15, protective clothing, sun glasses and avoid being in the sun between 10am to 4pm.