Dr. Dana Johnson: Plan Ahead to Stay Safe During Storms

Once you are prepared to receive the alerts, prepare yourself and your family for what to do when they go off. Have an emergency kit ready.

Originally published on June 25, 2014, in the Wisconsin State Journal. Dr. Dana Johnson is a pediatrician practicing at the Meriter McKee Clinic.

Dear Dr. Johnson: How do I prepare my family to be safe during severe weather?

Dear Reader: The recent storms have brought to the forefront the power and destruction of severe weather. Fortunately no one was seriously injured but just viewing pictures of the damage makes me very cognizant of the human injury that could have occurred. The best way to keep your child and yourself safe in severe weather is to plan ahead.

There are several ways to know strong weather is coming your way. When storms occur during the night they have even more potential for injury as people are sleeping and not as aware of what is going on outside. It makes it even more important to have a plan in place of how you will learn about the severe weather warnings.

No notification system is perfect in all scenarios so it is best to utilize more than one. Sirens are designed to warn people outside so not the best alert when in your home and especially at night while asleep. They may not be loud enough. You can purchase your own personal siren in a weather radio. For me, a phone call at midnight from Dane County’s Emergency Warning System was what woke us up and resulted in my family seeking safety in our basement last week. We don’t have a home phone so I had subscribed to the free service. You can register your cell phone to receive alerts at http://dane.alertingsolutions.net We have a weather radio but it recently broke so no longer makes a noise louder than a whisper. It is now a priority to replace.

If you realize that the weather is worsening, you can also turn on the radio, television or use a weather app or website.

Once you are prepared to receive the alerts, prepare yourself and your family for what to do when they go off. Have an emergency kit ready. A list of items it should include can be found at http://www.ready.gov/kids/build-a-kit.

It is important to understand the difference between a “Watch” and a “Warning.” A watch means the conditions are favorable for severe weather and you should monitor weather alerts closely. A warning means severe weather is occurring or imminent and you should take action to protect yourself.

Talk with children at an age appropriate level about the dangers of storms. Keep them safe while trying to avoid making them overly anxious when storms do occur. Teach children to come inside when they see lightning or hear thunder. You can teach older children to use the 30/30 rule for lightning. Go indoors if you see lightning and cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay inside for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. For tornadoes, determine the safe place in your home. This is usually a basement or an interior room. Avoid corners, windows, doors and outside walls.

It is also a good idea for adults and older children to know basic first aid. This can be done through a class with the Red Cross or area health organization.

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