National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Date Posted: May 21, 2013

The tragic events in Oklahoma highlight the importance of severe weather preparedness. 

Forty-six states reported tornadoes in 2012 – that’s nearly every state in the U.S. There were 936 tornadoes reported in 2012. Property and crop damage from tornadoes in 2012 is estimated at $1.6 billion. 

But you are not powerless in the face of disaster. By being prepared, you can Be a Force of NatureThis means knowing your risk, taking action and being an example in your community.

Here are three simple things you can do to ensure that you’re prepared in case of severe weather.

1. Know Your Risk: Learn the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning

As storms develop, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues watches and warnings. What is the difference between a tornado watch and warning? What actions should be taken when a watch is issued? Watch a short YouTube video to learn the difference between a tornado watch and warning.
Share this video when your friends and family so that they know what to do when they hear a watch or warning from the National Weather Service.

2. Take Action: Create a Family Emergency Plan

The Oklahoma tornadoes struck in the middle of the day. Parents were at work while kids were in school. Your family may not be in one location when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. 

FEMA has made it easy to prepare with a Family Emergency Plan. This is a two-page worksheet that you can complete with your family over the kitchen table. Use this plan to determine where you’ll meet and how you will communicate in case of emergency. The plan includes key information you’ll need if disaster strikes. And there are even cards that you can give to your kids, listing vital contact information.

3. Be an Example: Get Social

Why don’t people react immediately when they hear weather warnings? Research has determined that people wait for a second source to confirm bad news. They hear of an oncoming tornado and then look out the window. They see a thunderstorm warning on the news and then check Twitter. Many people don’t look for shelter until they see others doing so.

You can help by spreading the news of severe weather. But get yourself safe first! Once you’ve found shelter, let your friends, family and community know that you’re safe by using social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Share warnings from authorized sources such as FEMA and the National Weather Service. A simple thing like retweeting a tornado warning could save someone’s life. 

Get social with NWS social media and learn about Wireless Emergency Alerts, a new program that sends emergency text alerts to your mobile phone.

You are not powerless in the face of severe weather.  By knowing your risk, taking action and being an example, you can Be a Force of Nature in your community.

NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative is about building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and water events. The devastating impacts of extreme events can be reduced through improved readiness, which is why the Weather-Ready Nation initiative is so important. Through operational initiatives, NOAA’s National Weather Service is transforming its operations to help America respond. In the end, emergency managers, first responders, government officials, businesses and the public will be empowered to make fast, smart decisions to save lives and livelihoods.