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Preparedness is Key

May 4, 2020
Weekly Columns

Oklahomans are no strangers to severe weather and the terrible destruction that can result from it. Our past experiences serve as a sobering reminder that we must be ready at a moment’s notice to face tornadoes and other unpredictable weather patterns. In Oklahoma, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” that time will come.

While we always hope and pray that our communities will be spared from the destructive wrath of severe weather, we also must proceed with caution knowing that this time of year usually marks a season of frequent storms. Remember, it was sadly in the month of May that my hometown of Moore was ruthlessly beat down by tornadoes in a matter of minutes – on May 3, 1999, as well as on May 20, 2013. Unfortunately, severe storms this year have already caused devastating damage and heartbreaking loss of life in areas of our state and in many other southern states. As we ride out this mysterious season of nature with the added challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more critical that all Oklahomans take time to review their emergency response plans and build readiness kits. And if you don’t have something like this prepared, now is the time to act. 

First and foremost, it is important to know what to do when a dangerous storm hits. Whether you’re at home, at work or on the road, always be aware of where and when to take shelter in case of an emergency. Heed the warnings and direction issued by storm trackers at the National Weather Service, by local meteorologists and your community’s dedicated emergency management team. If you are at home during a tornado warning in your area, seek shelter in your basement, safe room or an interior room away from windows. If you are driving in or near the path of a storm, do not attempt to outrun it in a vehicle and do not hide under an overpass or a bridge. Find a low, flat location and cover your head and neck with your arms. If you have a blanket or coat available, wrap yourself up. To receive real time alerts from the National Weather Service, safety tips and help finding safety shelters and disaster recovery centers, download the mobile app available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): fema.gov/mobile-app.

For important resources, helpful tips and printable templates for building an emergency plan and supply kit, I highly recommend visiting Ready.gov/plan. For safety and response guidance specific to tornadoes, I suggest you also review the resources provided by the National Weather Service at weather.gov/safety/tornado. Your family or household’s response strategy should always include a physical communications plan with contact information and meeting places. If members of your family happen to be in different locations during severe weather or any sort of emergency, this is vital to getting in contact and safely reuniting with your loved ones. At minimum, a supply kit should include water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries. These items can be indispensable during and in the aftermath of a storm.

While the mood of the weather is out of our control, at least we can be sure of our response to its potential severity when we have a plan in place. Indeed, our collective preparedness is key to keeping our communities safe in the event of intense storms.