Weather Safety

  • 715

    Adapted from information published by Philmont Scout Ranch, the National Weather Service and the American Society of Safety Engineers

    More people lose their LIVES in floods than in any other weather-related event. 80% of flood deaths occur in vehicles, and most happen when drivers make a single, fatal mistake – trying to navigate through flood waters.

    • Watch for the following signs:
      • Unusually hard rain over several hours
      • Steady substantial rain over several days
      • Rains in conjunction with a spring thaw
      • A monsoon or other tropical system affecting your area
      • A Weather report
      • Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers
    • In hilly terrain, flash floods can strike with little or no advance warning. Distant rain may be channeled into gullies and ravines, turning a quiet stream into a rampaging torrent in minutes. Never camp on low ground next to streams since a flash flood can catch you while you’re asleep.
    • DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED AREAS! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding occur with people driving through flooded areas. Water only a foot deep can displace a 1500 lb. vehicle! 24” of water can easily carry most automobiles! Roads concealed by water may not be intact.
    • If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away. Remember it’s better to be wet than dead!
    • Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains, or other flooded areas!
    • Be especially cautious at night. It’s harder to recognize water danger then.
    • Don’t try to outrace a flood on foot. If you see or hear it coming, move to higher ground immediately.
    • When hiking, follow these steps:
      • Wait for everyone in the crew to arrive at stream, and make a determination to cross.
      • Do not walk through a flowing stream on foot where water is above your ankles.
      • When walking through or on rocks or logs over a stream, Loosen pack buckles so if you fall you can easily get away from your pack and it will not drag you under
      • Wait for everyone to cross before continuing (in case the last person needs assistance).
    • Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play. It may be in a low area , near a drainage ditch or small stream, or below a dam. Be prepared!
    • Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest statements, watches and warnings concerning heavy rain and flash flooding in your area, report it to the National Weather Service.
    • The National Weather Service will issue a Flash Flood Watch when heavy rains may result in flash flooding in a specific area. In this case you should be alert and prepare for the possibility of a flood emergency which will require immediate action. A Flash Flood Warning will be issued when flash flooding is occurring or is imminent in a specified area. If your locale is placed under a warning, you should move to safe ground immediately.
    • Campers/hikers should always determine if local officials, such as park rangers, post local cautions and warnings. This goes along with — in those areas where it’s required — completing any local tour/entrance/trip plan.
  • Child Safety Tips

    • Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
    • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
    • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
    • Always lock car doors and trunks–even at home–and keep keys out of children’s reach.
    • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t leave sleeping infants in the car ever!

    Adult Heat Wave Safety Tips

    • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
    • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
    • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
    • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids.Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
    • During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
    • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
    • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
  • 735

    There is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado. Freak accidents happen; and the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away almost any house and its occupants. Extremely violent EF5 tornadoes are very rare, though. Most tornadoes are actually much weaker and can be survived using these safety ideas…

    Prevention and practice before the storm: At home, have a family tornado plan in place, based on the kind of dwelling you live in and the safety tips below. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds, and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year. Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds’ notice. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local TV, radio or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there. All administrators of schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, hospitals, sports arenas, stadiums, mobile home communities and offices should have a tornado safety plan in place, with easy-to-read signs posted to direct everyone to a safe, closeby shelter area. Schools and office building managers should regularly run well-coordinated drills. If you are planning to build a house, especially east of the Rockies, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior “safe room”.

    Know the signs of a tornado: Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Besides an obviously visible tornado, here are some things to look and listen for:

    • Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
    • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
    • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
    • Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
    • Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
    • Night - Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

    WHAT TO DO…

    • In a house with a basement:Â Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.
    • In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment:Â Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
    • In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building –away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
    • In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it.
    • At school:Â Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
    • In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or run underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
    • In the open outdoors:Â If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.
    • In a shopping mall or large store:Â Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.
    • In a church or theater:Â Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

  • Before the Storm Strikes:

    On the Farm/Pets:

    • Move animals to sheltered areas.
    • Shelter belts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confi ning shelters, such as sheds.Â
    • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.Â
    • Have water available. Most animals die from dehydration in winter storms.Â
    • Make sure pets have plenty of  food, water and shelter.

    In Vehicles:

    Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm! Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
    Carry a WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT:
    • Mobile phone, charger, batteries
    • Blankets/sleeping bags
    • Flashlight with extra batteries
    • First-aid kit
    • Knife
    • High-calorie, non-perishable food
    • Extra clothing to keep dry
    • Large empty can to use as emergency toilet.
    • Tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
    • Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
    • Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
    • Shovel
    • Windshield scraper and brush
    • Tool kit
    • Tow rope
    • Battery booster cables
    • Water container
    • Compass and road maps.
    • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
    • Avoid traveling alone.
    • Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

    Dress for the Season:

    Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothes in layers. Trapped air insulates. Remove layers to avoid perspiration and sub sequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded. Wear a hat. Half your body heat loss can be from the head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.