In the previous article of this series (linked below), I discussed the importance in knowing the risk for severe weather in your area, and different methods that are available for receiving advisories from the National Weather Service. While knowledge of severe weather risks is essential, it is also important to have a plan for what to do in the event of severe weather.
An action plan for severe weather should start well ahead of the storm by forming an emergency kit. This emergency kit should contain items necessary to survive for a few days without electricity, such as water and non-perishable food items. However, this emergency kit should also contain items such as pliers (to shut off utilities), a flashlight, a battery operated radio, a NOAA Weather Radio, and extra batteries for all of these items. Other useful items would be personal sanitation items and dust masks.
Another item in the action plan should be what to do when a severe weather warning is issued. The safest place to be during severe weather is a basement, however, if your home, like many homes across central Illinois, does not have a basement, a small interior room without windows is a safe alternative. Your emergency supply kit should be kept in this location, as you may not be able to escape your safe location once a storm hits. Once in your safe location cover your head with your hands, as the most frequent cause of death in severe weather is blunt force trauma to the head. It may even be advisable to have helmets in your emergency supply kit to wear in the event of severe weather. Once you are in your area of shelter, do not leave this area until an all-clear has been broadcast on commercial radio or NOAA Weather Radio. Note that in central Illinois, outdoor warning sirens do not sound an all-clear after the storm has passed. If the outdoor warning sirens are sounded after a severe weather event, it is a signal of further danger, not that the danger has passed.
Once an emergency plan has been put in place, it should be practice on a fairly routine basis. In Illinois, the first Tuesday in March a state-wide tornado drill is conducted, in conjunction with the required monthly testing of outdoor warning sirens. While this drill has passed for this year, it is not too late to practice severe weather safety. While any time is a good time for a tornado drill, some ideas for times may be between 10AM and noon on a Wednesday, when a test alert is issued on NOAA Weather Radio, or on the first Tuesday of a month at 10AM, in conjunction with monthly testing of outdoor warning sirens.