Immediate Action – 8 things you should do right after a weather disaster

The violent Spring and Summer weather systems of the Midwest spawn gale force winds, destructive hail, flash floods, even deadly tornadoes. When these strike, surviving the initial damage is just the first hurdle. Follow these tips and you'll know what to do in the immediate aftermath:

1. Locate, assess and treat those around you

Your first instinct (and the correct one) will be to account for any family members or co-workers who rode out the storm with you. As you do so, check for injuries and, if possible, provide first aid. If in doubt about a survivor's medical condition, don't hesitate to call 911. Dispatchers will be able to prioritize your medical emergency no matter how busy emergency services are.

2. Decide to stay or go

Time for a crucial decision: Is the building you sheltered in still structurally sound? Consider the options carefully and calmly, then act decisively. It's best to stay put unless your shelter itself is dangerous. If you're evacuating and can do so safely, shut off gas, electricity and water. If you leave the building, don't go back in for anything until it's been declared safe.

3. Reach out and report

What about the daughter at school, the wife at work, the employee out on a sales call? Text them or contact them via a web post, such as on their Facebook wall. This will keep phone lines clear for emergency use. For those outside the area, use to let them know you're OK. Keep in mind that damage from the disaster may make it impossible to reach people in the local area, so if possible have a designated person well outside the disaster zone who can relay communications. Speaking of reporting, if there are downed power lines, broken gas lines or other damaged infrastructure in your area, report it immediately.

4. Check on your neighbors

Once you know people in your home or business are safe, make sure those in the surrounding area are OK, especially the disabled, elderly and children who may have been home alone.

5. Monitor the radio and other media sources

Radios are arguably the best ways to keep current on what's happening before, during and after a disaster because they're light, can be powered by batteries and don't depend on cell networks or other data nets. Whatever method you use, monitor it at all times. There may be more weather events coming, or important information about rescue efforts. If you receive an order to evacuate, follow it.

6. Document the damage and report

Use a phone or digital camera to take pictures of the damage. This will be helpful when you're filing insurance claims. Contact your insurance company as soon as you can and advise them of what's happened to your building.

7. Beware of fire and carbon monoxide

If you need to stay in place for more than a brief time, you may be using a generator or other equipment that produces carbon monoxide. Be extremely careful when using these and take special care to ensure you have proper ventilation. Don't use any charcoal device inside or under a carport, don't attempt to heat your home with any cooking device and locate generators well away (and downwind from) any place you're sheltering in.

8. Take step zero

Each of these steps is only as effective as the preparation and practice you've put into it. Plan ahead. Prepare a first aid kit and get the training to go with it. Work out an evacuation plan and practice it. Create a family or company communication plan. Talk to neighbors ahead of time. Know what equipment you have and how you'll use it. Doing these things now is worth the reduction in stress alone, and may save lives. A great place to start is with our two emergency planning guides—One for the home and one for the workplace. Each covers the necessary steps for readiness. With these two free eBooks, you can plan, prepare and pass the test when Midwest weather rears its ugly head. Download your free home disaster planning eBook  


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