Our Opinion: Are you prepared for severe weather?

Published 5:25 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

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Whether it’s tornadoes, flooding, lightning, extreme heat or anything in-between, Minnesota is no stranger to severe weather.

To be educated and prepared, people next week are encouraged to take advantage of Severe Weather Awareness Week so they are ready when — not if — the next big event happens.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division, severe weather can refer to any dangerous weather with the potential to cause the loss of life or injuries, significant damage to structures or any other serious disruption to communities.

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The division says though severe weather can’t be prevented, there are some simple steps everyone can take to stay safe and protect themselves and their homes.

Use this week as an opportunity to get an emergency plan in place for your family and to practice that plan with your family members. The website, at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan, provides helpful information to consider when thinking about a plan. It should include things like emergency alerts, a shelter plan, an evacuation route and a communication plan. Where will you go in case of an emergency? Where will you meet if you get split up? It’s also important to tailor your plan for family members with special health concerns or other needs.

While you’re discussing your emergency plans, consider also taking a few minutes to make an emergency kit in case you’re stuck in your house at any point in time. That kit should include things such as water, food that won’t spoil, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, a first aid kit, a whistle, tissue, garbage bags, dust masks, a wrench, pliers and sturdy shoes.

The American Red Cross also offers the following tips for tornado and thunderstorm safety:

Tornado safety

• Identify a safe place in your home where household members and pets will gather during a tornado: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

• In a high-rise building, pick a hallway in the center of the building. You may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor.

• In a mobile home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. If your mobile home park has a designated shelter, make it your safe place. No mobile home, regardless of how it is configured, is safe in a tornado.

• If you are under a tornado warning, find safe shelter right away.

• Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

• Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.

• Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.

• Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

Thunderstorm safety

• If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.

• If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.

• Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.

• Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.

• Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.

• Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.

• If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

• If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

• Never drive through a flooded roadway. You cannot predict how deep the water may be.

• Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.

• Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.

• Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.

We encourage you to pay attention to posts by law enforcement agencies and the National Weather Service in times of severe weather, as well as this newspaper.