A severe weather front that began wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast states yesterday is today moving east and north up the coast—bringing thunderstorms and tornadoes to the Mid-Atlantic states.
American Red Cross disaster response teams mobilized quickly to provide services in areas across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana yesterday. Today, chapters in North Carolina launched an active response after a tornado plowed through an area of the state overnight.
When disasters such as this strike, the Red Cross provides emergency food, water and shelter to affected residents as well as conducting disaster assessments to determine what other types of assistance may be needed.
As the weather continues to be unpredictable, the Red Cross reminds people in impacted areas as well as those regions in the path of the moving storm front to listen to local emergency management officials and take appropriate steps to remain safe before, during and after the storm.
Staying Safe in the Aftermath
For those in areas where thunderstorms or tornado already have struck, the Red Cross offers the following tips to stay safe in the aftermath:
- Listen to local and emergency officials – Use a portable radio or television to listen to the local news for updates, and follow instructions from emergency officials.
- Check for injuries – Often people tend to help others without checking their own injuries.
- Put on protective clothing – Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect yourself from broken items and debris.
- Inspect your home – Inspect your home for damage and get everyone out if it is unsafe.
- Check on neighbors – Older adults and people with disabilities may require additional assistance during an emergency. Caregivers or neighbors with large households, especially those with small children or infants, may appreciate an extra hand as well.
- Watch for hazards in your neighborhood – Look out for fallen electrical wires, broken gas lines and flash flooding—foliage collecting in sewers this time of year can compound drainage problems. Report downed lines immediately so that utilities can be turned off at the source. Avoid hazardous debris such as broken glass or spilled chemicals and do not go into damaged buildings.
One of the most common problems caused by weather disasters of this type is loss of electricity. If you experience a blackout, and it is otherwise safe for you to remain in your home, the following tips can help you cope until power is restored:
- Turn off electronic devices – Turn off electrical appliances or equipment that were powered on when the electricity went out. Leave one light turned on to easily determine when power has been restored.
- Use only a battery powered lights – Due to the extreme risk of fire, do not use candles during a power outage and opt instead for flashlights or other battery-powered lights.
- Operate generators outside ONLY – Do not run a generator inside a confined space, like home or garage, due to the extreme dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Follow directions for connecting to a generator – If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system unless you have an approved power transfer switch installed.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel – Unnecessary travel may hamper efforts by emergency and construction crews, In addition, traffic signals stop working during an outage, creating congestion and fallen trees, branches or other debris may make some roads inaccessible.
- Keep refrigerator doors closed – Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer to keep the contents cold.
Not Too Late to Get Prepared
As the storm front continues moving north up the East Coast of the United States, people in its path should take steps now to ready themselves for the severe weather that is headed way.
- Gather a Kit – Assemble emergency supplies, providing enough for each member of your household for at least three days. Place supplies in an easy-to-carry container in case you need to evacuate. Supplies should include:
- A gallon of water per person per day;
- Non-perishable food you’d want to eat that requires no refrigeration, preparation or cooking;
- A first aid kit and necessary medical supplies;
- A flashlight, battery-operated or hand-crank radio and extra batteries;
- Supplies for your pets or service animals;
- Tools including a can opener, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting and garbage bags;
- Copies of important documents such as passports, deeds and contact information as well as cash, insurance and credit information all stored in a sealed, waterproof bag;
- Protective clothing such as gloves and sturdy shoes; and
- Any items to meet specific or unique needs of household members who are very young, old or with a disability.
- Make a Plan – Take a few minutes to make or update an emergency communications plan. Contact loved ones now to tell them your plans in the event that the severe weather strikes your area and you are forced to evacuate. In the event you are separated from loved ones and cannot reach them by phone, try alternate means of communicating such as text messaging, e-mail and reporting your status on the Red Cross Safe and Well Web site, accessible through www.redcross.org. Also, create an evacuation plan, including at least two exit routes in case one is blocked.
- Be Informed – Listen to local radio or television news for information and instructions from local emergency management officials. If told to evacuate, do so. Know the difference between a “watch” and a “warning” when it comes to severe weather such as tornadoes. Take time now to find out how authorities will notify you and where evacuation or emergency sheltering centers are likely to be in or near your community. Check maps for alternate route out of your neighborhood in the event that routes you usually take are blocked by debris. Be sure you know the disaster policies and practices of your children’s school as well as your place of business.
Learn more about preparing for natural disasters such as thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes, visit the “Get Prepared” section of the American Red Cross public Web site, Redcross.org. For more about information and tips for staying safe after a disaster strikes, check out the “After a Disaster” pages for specific disaster in the “Disaster Services” section of the site.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.