Severe Weather Safety Guidelines

Severe weather is a very real possibility any time of the year in Alabama. When severe weather threatens, stack the odds in your favor by having a plan and a reliable way to get warnings immediately.

  • Think about the place you will go on a moment’s notice if severe weather strikes.
  • Pick a place where family members can gather: the basement, bathroom, an interior hallway or closet on the lowest floor.
  • Make sure your home, school, workplace and church have a designated shelter.
  • Pay attention to weather information during the risk.
  • Know the difference between a watch and a warning.
  • Have redundant sources of weather warnings, including at least one that will wake you in the night if a warning is issued.
  • Notify friends and family who may not be aware.
  • Have shoes, wallet, emergency kit and phone close by so you can grab them on a moment’s notice.
  • Keep important documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Don’t forget your pets: collars with identification, sturdy leashes, food/drinking water/bowls, cat litter/pan, pet beds and toys.
  • Do drills with your family. Include pets.

Have a family emergency plan. Make sure sure your family knows where their safe places are and what they should do in various situations. Have a prearranged meeting spot for before and after the storm. Know how you will contact each other.

HAVE A FAMILY EMERGENCY KIT

Every family should have an emergency supply kit. Some items to consider.
…Flashlight and batteries
…Battery powered radio and Weatheradio with extra batteries
…First aid kit
…Bottled water for people and pets. Try to have one gallon per person per day that you expect to be isolated.
…Energy food, including nuts and energy bars
…Bike or football helmets
…Baby supplies including diapers, food and formula.
…Air horn or whistle to signal rescuers
Download this checklist from FEMA for more ideas.

GET THE MESSAGE: RESPECT THE POLYGON!
It is critical that you have a reliable way of receiving severe weather watches and warnings immediately. Lead times for tornado warnings have increased dramatically since the implementation of Doppler Radar and false alarm rate continue to drop along with

Prior to 2007, severe weather warnings were only issued for entire counties. In 2007, the National Weather Service adopted Storm Based Warnings, which generally cover areas smaller than a county. Now, National Weather Service meteorologists issue tornado or severe thunderstorm warning for narrowly defined areas where they believe a tornado or damaging severe weather event is occurring or will occur. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, there are only two tornado warnings on average per year for any given location in Central Alabama. So when they are issued for your specific location, take them seriously and act!

If you have an iOS or Android device, we strongly recommend WeatherRadio by WDT. There is a one time cost of $9.99 for the app.

NOAA Weatheradio is the old standard. When a watch or warning is issued by the National Weather Service, specially built receivers are automatically activated by radio signal and sound a loud alarm. They can be programmed to alert you only when certain counties are affected. One drawback is that they are designed to warn entire counties, not the very specific areas included in the National Weather Service warnings. But Weather Radio is robust, reliable way of getting the message when severe weather threatens, and should be part of your redundant ways to get warnings. \

Outdoor sirens are designed to warn people who are outside that there is a tornado warning. They are usually sounded county wide, rather than just in areas where the warning is in effect, which means a lot of false alarms like Weather Radio. And they generally can’t be heard indoors and won’t wake you when you are asleep, so don’t rely on them as a primary line of defense in your severe weather safety plan.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WATCH AND A WARNING

A watch means conditions are right for hazardous weather to develop.
A warning means that hazardous weather is occurring or is imminent.
All thunderstorms are not severe. Severe thunderstorms are defined as having
* large hail (1” or greater)
* damaging winds (58 mph or greater)
* tornadoes

DURING A TORNADO OR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH…

Take the following actions…
…Review your severe weather safety plan.
…Think about the place you will go on a moment’s notice if severe weather strikes at each place you will be.
…Make sure you know where the designated shelter area is for your home, school, workplace or church.
…Consider postponing outdoor activities.
…Pay attention to weather information during the valid time of the watch and keep an eye to the sky.
…Have redundant, reliable sources of weather warnings.
…Notify friends and family who may not be aware.
…Be ready to leave mobile homes before threatening weather arrives.
…Make sure pets are inside so you won’t have to search for them when the warning comes.

DURING A FLASH FLOOD WATCH:
A flash flood watch means that conditions are right for flooding to occur.
Take the following actions during a flash flood watch…
…Think about the higher ground that you will go to on a moment’s notice if severe weather strikes.
…Pay attention to weather information during the risk and keep an eye to the sky.
…Be alert to extended periods of heavy rain.
…Have redundant sources of weather warnings.
…Notify friends and family who may not be aware.

