Especially during this time of year, Oklahomans are on high alert for the possibility of severe weather. Just six years ago, my hometown of Moore was devastated by a massive and intense storm, which caused terrible damage and heartbreaking loss of life. Unfortunately, recent tornados and massive flooding have already dealt devastating blows to many communities across our state this year. After the destruction caused over the weekend, my thoughts and prayers are with those grieving the loss of loved ones in El Reno.

While Oklahomans are all too familiar with the unpredictability of severe weather and the need to be ready, it is always worthwhile to review your response plan or take the time to create one. While we cannot always predict the weather, we can predict how we’ll respond by having a plan and the necessary supplies on hand. In preparation for severe weather, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes that there are several common steps everyone should take.

First and foremost, be aware of the best way to seek shelter and avoid immediate physical harm in the case of an emergency. Heed the warnings issued by storm trackers at the National Weather Service and by local meteorologists. If you are driving in or near the path of a storm, do not attempt to outrun it in a vehicle and do not hide under an overpass or a bridge. Find a low, flat location and cover your head and neck with your arms. If you have a blanket or coat available, wrap yourself up.

Second, households should always have a physical communications plan readily available. If members of your family happen to be in different locations during severe weather, this plan can be vital to getting in contact and reuniting with your loved ones after a disaster. To help your family compile contact information and meeting places, FEMA has a printable template available at ready.gov/make-a-plan.

Third, everyone should have supplies on hand. At minimum, a supply kit should include water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries. These items can be indispensable in the aftermath of a storm. 

Finally, make sure that you are aware of the local and national media outlets that will keep you updated throughout severe weather. It is important to use all available mediums – including radio, television and social media. The Wireless Emergency Alerts system also provides lifesaving warnings and alerts if you can’t access the internet, TV or radio. No sign up is required for these critical updates issued via text message. Learn more at weather.gov/wrn/wea.

Although severe weather can be difficult to predict, it is easy to create a readiness plan and ensure your family is prepared. Be sure to visit ready.gov for more valuable resources and tips that could help you and your loved ones stay safe.