National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Home Safety Tips

Severe Weather

1.  Know the definitions of severe thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings.

  • A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
  • A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area.
  • A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, for example, during a severe thunderstorm.

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately.

2.  A few minutes of preparation now could mean a lot later.

  • Take a few minutes with your family to develop a tornado emergency plan. Sketch a floor plan of where you live, or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
  • Show a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
  • Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
  • Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off--if time permits--in an emergency.
  • Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
  • Learn the emergency dismissal policy for your child's school.

3.  If you have special needs:

  • Write down your specific needs, limitations, capabilities, and medications. Keep this list near you always--perhaps in your purse or wallet.
  • Find someone nearby (a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker) who will agree to assist you in case of an emergency. Give him or her a copy of your list. You may also want to provide a spare key to your home, or directions to find a key.
  • Keep aware of weather conditions through whatever means are accessible to you. Some options are closed captioning or scrolled warnings on TV, radio bulletins, or call-in weather information lines.

4.  Practice your emergency plan. Conduct drills and ask questions to make sure your family remembers information on tornado safety, particularly how to recognize hazardous weather conditions and how to take shelter.

5.  Store important documents in a fire and water-proof safe. Things to include are:

  • Birth certificates
  • Ownership certificates (autos, boats, etc.)
  • Social security cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Will
  • Household inventory, including lists of items and photographs

6.  Secure your home’s structure. No home is completely safe in a tornado. However, attention to construction details can reduce damage and provide better protection for you and your family if a tornado should strike your house. If an inspection using the "Home Inspection Checklist" reveals a possible hazard in the way your home is constructed, contact your local city or county building inspectors for more information about structural safety. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do any needed work for you.

7.  Arrange and secure household items.

  • Arrange furniture so that chairs and beds are away from windows, mirrors, and picture frames.
  • Place heavy or large items on lower shelves.
  • Secure your large appliances, especially your water heater, with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.
  • Identify top-heavy, free-standing furniture, such as bookcases and china cabinets, that could topple over.
  • Install sliding bolts or childproof latches on all cabinet doors.

8.  Keep a first-aid kit stocked with things like:

  • Hydrogen peroxide to wash and disinfect wounds
  • Prescriptions and any long-term medications (keep these current)
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin tablets
  • Rolled gauze
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Thermometer
  • Paper cups
  • Plastic bags
  • Instant cold packs for sprains
  • Eye drops



1.  Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the "family contact" in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of this contact person.

2.  Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the flood strikes. Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.

3.  Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.

4.  Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12" above your home's projected flood elevation.

5.  Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.

6.  For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.

7.  Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound or a wound becomes contaminated during or after the flood.

8.  Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.

9.  It’s always a good idea to have the following items on hand in case of emergency:

  • Several clean containers for water, large enough for a 3-5 day supply of water (about five gallons for each person).
  • A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener.
  • A first aid kit and manual and prescription medicines and special medical needs.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.

10.  Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.

11.  Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.

12.  Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and make sure the emergency kit for your car is ready.

13.  Tune in the radio or television for weather updates.

14.  Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.

15.  If you are ordered to evacuate, take only essential items with you. If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water. Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored. Finally, remember, do not attempt to drive or walk across creeks or flooded roads.


Winter Weather

1.      Preparation is the key to surviving a winter storm. Develop a plan of action to get all family members home or to another place of safety before the storm arrives. Once a winter storm watch is issued, you should continue your preparations by making sure your car has a full tank of gas. Stock up on food, medication, and first aid supplies. Keep flashlights and a portable radio handy, along with extra batteries. Be prepared for the possibility of power outages, and stay informed on the latest weather developments by listening to NOAA weather radio or commercial news media.

2.      Prepare now for possible winter emergencies. A severe winter storm can cut off your source of food, fuel, and electrical power. When the National Weather Service issues a winter storm watch or warning, be sure your food and fuel supplies are sufficient to last for the duration of the storm. Also stock up on needed medicines and batteries for flashlights and radios. Be extremely careful when using oil or kerosene stoves, grills, and fireplaces for emergency heating and cooking. These devices and the rooms they are used in must be well ventilated. Fumes and carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can kill you. Take precautions to prevent fires. Many fires that occur in winter are caused by overheated heaters and furnaces. Have these appliances checked by a competent technician before the winter season starts. If a fire starts during a winter storm, the fire department might not be able to get to you.



Use the air conditioner and fans. Remember that fans don't do much in reducing the actual temperature, but do circulate the air and make the rooms they're in seem much cooler. Utilize dark curtains or blinds for windows, and don't open them during the heat of the day. Avoid heating appliances, like the oven, stove, dishwasher or clothes drier during the heat of the day. Check all window and door seals for gaps where heat may be entering the home. Use florescent lightbulbs, as they are often cooler than traditional incandescent bulbs.



Do not attempt to take shelter in your home if a fire is nearing. It is advised that you evacuate. Fire embers may fall several miles away from the main fire.