Safety Steps for Severe Weather

Updated May 2019 by Tara Rittler

Oklahoma’s unpredictable and often chaotic springtime weather makes it difficult for parents and kids to prepare for severe weather. Former NewsChannel 8 Meteorologist Taft Price, who currently works as a hydrologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has some simple tips to keep your family safe and maybe even have fun during the stormy season.

Price’s motto, “Don’t be scared, be prepared,” offers the perfect starting point for parents and kids to open up a dialogue about severe weather. Teaching your kids the basics, before severe weather hits, can save many tears and relieve anxiety for everyone.

Educate yourself about the basics of severe weather so when your kids ask why thunder sounds the way it does, you can give them an explanation that is not scary. Thunder is the sound wave that is created after a lightning bolt strikes and heats the air.

Teach your kids Price’s 30/30 Rule — count the seconds between when lightning strikes and hearing the crack of thunder; if the number is less than 30, lightning is close enough to strike you (for every five seconds lightning is a mile away). Always wait 30 minutes before going outside after the last lightning bolt. And remember, just because the rain stops, it does not mean the storm is over.
If a storm warning is issued, put off your trip to the grocery store if possible. And if you are out and about when a warning is issued, find out where the storm is located and determine if you can get home safely. Generally, if the storm is far enough away that you have time to get home and get in your safe place, you should. Never try to outrun a storm.

Flooding is a serious hazard that is often overlooked. Teach your kids to stay away from creeks and streams after rain and never drive into water. It is better to find an alternate route that takes a few extra minutes than to try to drive through a flooded area. Your car can get stuck and create a dangerous situation for you and your family. Find advice for what to do before, during and after a flood from the National Weather Service here.

Here Are Taft’s Simple Tips:

  • Familiarize your kids with the safest place to meet in case of a tornado — well before a storm warning or watch is issued. Make it fun. And above all – practice, practice, practice! Go over the routine with your babysitter and have her practice with your kids in your home. Teach caregivers what to do in an emergency.
  • Have your kids help you put together a severe weather kit. Include: battery-powered radio, water, non-perishable food, helmets, blankets and a general first-aid kit.
  • Pay attention to severe weather warnings and watches. Warning means a storm is more imminent. -Watch means the conditions are favorable for severe weather.
  • Don’t panic. Keep your cool to lower anxiety in your kids.
  • Download the KTUL Weather App, where you will find radar and forecasts with updated information.
  • Go to KTUL.com to keep yourself informed about severe weather during Oklahoma’s often volatile spring season.

Family Preparedness

Most of us here in “tornado alley” know that we need to have a place within our homes and offices to take cover when the tornado siren sounds. A 2011 Tulsa Project Impact “Family Preparedness Guide” recommends the following–recommendations that hold true today:

Emergency plan:

  • Meet with household members to discuss emergency events such as fire, severe weather, hazardous spills, and terrorism.
  • Discuss the actions that should take place in each emergency.
  • Draw a floor plan of the home, marking two escape routes from each room.
  • Teach adults how to turn off the water and electricity at main switches.
  • Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones.
  • Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1.
  • Pick a friend or relative that all family members will call if separated during an emergency. (It is often easier to call out-of-state during an emergency than within the affected area.)
  • Take a basic CPR class.
  • Keep Family records in a waterproof and fireproof safe.
  • Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.
  • Pick two meeting places: A place near your home; a place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.

Additionally, FEMA.gov has a thorough Family Communication Plan that families can use to help them through emergency situations, including space to fill in important phone numbers. And Ready.gov has resources that can help families prepare for any number of emergencies, from drought to floods to tornadoes to wildfires. Find a list here

Emergency Preparedness Kits:

According to Ready.gov, these are the items you need in a Basic Emergency Preparedness Kit

  • Water: One gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: At least a 3-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

​Click here for Ready.gov's additional recommendations, including prescription and non-prescription medication, sleeping bags, feminine hygiene products and games/activities for children. 

Tulsa’s Warning Siren System

Tulsa has 80+ Sirens. Each siren can be heard for up to a 1-mile radius, and all sound for three minutes. The sirens are live tested on Wednesdays at noon. Learn more about these here.

The warning tones are as follows:

Three minute “steady” tone: warns of tornadoes and hazardous chemical releases. It is a one-note tone.
Three-minute “wavering” tone: military attacks. This siren is similar to the wailing of police and fire vehicles on emergency calls.
Three-minute “high-low” tone: impending flooding. This siren sounds similar to many European
emergency vehicles.

If the “steady” or “wavering” sirens are sounded, find shelter and tune to local radio or television for information and instruction. If you hear the “high-low” flood siren, avoid low-lying areas and floodplains. The siren system also has the capacity to broadcast verbal instructions. In the case of a hazardous chemical release you may hear a voice instructing you to “evacuate the area” or to “shelter in place.”

Wanting a better idea of what these sirens sound like? Check out this video from KJR Channel 2: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2334797133425281

Additional Resources:

Follow your city government on social media to get up-to-date information on emergency situations such as flooding: 

City of Bixby-Municipality: https://www.facebook.com/BixbyCity%20/
City of Broken Arrow-Municipality: https://www.facebook.com/cityofba/
City of Jenks-Municipality: https://www.facebook.com/cityofjenks/
City of Sand Springs, Oklahoma: https://www.facebook.com/SandSprings.OK/
City of Claremore Government: https://www.facebook.com/pg/ClaremoreCity/
River Parks Authority: https://www.facebook.com/riverparks/

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