What If It Had Been a Tornado?

“The only thing I could think of on my way home was, ‘A flood is bad, but what if that had been a tornado?’

These words are from Sherry Beam, who works for the American Red Cross chapter in Atlanta and whose home was flooded in September 2009. When Sherry and I appeared on the Good Day Atlanta program several months ago, she recalled getting the phone call from her then 11-year-old son letting her know that their house was under water. It wasn’t until that moment that she realized she had never prepared him to handle a weather emergency on his own. Like most parents, Sherry had assumed that she would be around to help him in the event of severe weather. But this flooding happened during the workday before Sherry came home, leaving her son to deal with it on his own. Fortunately, they both came through the flood just fine, although their home was severely damaged.

As we approach Severe Weather Awareness Week, Sherry’s words – “What if that had been a tornado?” – take on new meaning. Her question is exactly what we want people to ask themselves. We want everyone to stop and think about what they and their loved ones would do in the wake of severe weather. “What would we eat and drink?” “How would I reconnect with my family?” “Where would we go if we need to evacuate and what route do we take?”

Asking ourselves those “what if” questions is easy now that many of us have first-hand experience with severe weather. Thanks to the recent snow and ice, we’ve seen what is required to keep a household running when travel is difficult. But it’s also easy to return to normal and forget about getting ourselves more prepared for the next time severe weather strikes.

Take the time to ask yourself the important questions now. Think about your experiences and what you could have done to be better prepared. Create a customized checklist for your Ready kit. Make a plan for how your family will get in touch with each other. Taking these steps now can make all the difference when severe weather strikes.

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