DURING A TORNADO WARNING…

IN GENERAL
…The time for action is NOW! You are in a TORNADO WARNING!
…DO NOT GET CAUGHT IN A VEHICLE OR MOBILE HOME.
…GET TO THE LOWEST FLOOR.
…PUT AS MANY WALLS BETWEEN YOU AND THE TORNADO AS POSSIBLE.
…GET UNDER SOMETHING STURDY. Seek shelter under a sturdy table in the basement.
…PROTECT YOURSELF: Put on a helmet or something that protects your head. Cover up with blankets. Wear sturdy shoes and long sleeved clothes.
…THINK AHEAD: Take cell phone and charger. Make sure you have ID, credit card and cash.
…If no basement is available, go to a first floor, small interior room or a room on the opposite side from a tornado. Stay away from windows.
…In schools, churches, and shopping centers, go to a designated shelter.

HOME WITH A BASEMENT
…Seek shelter in the basement.
…Get under a sturdy object such as a large table, workbench or pool table because debris may fall into the basement.

HOME WITHOUT A BASEMENT
…Seek shelter on the first floor in an interior small room, such as a closet or bathroom.
…Try to shelter in the part of building opposite to approach of storm.

MOBILE HOME
…DO NOT GET CAUGHT IN A MOBILE HOME.
…More than 50% of tornado fatalities occur in mobile homes.
…Leave mobile homes for a safe shelter before a tornado threatens.
…Seek safety in a designated safety shelter.
…As a last resort, lie down in a ditch or depression or culvert.

CAR/TRUCK
…DO NOT GET CAUGHT IN YOUR VEHICLE.
…Vehicles are usually tossed into the air and destroyed.
…If you are in a vehicle during a tornado, drive away from the storm’s path.
…Stop and go in a substantial building if available.
…If no substantial shelter is available, abandon your vehicle and lie in a ditch or culvert.
…Choose a location such that the vehicle won’t roll over on you.

CHURCH
…Church sanctuaries and fellowship halls are not safe in tornadoes.
…Get away from outside walls, glass, and large rooms.
…Get under a table or desk in a basement area.
…If no basement is available, a small room or interior hallway in part of building opposite to approach of storm.
…Get under a table or counter or in a restroom or small storeroom.

SCHOOL
…Auditoriums and gymnasiums are not safe places in tornadoes.
…Get away from outside walls, glass, and large rooms.
…Go to the basement or a designated shelter area on the first floor.
…Restrooms or other small, sturdy rooms are usually good choices.
…Avoid areas into which high walls could collapse.
…Stay away from windows.
…If there is no time to move to a safer location dive under tables or desks.

LARGE RETAIL/SHOPPING CENTER
…Go to a designated storm shelter (ask in advance).
…Get away from outside walls, glass, and large rooms.
…Stay out of mall walkway areas.
…Stay away from outside walls and windows.
…Get under a table, behind a counter or in a restroom or small storeroom.
…DO NOT GO TO YOUR PARKED CAR.

HOTEL/MOTEL
…Go to the designated shelter area. Ask the front desk when you check in. If they don’t know, make sure you identify one in advance.
…Alert others as you go.
…Underground locations are the best.
…Stay away from windows.
…Get under a table or counter or in a restroom or small storeroom.
…As a last resort, get in the bathroom in your guest room. Get in the smallest space you can find there and cover up.

LARGE BUILDING
…Large, concrete reinforced buildings are usually not destroyed.
…Go to the designated shelter area, usually a basement or a hallway on the lowest floor.
…Stay away from windows.

SMALL BUILDING
…Go to the designated shelter area, usually a basement or a hallway on the lowest floor.
…Stay away from windows.
…Get under something study. .

DANGEROUS MYTHS THAT CAN GET YOU KILLED
…Don’t open windows.
…The southwest corner of a building is not necessarily the safest location.
…Highway overpasses do not provide protection.

DURING A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING…

…If you are caught outdoors seek shelter in a nearby basement, shelter, or sturdy building.
…If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt, and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
…Leave mobile homes for sturdier buildings.
…The basement is the safest place in homes and small buildings.
…If there is no basement, seek shelter in a windowless closet, bathroom, or inside hallway.
…Lightning and flash flooding kill as well.

DURING A FLASH FLOOD WARNING…

…TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN!
…Act quickly to save yourself. You may have only seconds.
…Get out of areas subject to flooding and go to higher ground.
…Do not walk or drive into standing or flowing water.
…If your vehicle is caught in water, abandon it immediately.
…Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
…Have redundant sources of weather information and stay weather aware.