Missouri’s active tornado season generally happens from mid-March to late June. But do not become complacent. Our weather is unpredictable and often unforgiving. Tornadoes can happen anytime the atmosphere is right for thunderstorms. A weather radio or an app on your phone is a great way to stay informed. Planning is critical. Know where you are going to take shelter if you are home or out on the road.
The usual precautions apply. Underground shelter or a designated storm shelter is preferable. Stay away from windows. Get out of cars – do not try to outrun the tornado. Lie flat in a ditch. Do not shelter under a highway overpass. Abandon mobile homes. If you have lived in Missouri for anytime, you have likely heard these directions. Adults have the luxury of experience and self-reliance when it comes to storms, but what about your children?
Helping kids prepare for a storm gives you the opportunity to talk about what might happen and how you plan to protect your children should a storm warning be issued. Show them the tornado shelter; tell them how and where they should sit for maximum protection; practice this with young children. Explain what to do for older children who may be at home alone. Do they understand the difference between a watch and a warning?
Help them pack their own emergency kit. Here are some suggestions for a child’s kit. Use an old backpack (maybe the one they just brought home from school.) Old shoes for walking through broken glass and debris (not flip-flops), perhaps gym shoes that also came home. Put in a flashlight (LEDs are much brighter than the old-style flashlights and they are inexpensive), a game or book, some bottled water, tissues, a non-perishable snack, paper and pencil (again, left over school supplies), extra set of clothes, small blanket, and if there is an extra or older bicycle helmet, put it in the pack. A whistle is another item that might be useful if your family is trapped in debris.
As you help your child gather these items, explain why the item is needed. They might want to add a few treasures they want for comfort. Put the pack in the shelter, or in a place for fast access. Most tornadoes happen between noon and midnight. If the warning comes in the middle of the night, they will have what they need. This pack is to help provide some comfort while they are waiting in the shelter and extra protection in case your home experiences damage.
Use confident words about preparing for a storm. Assure them that even though storms are dangerous, being prepared for one is the best way to avoid injury. Let them know that if the house is destroyed or damaged, it is okay as long as the family is safe. Remind them that things can be replaced, people cannot. Even toddlers can be guided through this activity. They might become anxious if the adults begin to fret about the weather. If they know they have a safe place, it can give them some peace of mind. For more information about preparing for emergencies in your home, contact your local extension office or visit the website.
https://extension2.missouri.edu. Search the term ‘emergency preparedness’ for complete guides on emergency preparedness and disaster recovery.