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20 safety preparations for the weather this summer

  • 20 safety preparations for the weather this summer

    By the end of May, nearly 1,000 tornadoes had touched down across the United States in a record-setting outbreak that left entire regions of the country devastated and meteorologists flabbergasted—on average, 750 tornadoes are recorded in an entire year. Drenching rains led to historic flooding that left entire communities under water for weeks as bloated rivers rose and rose and rose without subsiding. Many communities welcomed the rain at first because it brought much-needed relief from suffocating drought—until it submerged their homes, roads, and farms. In the summer of 2018, more than 8,500 fires destroyed nearly 2 million acres of land in the largest, costliest, and deadliest wildfire outbreak in California history—at least 85 people died in the devastating Camp Fire alone. For anyone living in hurricane-prone regions of the country, names like Harvey, Katrina, Sandy, and Irma ring out as reminders of Mother Nature's ability to wreak havoc.

    For much of the country, summer is the most dangerous time of the year, and in the era of climate change, the stakes have been raised as fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other severe weather events have become more frequent, more intense, and more widespread. In short, it is now more important than ever to plan and prepare for nature's wrath, which—except for blizzards and dangerous cold spells—is at its meanest and least forgiving in the late spring through early fall.

    It's usually too late to prepare once the storm is on its way—jammed highways and empty grocery store shelves are common sights on news broadcasts covering approaching storms. The time to prepare is now. Preparation should involve the whole family and comprise two parts. First is general emergency preparation that will come in handy no matter the catastrophe, and the second is emergency-specific preparation that changes depending on whether you live in an area prone to fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or summer's most common and obvious danger: heat. Keep reading to learn how to get ready for whatever summer throws your way. The first several entries address general preparation while the rest give tips, tricks, and advice on how to get ready for weather events specific to your region.

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  • Sign up for emergency alerts

    Accurate, up-to-date, real-time information is critical in any summer weather emergency, no matter what that emergency might be. Ready.gov/alerts provides information on how to sign up for wireless emergency alerts (WEAs), as well as information on the Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio, and other critical sources of information that public officials and agencies rely on to keep at-risk citizens informed.

  • Gather supplies

    Just like emergency alerts and information, a store of critical supplies is necessary for any emergency—and it will likely be too late to gather them by the time the emergency arrives. An emergency kit should contain enough supplies to last for three days, and it's important not to forget special needs like medication and pet supplies. The Ready.gov Build a Kit page offers comprehensive instructions on how to build an emergency kit designed to weather the aftermath of any emergency.

  • Plan with your family

    Families should not presume they will be together when disaster strikes and should develop and rehearse a course of action in case of an emergency. Each household has to plan according to its own specific needs, but all families should plan for how to receive alerts if they're apart, how to contact each other, where to meet, how to evacuate, and where to seek shelter. The Ready.gov Make a Plan site provides helpful information on creating a family plan if disaster strikes when loved ones are separated.

  • Train and prepare

    Ordinary people can prepare to help themselves, their families, and communities during natural disasters by learning first aid, participating in emergency-volunteer programs, and educating themselves about community emergency-response plans. The federal government's Get Involved program offers a wealth of information on how regular citizens can become community leaders capable of sustaining themselves and others in difficult situations until help arrives.

  • Create a social media toolkit

    Social media is an excellent way to communicate with family and friends while also receiving emergency information and updates from public officials. Twitter and Facebook are the primary platforms that government agencies, emergency broadcasters, and weather forecasters use to send alerts and disperse information. The Ready.gov Severe Weather Social Media Toolkit page provides all the important pages and hashtags to follow, but never rely solely on social media as your primary family communication and planning strategy—electricity and internet services are often among the first casualties of severe weather.

  • Build an emergency car kit

    Dangerous summer weather doesn't wait for its victims to get home, so an emergency car kit is essential should trouble strike while on the road. Insurers like Allstate are excellent sources for checklists and essentials that could become lifesavers for anyone braving the elements while driving. Just as with survival kits for the home, a car kit should include a few days' worth of necessities along with car-specific gear like flares and jumper cables, as well as specialty items like medicine, baby gear, sunscreen, rain ponchos, and pet essentials.

  • Take hot days seriously

    Although tornados and hurricanes grab the headlines, heat is the big summer killer. About 175 Americans die in a normal year from high heat, which the National Weather Service considers any day with temperatures above 90 degrees. It's important to know the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which include, but aren't limited to, muscle cramps, dizziness, faintness, heavy sweating, fatigue, weak and rapid pulse, nausea, headache, muscle cramps, and cool, moist, goose-bumpy skin.

  • Be vigilant in high humidity

    Perspiration cools the body by covering the skin in water, but sweating alone does nothing at all—it's the evaporation of that water on the skin that lowers the body's temperature. Humidity impedes evaporation, which means the body cools slower and stays hotter when it's humid, even if the temperature is the same. In short, a 95-degree day with high humidity is significantly more dangerous than a 95-degree day that's dry.

  • Take common-sense steps in high heat

    The American Public Health Association offers tips that may seem obvious but are nevertheless a person's best protection against succumbing to dangerous heat. It's best to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day if possible and to take frequent breaks to cool off inside if not. Officials advise people to avoid sugary drinks and alcohol on the hottest days and instead to drink plenty of water—but it's important not to wait until they're thirsty to hydrate.

  • Look before you lock

    Thirty-eight kids and countless pets die in hot cars every year, all of which are classified as preventable deaths. The internal temperature of a car can climb 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to the North Carolina Consumers Council, and dogs can die of a heat stroke in just 15 minutes. Cracking windows doesn't help, so motorists should never leave a child or dog in a hot car for any length of time, and if they see someone who has, they should remain with the car until the situation is resolved and the child or pet is safe.