Weatherproof Your Family

Snow - croppedThis week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Take a moment to consider your personal role and responsibilities for storm preparations. Have you considered the most likely risks for your area? Are you equipped to protect yourself and your family for these risks?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready website, the U.S. experienced more than 450 weather-related fatalities, and nearly 2,600 injuries in 2012. Recent storms such as Hurricane Sandy helped raise awareness to the devastating effects of severe weather. In other parts of the country, winter storms dumped snow that crippled travel efforts. In this photo, a 100-mile segment of Interstate 70 in Overland Park, Kan. was closed as vehicles were unable to move in the accumulated snow. Drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles and seek shelter nearby.

We really only have two options for severe weather preparedness: ignore the threat, or be prepared and stay safe. The risk of the first strategy is that you are dependent on others for assistance should severe weather impact you. In every severe weather emergency, resources are strained and assistance can take hours, days or weeks to reach everyone. The goal of the latter strategy is to have a plan and be equipped, so that you can act independently and reach safety.

Below are a few simple steps to build your family’s severe weather plan:

  • Identify specific threats and create a plan. A resident of Hawaii doesn’t need a collapsible snow shovel in the trunk of the car, and while those in northern climates might find this tool essential. Consider events like flood, drought, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, landslide, wildfire, and windstorm and prioritize those that are most likely. Create a plan for your family based on the probable risks. Your plan should include considerations for home, work, school and transportation so that your whole family knows what to do in any situation.
  • Build a supply kit. Humans need food, water, shelter and warmth. Many people have the ability to provide these resources at home, but consider prolonged power outages. Can you boil water (for assuring safe drinking water) without electricity? What about your car – do you have a kit with first aid supplies, drinking water, snacks, extra clothes, a flashlight and games for the kids to keep you safe until help arrives?  More information on kit recommendations can be found on FEMA’s Ready website.
  • Maintain Situational Awareness. Situational awareness involves knowing what is going on around you. Every day we put ourselves in situations and expect them to turn out exactly how they did the last 30 times. When the environment around us changes, we often fail to properly adapt, if it changes unexpectedly, the risk of injury increases significantly. When it comes to severe weather, the best way to stay safe is to monitor weather reports, local news and talk stations, keep your gas tank filled, and identify alternate shelter in case you are unable to reach your primary destination.

Having a plan and being well-equipped for unexpected emergencies has many positive impacts. The recovery goes much smoother when more people are able to take care of their own needs. The personal impact is lessened and panic is avoided because preparedness creates confidence. Those who are prepared have the luxury of helping others rather than depending on outside assistance.

What will you do this week to increase your preparedness?