I never had a tornado shelter growing up. In fact, my family lived so far out of town that we were no longer in the zone of the emergency sirens either. My husband and I had a shelter installed in our garage this past year, so this will be my first tornado season with a shelter.
In February 2009, an F3 tornado ripped through Carter County in southern Oklahoma. While a tornado this early is rare, it is possible. I am so glad that my husband were able to add our shelter, and the peace of mind that comes with it. If you are new to tornado alley, you may want to know some basic information on tornadoes. I have a great little tornado fact sheet on our extension website.
Now that we have the shelter, it is time to start putting together our emergency kit and family emergency plan. Do you have either one of those? To find a list of suggested items for a family emergency kit, click here. FEMA and www.ready.gov came out with this list, and I adapted it just a bit. Your family’s kit should be tailored to fit your individual needs, and during tornado season it should be stored in the place where your family will take shelter during violent storms. For my family, that will be down in our new shelter. Last year it would have been under the sink in our main bathroom. How you keep your kit together also needs to work for you. These kits can get heavy, so a rolling suitcase would be a good option, but so would a heavy canvas bag, plastic storage tote, or a milk crate. Whatever works for you is fine!
Looking at the list, you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t be. I had many of the items on that list already on hand. I shopped in my own home first. I ended up having to purchase some extra batteries, non-perishable food, water, and a whistle. I didn’t buy a fancy first aid kit, I just put one together myself in a gallon size zipper bag.
Although I have thought a lot about it, I have not yet written a family emergency plan. That is something I need to sit down with my husband and do. It is important to know where each of us will be in the event of an emergency so that we can find each other later. Missouri Extension has put together a simple and easy template for this kind of plan.
Another little item on my to-do list to prepare for spring is to inventory our home. This IS a daunting task, but I have seen first hand how important it is to do BEFORE an emergency happens. There are several ways to do this. You could do a photo inventory, simply taking pictures of the rooms in the house and making notes about the photographs. Put all of the photos and notes on a cd and put in a safety deposit box or fireproof box. I could list everything out in a word document and save that to a cd or flash drive. What I plan to do is a little different. I heard about a website, www.knowyourstuff.org, that is specifically for doing a personal home inventory. You can sign up for a free account that can be accessed from any computer, then start adding in items a little at a time. Tip: Include the value of each item. Not just what was paid for the item, but how much it would cost if you had to replace it today.