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Staying Safe During Storm Season

May 10, 2021
Weekly Columns

Late spring in Oklahoma often means the possibility of severe storms and tornados, particularly in the month of May. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, some communities have already seen dangerous weather patterns that resulted in property damage. As we move through the coming weeks, we certainly hope and pray that our communities will be spared from the wrath of severe weather. Regardless, it is critical to have an emergency response plan and build readiness kits for staying safe if storms strike.

The first step in preparedness is to be alert and know when a dangerous storm could hit. Whether you are 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. 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.

If you or a loved one is deaf or hard-of-hearing, there are unique alerts available through the Oklahoma Weather Alert Remote Notification (OK-WARN). This service provides notifications of weather hazards and emergencies to Oklahomans via pager, e-mail or cell phone. To sign up for these life-saving alerts, visit the following: oklahoma.gov/oem/programs-and-services/ok-warn.html.

Next, it is important to know what to do when a tornado or severe storm hits. 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.

Creating a plan and having a kit can help you and your family weather the storm. For important resources, helpful tips and printable templates for building an emergency plan, I highly recommend visiting: Ready.gov/plan. Your household’s response strategy should always include a physical communications plan with contact information and meeting places. In these circumstances, building a kit with food, water and vital supplies is critically important. For downloadable checklists and recommended items to put in your kit, visit Ready.gov/kit. At a 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.

Finally, if a storm hits and your property sustains damage, it is important to report it. This helps our state understand the extent of damage from a storm or tornado, and it also allows you to potentially receive services and assistance. If you had damage to your property during storms in recent weeks, or if you have damage caused by future storms, be sure to report it. Steps to do so can be found at www.damage.ok.gov.

In Oklahoma, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we will face tornados or severe weather and being prepared could mean the difference in life or death. While we cannot control or predict the mood of the weather, we can at least ensure our response to its potential severity when we have a plan in place. Indeed, it is critical to be prepared and collectively work in keeping our communities safe in the event of intense storms.