The significant increase in severe weather, heavy storms, high winds, snow, hail, and flooding has become more common occurrences and still leaves many in their path unprepared. Tornados, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and flooding have also increased with the effects of climate change.

Extreme weather events are now a global threat and often leave devastation in their paths. So, what can individuals do to plan for a severe weather event? Depending on where you live and what kind of event your region may experience, here are some important “to-dos” to get you ready to face whatever Mother nature has in store.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Begin your preparation by familiarizing yourself with the threats that are most likely to strike your area so you can plan accordingly. Make plans for each type of threat that your zone may experience.

When preparing for a severe weather event, the most important thing you can do is to prepare in advance. Don’t wait until the weather service announces the threat of extreme weather. Prepare stocks of food, water, and supplies when the weather is fine. 

Run drills if you are at risk for flooding, tornados, or hurricanes so that when they arrive you know what to do automatically without having to waste time thinking about it. Make sure your car has a full gas tank if you must evacuate and consider purchasing roadside assistance services in case you get stuck. Prepare copies of essential identification, insurance, and health records to take with you. Make sure you have some cash on hand as well.

Make sure your home insurance and car insurance are up to date and paid. If you are in a flood-risk zone purchase insurance for flood damage to your car and home. Also, consider adding insurance coverage for specific severe weather threats that may be characteristic of your geographic location. 

Bring your pets with you indoors, or provide sufficient shelter with water available. 

Preparing for Snow, Hail, Sleet, and Extreme Cold

When at risk for extreme cold, staying warm may be your biggest challenge.

  • Insulate water lines, weather strip windows, doors, and insulated walls. Install thermal windows or dress windows inside with plastic. Remove dead or damaged trees and branches. Repair leaks.
  • Dress appropriately in layers.
  • Avoid going outside if unnecessary to limit your exposure to the cold.
  • Consider your heating sources and if they depend on electricity in the event of an outage. If you use space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces, make sure that nothing flammable is nearby. Turn off or suffocate fires before leaving your home or before going to bed. 
  • If you will be using a fireplace or wood-burning stove, make sure you have stocked up on wood or pellets to see you through an extended storm and have your chimney flue inspected.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector and keep a fire extinguisher in your home.
  • If you must go outside for supplies, to let the dog out, or to clear snow from a driveway or roof, be aware of the signs of hypothermia including drowsiness, excessive shivering, numbness, discolored skin, frostbite, a weakening pulse, and confusion or disorientation.
  • If you must shovel snow or move about in deep snow drifts, avoid overexertion to prevent the onset of a heart attack or health crisis.

Preparing for Flooding

  • Prepare a communication plan for your family and an emergency bag with rubber boots, gloves, first aid supplies, flares, food, etc.
  • Prepare an emergency water supply.
  • Turn off utilities including electricity, gas lines, and water supplies especially if evacuation is a possibility. 
  • Ask your electrician to raise any electric components like switches or plugs at least a foot above your projected flood risk level.
  • Install backflow valves on sewer and drain connections to prevent water from entering. 
  • Install pumps that can be operated with a backup generator.
  • Fuel tanks should be anchored to avoid contamination if left to float.
  • Remove outdoor items like garden furniture and trash cans or secure them. 

Preparing for Storms with Thunder and Lightning or Hurricanes

  • Have emergency supplies ready including food, water, and medicine.
  • When outside, avoid tall trees and seek shelter indoors if possible.
  • Once inside, stay away from windows and glass doors.
  • Avoid using electricity if possible. Use battery-operated tools and have extra batteries on hand.
  • Be prepared to evacuate if so instructed. 

Preparing for a Tornado 

You must create a safe space within your home to shelter in.  These might include a basement, storm cellar, or room without windows on the lowest floor such as a closet, hallway, or bathroom.

  • Remove dead trees or damaged trees from your property.
  • Remove any items that could easily be tossed around from your yard or property.
  • Practice drills at home so you know where to shelter.
  • Monitor emergency information.
  • Do not remain at home if you hear unusual or shifting noises as this may indicate potential collapse.
  • Wear a mask or cloth to prevent dust inhalation.
  • If you are driving, drive to a designated shelter in your area. If this is not a possibility, keep your seat belts buckled and position your head between your knees.
  • Check gas lines and electrical systems. If you suspect a gas leak or see damaged wiring, shut off the gas and electrical systems and leave.
  • If you are trapped, bang on a pipe or use your cell phone to attract attention. You can also keep a whistle handy for tornado warnings.

Preparing for Wildfires

  • Know more than one way to leave the area. Practice driving evacuation routes.
  • Know where your local shelter is.
  • Keep respirators on hand.
  • Select a room that can be sealed off and use a portable air cleaner inside it.
  • Have a plan for pets and animals. 

For further tips on how to prepare for severe weather and natural disasters, consult the CDC website