Severe Weather Safety
Applicable to All Types of Severe Weather
Some recommended items to procure and keep in an emergency preparedness kit at your home and business are:
- First-aid supplies and essential medications (keep in water proof container)
- Battery powered AM/FM radio and spare batteries (keep in water proof container)
- Canned and other non-perishable food
- Bottled water
- Written instructions on how to turn off your home utilities
Have pre-designated safe areas in your structure that are known to all occupants. For tornadoes and severe storms, these will usually be on the lowest level. For floods, they will be on the upper floors.
We recommend you procure and maintain a weather radio with battery back-up that receives emergency messages from NOAA and sounds a warning tone to alert occupants. Depending on the settings, your cell phone may also receive and announce these messages.
When threatening weather approaches:
- If you are in a structure, move to a pre-designated safe area.
- If a tornado or severe storm and a lower level is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
- Stay away from windows.
- If in a vehicle with a nearby tornado, leave the vehicle immediately and lie flat on the ground, preferably in a ditch or depression. If caught outside without a nearby structure, follow the same action.
Definition of Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Outdoor warning sirens will sound with a high and low sound for three minutes.
Definition of Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, within the county or area covered by the emergency broadcast system. Outdoor warning sirens will sound a steady tone for three minutes. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated safe area.
Signs of a tornado may include a dark, greenish sky; large hail; a wall of clouds; or a loud roar similar to a train.
Electrical Safety During Severe Weather
Heavy thunderstorms and ice storms can often interrupt electric service due to damage to power lines. Any downed power line has the potential to cause severe injury or death. There is no way to simply look at a power line to determine whether it is energized. Even non-energized lines may later carry current as utility crews or automated switches attempt to restore service. Even cable and telephone lines may be energized if the storm has caused them to contact a nearby power line.
Building occupants with back-up generators should make certain these have been properly installed by a certified electrician. These devices must be isolated from the local power grid to prevent energizing any circuits the power company has intentionally shut down for safety. Non-isolated generators can overheat when the grid's current is restored, which can lead to a fire in your building. If you use a portable generator, always connect appliances directly to it instead of connecting the generator to an electrical outlet.
If you are are in a vehicle that comes in contact with a power line, keep your entire body in the vehicle and call for emergency help using a cell phone, rolling down your window to call-out, or honking your horn. Warn anyone stopping to assist you to remain clear of your vehicle. If you absolutely MUST exit the vehicle because of imminent danger such as it being on fire, remove all loose items that could catch on the door frame and jump clear. DO NOT touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time or you could be injured or killed by the current. Try to land with both feet together and shuffle away from the vehicle.
A Note About Fire and EMS Response to Power Lines During Severe Storms
During heavy storm activity we and our mutual-aid partners are often overwhelmed with calls for assistance. This means it may take an unusually long period of time before we arrive at your scene. Dispatchers triage calls, and situations such as power lines arcing in a tree will normally be assigned a lower priority than fires and vehicle crashes.
While waiting for response to a downed power line, keep a safe distance and remember that it could be energizing nearby fences, siding and trees. We do not carry any specialized tools to safely remove or handle these wires. We can locate stray electrical current and cut connected residential service lines but only in a life-threatening emergency. For most situations we will simply mark the hazard area and instruct nearby individuals to monitor the site until the power company arrives.