Guest blog: Tips for staying safe in severe weather

Today’s guest blog is by Marcela Campoli, MHA, a Washington, D.C.-area business consultant. She has experience in emergency preparedness and working with health promoters in community health and prevention. Campoli is a member of APHA’s Equal Health Opportunity Committee.

This post is also available in Spanish.
Severe weather can occur at any time of the year. Do you have a family plan in case of an emergency? If not, now is a perfect time to do so. It only takes 15 minutes to do and practice your plan.

What is considered extreme weather?
Tropical storms and tornadoes: Strong winds can cause severe weather. When a tropical storm moves through large expanses of open water, it can become a hurricane. Hurricanes can cover hundreds of miles and generate a lot of damage.
Tornadoes are also a wind hazard. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tornadoes are the most violent storms of nature, capable of reaching wind speeds of 300 miles per hour. Tornadoes are unpredictable and often their devastation can cost millions of dollars.
Extreme heat, drought and fire: Extreme heat is a consequence of climate change. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees, heat overexposure can dehydrate you and push your body beyond its limits. In dry climates, a severe heat can cause a drought. Droughts can destroy crops and limit the water supply to the community. Heat can also start forest fires. These fires can wake up and act quickly and without warning, moving through wooded areas or slopes, claiming homes or entire neighborhoods on their way.
Extreme cold and snowstorms: Extreme cold also has serious dangers. When temperatures drop well below the freezing point of 32 degrees, prolonged exposure can mean frostbite, hypothermia and even loss of limbs.
Snowstorms and blizzards can cripple a business, closing roads and, knocking out power. Most snow systems are developed in the northern part of the USA, but the snow does sometimes hit southern states like Texas or Florida. Snow systems in these states can be dangerous without much accumulation because many southern communities are not equipped to deal with a winter storm.

Be a force of nature: take the first step
Whatever extreme weather, it is important to be prepared.
  1. Assess your environment and understand the risks of different climates to which you and your family are exposed.
  2. Have an action plan and frequently practice the procedures.
  3. Stay informed.
  4. If you are planning an outdoor activity, check the weather first.
If an alarm is issued, the general preventive measures are:
  • Avoid windows.
  • Seek shelter in safe places at low levels inside buildings and houses.
  • Avoid outdoor activities.
  • Seek shelter in safe places.
  • Avoid using telephones, computers or any device connected to electricity.
No state in the United States is free of severe weather hazards. Each region of the country faces specific climate hazards due to its climate and location. Although some states are more likely to face some severe weather conditions, some weather emergencies can occur anywhere.

Being prepared when severe weather occurs not only makes life easier, it can save lives.

For more information on tornadoes, heat, cold and other severe weather, check out our Get Ready fact sheets. Read this post in Spanish on APHA’s Get Ready Blog.

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