It’s storm season here in Oklahoma, and it’s time to have everything prepared for your tornado safety plan! My husband and I are not native Oklahomans, so we found ourselves feeling quite flummoxed and unprepared during our first couple storm seasons here. I’d love to share some of what we’ve learned with you in case you’ve ever felt the same way or if you’re new to the area! Having a plan in place includes knowing exactly where you will take shelter in your home/office/school, having access to multiple different news outlets, and having everything you need on hand to grab and go.
Know the Difference:
-A tornado WATCH means the weather is looking like it could possibly produce some severe weather, but no threat is imminent.
-A tornado WARNING means a tornado is occurring or will soon- head for your shelter!
Where to Go if you Don’t have a Safe Room or Shelter:
-Get IN. (The most interior place in a sturdy building, with the most number of walls between you and the outside.)
-Get DOWN. (Get to the lowest spot possible in the building.)
-Get UNDER. (Cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bags/pillows and cover your body and head with protective clothing and a helmet if possible.)
There are no public storm shelters in Oklahoma, so make sure you have your plan in place well ahead of time!
(More great info can be found at www.ready.gov/tornadoes)
Information Sources to Have Access to:
-NOAA Weather Radio (with extra batteries on hand)
-National Weather Service Norman’s Facebook page and updates
-Local TV news channels and their phone apps
-Independent Weather Apps (Radar apps like ZoomPro and weather alert apps like ATsWeather come in very handy!)
-Direct information from your children’s schools. Some schools may release early on days when weather could be a threat. It’s important to stay connected and aware of their policies/decisions on those days.
If you know severe weather may be a threat, make sure all of your phones and devices stay as fully charged as possible throughout the day!
The Tornado Sirens:
-They’re tested every Saturday at noon, unless there may be storms. If storms are possible on a Saturday, they will usually refrain from testing and only sound them in an actual emergency.
-The sirens sound whenever a tornado WARNING has been issued for your specific area. This is a newer policy for the city. They have divided the city into ‘zones’ rather than whole counties. This means if you hear a siren sounding near you, you are near an imminent tornado threat and should take cover immediately.
Storm Shelter Preparation:
My husband and I are fortunate enough to have a storm shelter at this house. Here are some things we do to prep our storm shelter on days when severe weather is possible:
First of all, at the beginning of the season, we vacuum out the shelter to get rid of any bugs who may have made their way down there while we weren’t using it. (This is most definitely 100% Chris’ job. ha!)
You can also register your storm shelter so that authorities can be aware of your location should a storm hit. Each town or county has their own website to do this, so just search for your specific town’s storm shelter registration page and follow it’s instructions online.
In Our Emergency Kit:
-Flashlights for all family members
-First Aid kit
-A few gallons of drinking water
-Nonperishable food items
We also bring a 5-gallon bucket with a lid (to use as lavatory if needed) and a locked safe with our important documents and mementos in it.
If you have an infant or a child with special medical needs, make sure you grab everything you’ll need for them as well.
I also have an extra bag I can grab if I need to that has a pair of sturdy shoes for everyone in the family. (I’d only need to grab this if it were the middle of the night and no one had shoes on.)
Kid-Friendly Bonus Items:
-Lamp for soft light (or white Christmas lights work well too!)
-Candy (lollipops work great because they last the longest)
-Fun flashlights just for them
The lamp/Christmas lights and fan will only work as long as you have power, obviously, but I find it really helps my boys not feel quite so frightened as they initially look down in the shelter and prepare themselves to head down there. They know that if the power goes off, they’ll get to use their special flashlights, but I’ve found it makes it much less scary for them to head underground if there is already a steady light source down there for them.
I hope these tips help you feel a little more prepared for your family this Spring in Oklahoma! This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, a place for you to start.
More great info can be found at www.ready.gov/tornadoes.