Severe Storms Awareness Week: Preparing for weather emergencies
March 20 marks the beginning of spring and Maryland Severe Storms Awareness Week. In support of this important week, the Department of Emergency Services would like to remind you to prepare before emergencies happen.
During the spring season, Charles County is at risk for flooding, damaging winds, tornadoes, hail and lightning. These hazards typically occur in our county every year. Equip your family for emergencies by creating an emergency kit. Emergency kits are important in your home and car, as you never know when disaster may strike. Assemble your kit before an emergency, as you may need to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you.
Basic emergency kits should include water, one gallon per person per day for at least 72 hours; food for at least 72 hours; battery-powered or hand crank radio; flashlight and extra batteries; first aid kit; whistle to signal for help; dust mask to help filter contaminated air; plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place; moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation; wrench; can opener; and local maps.
Make an emergency plan for your family. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, which makes it vital to think about how you will communicate. Consider having a meeting place in case you are separated, and write down contact and medical information. To download a free plan, visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.
Become familiar with severe weather types and terminology. Two important terms are watches versus warnings. A watch means the storm may occur. A warning means the storm is near and will hit soon, and you should take cover. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued or you are experiencing strong winds, get to a sturdy shelter and stay indoors away from windows. If there is a tornado warning or you see a tornado, quickly get inside and go to the lowest floor possible. Tornados can form rapidly in the right conditions.
Be vigilant to your surroundings, especially when driving. During flooding, never enter an area where water is flowing over a road and you cannot see the pavement. Turn around; don’t drown! If you are outside and hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck from a fringe lightning strike. More than 98 percent of lightning casualties are from people outdoors — get indoors or inside your vehicle if possible.
Always check the weather report before you head out the door. If you would like to receive severe weather notifications by text, phone, or email, sign up for our Citizen Notification System. You can select the types of notifications you wish to receive and how you receive them. Visit www.CharlesCountyMD.gov/CNS to register.
Take the time to teach your family how to prepare for weather. Visit www.ready.gov for a complete list of severe storms and preparedness information for adults and children. Stay safe and happy spring. William Stephens is the director of the Department of Emergency Services.