The Do 1 Thing site won the Awareness to Action category of FEMA’s 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. It’s a 12-month program of small steps that you can take to increase your personal and household preparedness. Throughout 2015, DEM will feature Do 1 Thing items during our weekly blog post series of One Thing Wednesdays. Check back here every week for a new preparedness activity or tip!
(This One Thing Wednesday post was delayed a week so we could focus the blog on weather-related information during the winter storm.)
As we move into spring and its potential for severe storms, March’s theme is sheltering. Different hazards call for different protective actions, so stay with us throughout the month to learn more.
Choosing a Storm Shelter Location
In a severe storm, the greatest danger comes from wind-borne debris. To stay safe from it, the key to sheltering is to get “down and in.” Go to the lowest accessible floor to minimize the amount of debris that will be hitting the building on your level. Put as many walls as you can between yourself and the outside. Avoid rooms with large ceilings – they’re more vulnerable to falling debris and their lower level of structural reinforcement makes them more likely to collapse. The diagram to the right from our friends at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency illustrates some of these principles.
Don’t shelter in mobile homes or other temporary structures. They aren’t secured to the ground, nor are they built to the same construction standards as permanent buildings.
It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: stay away from windows and skylights and put down the camera! Glass is the most vulnerable part of any building and no YouTube video or tornado selfie is worth your life!
Don’t worry about opening doors or windows “to equalize air pressure.” This wastes time when seconds count and it’s an urban legend anyway. If a tornado wants doors or windows open, it will open them for you. Wind, not an air pressure differential, is what destroys buildings.
Stocking Your Storm Shelter
Be prepared to spend 45 minutes to an hour in your shelter location. This relatively short time doesn’t require a lot of supplies but there are some things you’ll want close to hand in case your building suffers damage or loses power.
First, do everything you can to protect yourself from flying debris. Use blankets or a mattress as additional shelter. If you have athletic or motor sport helmets, keep them in or near your shelter location.
After the storm passes, the floor or the ground outside may be covered in sharp, pointy debris. If you took shelter in the middle of the night, your shoes might still be in your bedroom. Keep a pair of sturdy (closed-toed) shoes and socks in your shelter location.
How will you know when it’s safe to come out? Keep a battery-powered NOAA all-hazards weather radio in your shelter location and listen for your area’s alert status.
Other things you may want in your storm shelter: flashlights with spare batteries, a first aid kit, supplies for infants or other household members with special medical needs, and spare harnesses and leashes for pets. If you have room, you may consider keeping your entire home emergency kit in your shelter location.