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Safety Precautions for Weather Emergencies

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, and flooding! What should you do to prepare for weather emergencies? Learn some important precautions to take, and then see what you know with a quiz.

Weather can be Dangerous

They say a little rain never hurt anyone, but sadly that isn't true. Although most of the weather we experience in our daily lives is not particularly dangerous, even light weather has its risks. Rain can cause a car to hydroplane and crash, and spending too much time in the sun can cause sunburn. But the biggest risks come from the most extreme weather; hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning can all be highly dangerous.

In fact, hundreds of people die every year in the United States from extreme weather, and that doesn't include the thousands who are injured. The best way to avoid being a statistic is to stay informed, and be prepared. And no, this isn't just for Boy and Girl Scouts.

General Precautions

The single most important thing you can do is simply check the weather forecast. Many injuries happen because people are not aware of extreme weather until they're right in the middle of it. Watching TV, checking online, or listening to the radio can help you stay informed.

Unfortunately, sometimes just being informed isn't enough. What actual things can you do to keep you and your family safe? A lot depends on the exact type of weather, but there are also a few safety precautions that are always a good idea.

First, you should have a disaster plan ready for you and your family, no matter your location--school, work, and at home. Another idea is to create a disaster supplies kit containing flashlights, a hand-cranked radio, water and dried food, a first-aid kit, and various other useful items. There are long lists of emergency items available on the Internet just a Google search away. You can also have the local evacuation route mapped out, with a copy of the map in your kit.

Tornadoes and Hurricanes

Weather emergencies like tornadoes and hurricanes pose their own particular problems. Although people will sometimes be asked to evacuate, this isn't always the case. Instead, you might need access to a shelter. This can be an internal room on the ground floor of a sturdy building (away from windows) or a basement. For extra safety, you can crawl under a table. If you're outside, you can lie down on the ground with your hands over your head.

Hurricane from above
Hurricane from above

With hurricanes, it's more likely you'll know in advance that one is coming. Stay updated on whether or not the authorities are recommending evacuation. If you're staying at home, you can even board up windows if you have enough time.

Official evacuation routes exist in some places.
Official evacuation routes exist in some places

Thunderstorms and Floods

Even thunderstorms can be dangerous, especially if the rain that comes with them is severe enough to cause flooding. What precautions can you take for these storms?

During thunderstorms, the most important and obvious safety precaution is to go indoors and stay there. Lightning can be sudden and unexpected even if there have been no other strikes within a few miles. Since lightning can conduct through metals just like regular electricity, it's best to avoid touching metal surfaces, especially those outside. The most common example of this is the metal of a car. Lightning is attracted to tall objects, electrical devices, and metal objects, so avoiding these kinds of things is a good idea.

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