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Are You Ready?: Guide to Severe Weather Safety

In these last few days, most of the country has been experiencing severe weather. Most of us are dealing with snow and frigid temperatures this time of year. As I hope you were all prepared, it crossed my mind that there may be people out who may not know what to do in the case of a severe weather event. This article will detail safety precautions and preparations for different types of extreme weather.

A few things will be repeated throughout the article to stress the importance of the information. These things include paying attention to alerts and warnings, knowing your location and what severe weather threats the area is prone to, keeping essential documents in a secure container, and having a plan for yourself, your family, and your pets.

Severe weather can be very unpredictable, even with modern technological meteorological advances. That is why it is so important to remain prepared. Winter storms can cause power outages, frozen pipes, hypothermia, and house fires from portable heaters. Due to winter storms, people are stranded in their homes, businesses, or vehicles yearly. The following are safety precautions to take:

  • Seal any doors or windows that let the cool air in

  • Make sure your attic is adequately insulated

  • Cover outdoor faucets

  • Drip indoor faucets or install pipe insulation

  • Be careful with portable heaters — they are the leading cause of house fires during winter storms

  • Have a winter weather car kit in your vehicle with the following items:

  • Extra chargers for cell phones and devices

  • Snack food and water

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Basic tool kit

  • Jumper cables

  • Emergency flares

  • Warm clothes and blankets

  • Ice scraper

Thunderstorms and lightning can cause winds over 50 miles per hour to rip through houses, ignite fires with lightning strikes, create power outages, create hail damaging property, and cause flash flooding, which can drift a car or cause drownings. The following are safety precautions to take:

  • Go inside as soon as you hear thunder

  • Secure outdoor furniture

  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings

  • Unplug appliances to prevent lightning strikes or power surges from killing your devices. 

  • Stay away from water or landline phones — they conduct electricity.

Flash flooding can result in significant damage to residential and commercial properties, as well as lead to tragic loss of life. People often fail to realize that the water level is increasing until it reaches a critical point. Like many other types of severe weather, it is better to be proactive than reactive regarding flash flooding. The following are safety precautions to take:

  • Know where you live — look up your address at the Flood Map Service Center

  • Stay off the roads

  • Keep essential documents in waterproof storage

  • Waterproof basement

  • Have sandbags stored for possible incoming water

Tornadoes are one of the most unpredictable and destructive forms of severe weather. Those like me who have grown up in Tornado Alley know something about this. Tornadoes cause hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in damages. An average of 70+ people are killed from tornado-related deaths each year. I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared when a tornado is in your area. The following are safety precautions to take:

  • Create a safety plan with a designated safe place (particularly an interior room in your home) for you and your family to wait out the storm and practice it.

  • Create a communication plan in case the family may be separated during a storm and practice it.

  • Stay inside

  • Stay away from windows and doors

  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings

Extreme heat and drought are forms of severe weather that often have adverse effects on people and the environment. During extremely high temperatures, there is a higher risk of heat stroke, sunburn poisoning, and dehydration. During dry seasons, the lack of rainwater can cause droughts, leading to wildfires that can spread to residences. The following are safety precautions to take.

Extreme Heat:

  • Stay hydrated — do this just for the health benefits.

  • Have a Go Bag prepared in case you have to leave your home with

  • Three days of supplies

  • Backup batteries and chargers for devices

  • Personal documents

  • Have a Stay at Home Kit

  • Two weeks of supplies

  • One month’s supply of medication and medical supplies or equipment

  • Have a planned route to cool places (public library, shopping mall, or public cooling center

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitted clothing


  • Don’t light fires (trash, fire pits, campfires, grill, etc)

  • Have a plan for evacuation

  • Keep essential documents in a fireproof safe

  • Make sure your windows and doors are sealed to prevent outside air from coming in

  • Store an N95 mask to protect yourself from smoke inhalation

  • Keep your cell phone charged and have a backup charger

  • Supplies in case of evacuation

  • First aid kit

  • Go bag

  • *Avoid flammable or combustible household products


  • Have an escape plan for yourself and your family, and practice it at least twice a year.

  • Have a Go Bag

  • Have a fire-resistant safe for your essential documents

  • Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials at least 30 feet from your home as your safe zone

  • Make sure smoke alarms are installed on each level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas and test every month, change batteries as necessary 

Emergency Supply List: These items are for your consideration. Create your list based on your and your family’s needs and the severe weather in your area.

  • tool kit

  • blankets/sleeping bags

  • portable battery-powered radio

  • portable battery-powered flashlight

  • food (nonperishables)

  • water

  • first aid kit

  • fire extinguishers

  • extra batteries

  • can opener

  • pails with covers

  • whistle (signal for help)

  • dust mask

  • plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

  • moist toilettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation 

  • soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes

  • prescription medications

  • nonprescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

  • prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution

  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream

  • pet food and extra water for pets

  • cash

  • essential documents: copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  • complete change of clothing (at least three days) for each family member

  • fire extinguisher

  • matches in a waterproof container

  • feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils

*Create a Go Bag for your home, work, or vehicle. Keep Go Bag in a cool, dry place, keep boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers, replace expired items as needed, re-think your needs every six months, and update your kit as your family’s needs change.


Shelters in Madison County: 256-427-5130

  • Asbury Church Harvest - 8089 Wall Triana Highway, Harvest, Alabama 35748 (Pets allowed if crated)

  • Bobo Volunteer Fire Department - 7982 Old Railroadbed Rd., Ardmore, AL 35739

  • Gurley Rec Center - 311 3rd Street, Gurley, Alabama 35748

  • Good Shepherd United Methodist Church - 1418 Old Railroad Bed Rd, Madison AL 35757

  • Harvest Youth Club - 230 Lockhart Road, Harvest, AL 35749

  • Killingsworth Cove VFD - 876 Killingsworth Cove Road, Gurley, Alabama 35748

  • Maysville Community Shelter - 1076 Brownsboro Road, Gurley, Alabama 35748

  • Meridianville Volunteer Fire Department - 464 Patterson Ln. Meridianville, AL 35759

  • Moores Mill VFD - 7416 Moore Mill Road, Huntsville, AL 35811 (Pets allowed if crated)

  • New Hope - 5507 Main Drive, New Hope, AL 35760

  • Owens Cross Roads Town Hall - 9032 U.S. 431, Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763

  • Triana Community Shelter - 280 Zeirdt Road, Madison, Alabama 35758


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