By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer
If you live in Northern Ohio, you know that Mother Nature likes to remind us that we can get a snowstorm late in the season, have a possible tornado at any point or even have heavy rain going into spring (out West they call it mud season). The Rockies and High Plains just experienced several feet of snow, Chicago recently reported areas with 18 inches of snow and the Northeast continues to have a heavy cycle of snow.
The American Red Cross offers tips to prepare and keep you safe during severe weather events of any kind, during any season.
Know the difference. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means atornado is already occurring or will occur soon. Go to your safe place immediately. Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, cloud of debris.
- Know your community’s warning system. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- Identify a safe place in your home to gather – a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. A small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
- If you have time, move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.
- If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. No mobile home is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go to the shelter or building immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
- If you are outside, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
- If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt.
- Stay away from bridge/highway overpasses.
- If strong winds and flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket
- Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them.
Turn around, don’t drown. Stay off the roads. If you must drive and encounter a flooded roadway, 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.
- Head for higher ground and stay there.
- If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
- Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
- Stay away from floodwaters. Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around floodwaters and your home.
- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
- If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.
Winter Storm Safety
Be prepared for storms, even in spring. Have your disaster kit ready. Details about what should be included are on the Red Cross website. When the storm begins, listen to the advice of local officials and stay in a safe place until weather conditions improve and roads can be cleared.
STAY SAFE by following these steps:
- Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.
- Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater.
- Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
- Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
- Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
- If possible, avoid driving in the storm. If you have to drive, have a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
- Let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
Avoid Home Fire Danger
Storms can result in a high number of home fires. To avoid fire danger, remember the following:
- Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs
- Place space heaters on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
- Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
- If your power is out, avoid using candles to prevent a fire.
Download our apps. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of severe weather or flooding, as well as locations of shelters. You can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer