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Safety Guide Courtesy NWSFO Norman OK


  • Tornado Safety
  • If a tornado was approaching, would you know what to do? Tornadoes are the most violent atmospheric phenomenon on the planet. Winds of 200-300 mph can occur with the most violent tornadoes. The following are instructions on what to do when a tornado warning has been issued for your area or whenever a tornado threatens:
    • IN HOMES OR SMALL BUILDINGS: Go to the basement (if available) or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.
    • IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, FACTORIES, OR SHOPPING CENTERS: Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. See the left figure for an example of where to go in a school. Crouch down and cover your head as shown in the right figure.
    • IN HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS: Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.

    • IN CARS OR MOBILE HOMES: ABANDON THEM IMMEDIATELY!! Most deaths occur in cars and mobile homes. If you are in either of those locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter. The picture below illustrates clearly what a violent tornado can do to a car.
      Photo courtesy of the Institute for Disaster Research
    • IF NO SUITABLE STRUCTURE IS NEARBY: Lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head.

    Photo courtesy of NOAA (photographer unknown)

  • Flash Flood Safety
  • Do you know what to do if you see water crossing over a roadway? Flash floods and floods are the #1 weather - related killer with around 140 deaths recorded in the U.S each year. In the picture above, the man and his child were swept away in their truck by water flowing over a roadway, before being rescued at the last minute.

    Flash flood safety rules:

      • If ordered to evacuate or if rising water is threatening, leave immediately and get to higher ground!
      • Go to higher ground immediately! Avoid small rivers or streams, low spots, canyons, dry riverbeds, etc.
      • Do not try to walk through flowing water more than ankle deep!
      • Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains, or other flooded areas!
      • DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED AREAS! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding are due to people driving through flooded areas. Water only one foot deep can displace 1500 lbs! Two feet of water can EASILY carry most automobiles! Roadways concealed by floodwaters may not be intact, as the picture below shows the aftermath of a flood.
        Photo courtesy of NOAA (photographer unknown)

    Photo courtesy and (c) Charles Doswell

  • Lightning Safety


  • Do you know what to do if you are caught in the open during a thunderstorm or you feel tingling or your hair standing on end? Lightning causes around 100 deaths in the U.S annually (more than hurricanes and tornadoes combined). In the picture above, the young woman and her friends were severely injured by lightning just a few seconds after this picture was taken. Notice that no rain was falling, clearly illustrating that lightning can strike up to several miles away from the thunderstorm.
    Photo courtesy of NOAA (photographer unknown)

    General lightning safety rules:

      • Avoid using the telephone (except for emergencies) or other electrical appliances.
      • Do not take a bath or shower.
      • Go to a safe shelter immediately! such as inside a sturdy building. A hard top automobile with the windows up can also offer fair protection.
      • If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water immediately and move to a safe shelter away from the water!
      • If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.

      • If you feel your hair standing on end, squat as shown in the diagram below with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat!
      • Avoid: isolated trees or other tall objects, bodies of water, sheds, fences, convertible automobiles, tractors, and motorcycles.
  • Winter Storm/Blizzard Preparedness and Safety

    Winter storms occasionally strike the area...especially in northwest Oklahoma. Do you know what to do if you are trapped in the middle of a blizzard? If a Winter Storm Watch has been issued for your area, that means that hazardous winter weather conditions (such as snow greater than 6 inches in 24 hours, winds gusting over 35 mph, or visibilities less 1/4 mile) are expected in the next 12 to 36 hours. You should prepare for the worst now:

      • a working flashlight
      • battery powered NOAA weather radio, radio, or TV
      • extra food, water, medicine, and baby items
      • first aid supplies
      • heating fuel (propane, kerosene, fuel oil, etc...)
      • emergency heating source
      • fire extinguisher and smoke detector
      • fully check and winterize your vehicle
      • keep your gas tank near full
      • try not to travel alone
      • let a friend or relative know your timetable for travel
      • carry a WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT which contains:
        • blankets/sleeping bags
        • flashlight with extra batteries
        • knife
        • high calorie, non-perishable food
        • a smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
        • sand or cat litter
        • shovel
        • windshield scraper
        • tool kit
        • tow rope
        • jumper cables
        • water container
        • compass
        • road maps
    • ON THE FARM:
      • Move animals to sheltered areas
      • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas
      • Have a water supply available (most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration)

    If a Winter Storm Warning has been issued for your area, that means that hazardous winter weather conditions (such as snow greater than 6 inches in 24 hours, winds gusting over 35 mph, or visibilities less 1/4 mile) are expected within the next 12 hours or are already occurring.

      • Find a dry shelter. Cover all exposed parts of the body.
      • If shelter is not available:
        • Prepare a lean-to, wind bread, or snow-cave for protection from the wind.
        • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
        • Do not eat snow. It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
      • Stay in your car or truck!
      • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour. Open the windows a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
      • Make yourself visible to rescuers:
        • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine
        • Tie a colored cloth to your antenna or door
        • Raise the hood after the snow stops falling
      • Exercise to keep blood circulating and to keep warm
      • Stay inside!
      • If there is no heat:
        • Close off unneeded rooms
        • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors
        • Cover windows at night
      • Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy and heat. Fluids prevent dehydration.
      • Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing.
  • Hurricane Preparedness and Safety

    Sure...we don't get many hurricanes in Oklahoma and North Texas. But do you know what to do if a hurricane threatens while traveling to the coast? Check FEMA's page on Hurricane Preparedness.

  • Other Severe Weather Safety Links
    • FEMA: Preparing for a Disaster - many pages for safety precautions for earthquakes, heat waves, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, wildland fires, winter storms and driving tips, thunderstorm and lightning.

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Page last modified: Mar 15, 2014 4:38PM
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