It’s springtime and you can count on severe weather happening, no matter what part of the country you live in.

As I watch a TV weather report of tornadoes and large hail taking place in North Texas, it makes me think about what families can do to prepare for these kinds of situations.

With advanced radar reports on television, instant information from the Internet and local city social media sites that send out texts, people are better informed than ever before when bad weather is heading their way.

However, as we all know, weather is unpredictable and the best thing you can do to protect your family during a severe weather crisis is to have a plan.

While no home can be made one hundred percent “tornado proof”, there are precautions you can take to make the odds of surviving high winds better.

  • Decide in advance where you will take shelter. Some cities, even the smaller ones, have local community emergency shelters. Check to see if there is one in your community. Know where it is and have the phone number easily available. 
  • If your home has an underground shelter or “safe” room, make sure that every family member can operate the doors and latches.
  • If you don’t have time to leave your home or have a shelter or safe room, go to the centermost part of your home and stay away from windows. Find something sturdy, like a strong table or staircase to get under. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
  • If your house has an interior walled bathroom as opposed to an outside wall, take a mattress, pillows or heavy blankets and go there. Avoid settling down near mirrors if possible.  Interior closets can also be used.
  • Become familiar with your community's severe weather warning system and make certain every adult, teenager and child in your family knows what to do when a tornado watch or warning sounds.
  • Put together an extensive emergency kit that includes a three-day supply of drinking water and food you don't have to refrigerate or cook; first aid supplies; a portable NOAA weather radio; a wrench and other basic tools; a flashlight; work gloves; emergency cooking equipment; portable lanterns; fresh batteries for each piece of equipment; clothing; blankets; baby items; prescription medications; extra car and house keys; extra eyeglasses; credit cards and cash; important documents, including insurance policies.
  • For a smaller kit, include a portable NOAA weather radio, water, gloves, flashlights, baby items, blankets and extra car keys and glasses if needed.
  • Many people remember hearing that you should open the windows if there is a tornado coming. That’s wrong, in fact it could make the destruction even worse. Close your windows and stay clear of them.
  • If you live in a mobile or manufactured home, don’t try to “ride it out”. Even manufactured homes with tie-downs overturn in these storms because they have light frames and offer winds a large surface area to push against. In addition, their exteriors are vulnerable to high winds and wind-borne debris. Have a designated place to go when severe weather is approaching.
  • Keep your cell phones charged. There are battery-operated chargers for some phones, check and see if yours has a battery operated charger accessory.  Being able to call someone for help, or have a way that emergency crews can track a signal could save a life.

Children depend on daily routines. In an emergency they will look to the adults for help and clues on how to act. If you over-react or panic, your child may become even more afraid. Being prepared, even rehearsing what to do in case of an emergency, can ease everyone’s fears and give them a solid outline as to what to do.

When explaining what is going on, especially with young children, be honest and composed. Tell them what the emergency is and move quickly but calmly to your designated area. While feelings of fear are natural, you need to be in control of the situation as best you can.

When faced with a severe weather threat, have a plan that your family is familiar with and stick to it.

And one more thing, when you see a tornado coming – don’t stand by the door or window and record it with your cell phone. You’d think that would be common sense, but it’s amazing how many times people take a chance on being killed or seriously injured just to get a few seconds of video of a dangerous storm.