Are you prepared for severe weather and natural disasters?

This week is the first National Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a number of other acronym-identified organizations, started the week to help Americans prepare for floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, major thunderstorms, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, and whatever else nature throws our way.

The first bit of advice they give is to identify what types of severe weather and natural disasters regularly affect your area. USA Today has a nice interactive map that lights up when you select the specific disaster. It’s not a perfect map — it doesn’t identify the Mid-Atlantic as having earthquakes or tornadoes, yet we had both in 2011 — but it’s decent for identifying the most likely disasters to hit a state.

Their second suggestion is to create a disaster kit and an emergency plan based on the disasters that are most likely to strike where you work and live. If you haven’t organized a kit or a plan, check out FEMA’s articles on how to build a disaster kit (they also have a flier with similar information) and how to make a plan to meet up with your family after a disaster strikes. They also recommend getting a NOAA Weather Radio. I noticed recently we didn’t have a single radio in our house, so I ordered one of these for our home. There are many different styles, I liked this one because in addition to batteries it has a crank and a solar panel for alternative energy sources.

The article doesn’t mention this, but it’s also a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car. The kits are small, easily fit into the trunk of your car, and can be life-saving in an emergency. If you don’t want to assemble one on your own, there are numerous kits available for purchase.

With all emergency kits, it is important to maintain them and check them twice a year. If you already have kits, National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a good time to go through them and make sure all parts are present, in good condition, and nothing has expired. Even though they’re not fancy, emergency kits are extremely useful gifts for graduating seniors.


15 Comments for “Are you prepared for severe weather and natural disasters?”

  1. posted by Alison on

    Ha! My first thoughts went to the irony of this post on this site – unitasker, if you haven’t used it in a year ditch it, don’t bring it into your home if there isn’t a spot for it… I guess as a whole, the kit is the ultimate unitasker, only ever of use in the event of disaster but, if ever actually needed, it morphs into the ultimate multi-tasker. Thanks for the post – I needed the prodding. I live in the land of earthquakes and volcanos and all I have set aside right now are two 5 gallon jugs of water (in case the pipes freeze). I will endeavor to beef up my supplies!

  2. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I also gave emergency kits for the cars as a housewarming present to my brother and sister-in-law when they moved out to California.

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Alison — I liken emergency kits to fire extinguishers. As Alton Brown says, “The fire extinguisher should be the only unitasker in your kitchen.” It has high utility when you really need it.

  4. posted by Marrena on

    Thank you for doing the legwork on finding the best thing to buy.

  5. posted by Kate on

    One benefit of watching the fearfest that is Doomsday Preppers is that it motivated me to get an earthquake kit together a few weekends ago. It didn’t take long and I was able to find most of the stuff around the house or at Big Lots and the dollar store. Don’t forget to prepare a kit for your pets as well.

  6. posted by Kendra on

    Another essential item: sunscreen! Joplin, Missouri is my hometown, and just a week after the F-5 last May 22, temperatures began to soar and it stayed in the high 90’s/low 100’s for several weeks. Also, hats and sunglasses for everyone. Even in cold climates you need sunscreen.

    Also, make sure you have sturdy, tough boot-type shoes for everyone in the family along with lots of pairs of socks. If a disaster strikes in summer and you have to climb over debris, or wade through water, you can’t do that in flip-flops. Even sneakers are dangerous. You need heavy-duty shoes that will protect your feet, and enough socks to keep them dry.

  7. posted by Shalin on

    Great, timely post! One interesting thing I found out a while ago was that digital emergency radios don’t seem to last as long as their analog versions. Just FYI…

  8. posted by Joan Ladd on

    In Alabama, we have a Weather Call service that will send a warning call directly to your cell phone if you are in an area that is under a severe weather alert. Usually, people have their cell phones with them, even if they are away from their weather radios and televisions for some reason. There may be similar services available in other areas of the country. Possible sources of information are your local television meteorologists (who may provide public severe weather education programs) or your local government Emergency Preparedness office.

  9. posted by Margot Cox on

    There is a very useful iphone app (iMap Weather Radio $9.99 on the itunes app store) that you can customize for the type of alert and geographical location. It will provide audible alerts even if the phone is on silent. It is very helpful here in Texas where severe weather is always possible. You can add multiple locations to track, including your current location, and you can see real-time radar weather maps. Well worth the money.

  10. posted by Dave on

    We keep an old pair of shoes for each member of the family in our storm shelter. A friend whose family survived the Greensburg EF-5 stressed that you have got to have shoes if the worst happens. Think… broken glass, splintered wood, climbing out of debris.

  11. posted by Liz on

    I live in Oklahoma which is known for tornadoes, but I have experienced a lots of other severe weather events. As a result I have looked at “prep” in a different way.

    I’ve looked at various scenerios (fire, winter storms, summer storms, etc), needs (water, food, clothing, money,medical,shelter, heat), timing (immediate, under 24 hours, a week, month)and impact (me, neighborhood, city, state, region, national), how I would react (flee or shelter in place).

    All these things have driven my plans of action. It’s actually a fun exercise to do.

    Go to the camp section of your local stores and check things out. And remember to rotate things – food, liquids, batteries, etc can all go bad.

  12. posted by jodi on

    I know someone who is divorced. When his child was young, he and his ex-wife had a simple agreement. If they had to evacuate north, meet at ___ exit on interstate ___. They had a southern exit for the same interstate. I loved the simplicity of their plan!

  13. posted by PK on

    Thank you for this post. A NOAA all-hazards radio is very important. If you are concerned about the radio going off for warnings that are not for your county/area, many of the radios can now be programed to alert for specific counties and even specific warnings/watches (i.e. you can set the alert to sound for tornado watches and warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings but not severe thunderstorms watches). Meteorologists work hard at getting timely warnings out so people can be safe, but all their hard work is for naught if people cannot receive the information (or choose not to) or do not listen.

  14. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    Consider keeping print-outs of vital household information in your emergency kits, too. I offer “Matters of Fact” (Things the family should know) and “Emergency Information” record keepers. Both are printable as well as stored “in the cloud” where you can retrieve them anywhere you have internet access. You’ll find them at

  15. posted by Greg S on

    One negative with the weather radios that wake up to sound an alarm is they are also set to alarm for other local signals, like Amber alerts and weekly tests. If you work night shift these radios are constantly alarming for non-events and can end your day-time sleep. I ended up throwing my radio away.

    To be alarming because a child 50 miles away was ‘taken by the non-custodial parent in a custody fight’ in my home three counties away is ridiculous. Like, what was I supposed to do? Stand in front of my house at parade-rest watching for a “9 year old hispanic child in jeans and a white flowered top” who was in the custody of a parent? Well that’s what 99.9% of the Amber alerts are.

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