Hoosiers urged to prepare now for severe weather

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Safety officials are asking Hoosiers to think and prepare now for severe weather this season.

Where is the safest room in the house to seek shelter if a tornado touches down? Does everyone in the family know where it is? What should you take with you if you have to go there? These are just some of the questions that can help you make a life-saving plan for your family.

“I don’t think that any home is necessarily tornado safe,” said Dave Tucek of the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service. “But you can certainly find safer areas to go to.”

For myself, that means throwing around some dog food and a trash can.

I asked Dave to visit my own home Monday afternoon, hoping he would confirm what my wife and I had concluded: Our safest storm shelter is in our kitchen pantry. The pantry is built right under the staircase that leads up to the 2nd floor of our house. The central location and sturdy framing make the pantry our best bet of surviving a tornado. Since we don’t have a basement, and our ground floor has an open layout, the pantry was the obvious choice. Just yank out the trash can and bag of dog food, and we have enough from for ourselves and our two young children. Mabye the dog too.

“Getting to the center of the home with interior walls, that’s going to be your protection,” Tucek said.

But what should we have with us if we are going to be stuck in the pantry for a while?

A good emergency kit can go a long way to helping families through the aftermath of bad storms. Make sure you’re kit has some emergency food rations and drinking water. A flashlight with fresh batteries is also a good idea. The Red Cross sells emergency survival kits for $40.

You also want to make sure your cellphone is charged.

Ann Gregson, with the Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis, says anytime bad weather is in the forecase, you should keep your smartphone charged as much as possible. Being able to communicate in the wake of a disaster can literally mean life or death.

If you are trying to reach someone by cellphone during or after severe weather, you should try texting instead of calling. Text messages use less data and bandwidth than voice calls. Cellphone towers are likely to be jammed with activity in the wake of a diaster.

You might also want to check out the Red Cross’ “Tornado” app for iOS and Android.

The “Tornado” app has several useful tools you can use before and after bad weather strikes. They include live links to weather radios, tips on putting together your own emergency kit. And quick notifications you can set up to let friends and family know that “you’re okay.” The messages can be sent via text, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and other social media.

The app can also turn your smartphone into a tool to help search teams find you if you’re trapped after a storm.

“It can turn into a siren, it can turn into a flash light, strobe light because you might not be able to shout out,” Gregson said.

You can find links to the “Tornado” app, and other emergency apps offered by the Red Cross at their website:

http://www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/tornado-app