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Plan Ahead: How to Prepare for Tornadoes and Other Severe Weather

How to Prepare for Tornadoes and Other Severe Weather

North Texas is under a slight risk for severe weather starting this evening. Large hail, damaging winds and a few tornadoes are possible.

According to the National Weather Service, storms could begin to impact the Dallas-Fort Worth area from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. A few tornadoes could be strong.

Be sure you have multiple ways to receive warnings and ensure that any weather alerts you receive will wake you up. Damaging winds up to 70 mph is the primary hazard.

So what does this mean for you and your family?Tornado

Outdoor activities may need to be put on hold --- and you need to have a plan for your family’s safety.

“One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to know where you will go for shelter,” said Kaysey Pollan, director of Environmental Safety and Emergency Management at Cook Children’s. “The best place to be during a tornado is underground. If you don’t have access to a basement or underground shelter, move to the interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.”

When sheltering in an interior room, you want to make sure you’re away from windows. A bathroom or closet may also be a good option.

One of the worst places you can be during a tornado or strong winds is a mobile home. If you live in a mobile home, decide now where you will go for secure shelter.

In addition to knowing where to seek shelter, families should have a designated meeting place away from home (a neighbor’s house or a street corner in the neighborhood) where you would gather if you were separated during an emergency. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the meeting place is located.

Other ways to prepare:

  • Locate your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers.
  • Have flashlights handy.
  • If you have helmets in your home, have them ready in an easy-to-access spot near your safe place.
  • Know where utility switches or valves are located in case you need to turn them off.

If you are driving during a storm, stay in your car and try to find shelter (but not under an overpass). The only exception is if there’s a tornado coming toward you. If you can’t find shelter, get out of the car and find the most low-lying area (ditch, ravine, etc.). Lay flat on your stomach and cover your head with your hands. If it’s hailing, stop driving and find a place to park like inside a garage, under a carwash or a service station awning. If you have small children with you, put them under you and cover their eyes.

Whether or not your child is afraid of storms, it’s important for parents to stay calm during severe weather. Children are quick to pick up on their parents’ fears and anxieties and during an emergency and they will look to you for safety and reassurance.

“Parents should do their best to manage their own anxiety. If parents are calm it will help calm their children,” said Kristi Mannon, Ph.D., a psychologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center. “Parents should do their best to avoid watching news coverage in front of their children. Parents can check on weather updates on their phone or a device away from their children in order to stay informed.”

Dr. Mannon also advises parents not to dismiss their child’s feelings or to scold them.

“If a parent needs to complete a task such as preparing dinner and their child is expressing fear, they can take a break for a few seconds, make eye contact with their child, acknowledge their fear, and tell them they will talk about it as soon as dinner is ready,” she said.

“You can help your child stay calm not only by managing your own fears, but by having a supply kit ready to go,” said Justin Smith, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Trophy Club. “Make sure you have snacks and something for your child to drink in case you have to remain under shelter for an extended period of time.”

Another tip – distraction can go a long way with children.

“Have a box of items that don’t rely on electricity such as coloring books, board games, a deck of cards or a favorite stuffed animal,” he said. “This can help during the storm and if you have to leave your house during a disaster.”

It is also important to be honest with children about what’s going on. However, make sure the amount of information and detail you share is appropriate for their age level.


Weather Watch vs. Warning

A Watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather to occur over the next several hours. The National Weather Service advises you to continue activities as normal, but monitor the weather and be ready to act if a Warning is issued.

A Warning means head for cover! This is an indication that severe weather is imminent or already occurring at your location. Seek shelter on the lowest floor of a sturdy building and stay away from windows.

One easy way to prepare for severe weather is to download the tornado app created by The American Red Cross. It provides alerts, watches, warnings, and plan-ahead lists right to your phone.