Severe Weather Awareness Week: Family preparedness

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s easy to think that destructive storms only happen to other people. But to somebody else, you are that other person. Do what you can to be ready and safe!

There are three different times to think about when it comes to being ready and prepared for severe weather. During a warning, you need to be taking action and sheltering in your safe place. Warnings are “storm-based,” being issued for a small area for less than an hour. Most of the time, before a warning, there is a watch. A watch covers portions of states and last several hours. A watch means that severe storms are possible but may not be happening yet. So, you can keep going with your plans but you need to keep watching the weather in case it turns severe and you need to take shelter. Before that, though, when there’s no bad weather at all, is the most important time for getting ready.

One of the most important things about being prepared is knowing where you live. No, not knowing your address – but knowing where you live on a map. What county are you in? What part in the county? Where do you live in relation to other things, such as north of Interstate 80?

Schools and workplaces occasionally have drills to practice being safe from different dangers. For example, students and workers go through their evacuation routine during a fire drill so they remember where the nearest exit is. If a fire were to actually happen, that’s not a very good time to start thinking about what to do – it should be automatic and immediate by that time. Likewise, you should not wait until a storm is battering your house to start figuring out your safety plan.

Emergency Kit
You should make a basic emergency kit. You should have these things in your storm kit:
- Water (one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Manual can opener for food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio
- Flashlight
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Shoes (so you don’t cut your feet if you have to walk across debris)
Those are the basics, and you may have other things you need to add. Consider these items:
- Medicine, including prescription and over-the-counter
- Glasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water
- Cash
- Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Complete change of clothing
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Books, games, toys, etc. for kids
If this seems like a lot, a checklist can help. You can download one here.

Safe Shelter
If you’re at home, these are places to go or things to consider for your sheltering:
- The basement or lowest floor of your home.
- Away from windows.
- In an interior room – that is, a room that doesn’t have any walls to the outside. These are usually a bathroom or closet.
- Underneath something sturdy such as stairs, a table, a workbench, etc.
- Cover up with pillows or blankets.
- Protect your head, even if you’re just putting your arms over it. If you have a helmet (such as a bike helmet), wear that.
If you’re not at home, these are your main sheltering choices:
- The designated storm shelter. Sometimes these are marked with a green sign that says “STORM SHELTER” or something similar. If there isn’t a designated shelter, go to the restrooms.
- If driving, go to a sturdy building and shelter there. If there are no buildings, a ditch is often the best option because most objects will tumble over a small low spot. Do not shelter under a bridge or overpass! Debris can easily get thrown into them and you will have no protection.