Winter traffic jam seen through a windshield

*Are you prepared for storm season?

Or, will you be one of many, panicking and running around the house in the dark, looking for candles and flashlights at the last minute?

Storm season can be a frightening experience, whether you are prepared or not, but you can improve the odds of your safety by taking a few steps.

To begin preparing for storm season, assemble an emergency kit, make a family communications plan and always be aware of changing weather conditions. It is also important to listen to instructions given by your local television newscast and the local emergency management officials.

Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November, but things typically do not get bad until August or September. Tornado season typically falls between April and July, with May and June usually the peak months. According to the Weather Channel, (www.weather.com), “an estimated 1,000 tornadoes occur in the United States each year, more than any other country in the world.

Here are some steps to help protect yourself and loved ones.

• Stay Alert – Be aware of weather conditions. Listen to weather television newscasts and take the weather updates serious. Purchase a weather radio to ensure that you receive all of the latest updates during a severe storm. You should have more than one reliable source to obtain weather information from because cable and satellite television often is knocked off the air. The weather radio, broadcasts all of the latest weather updates, as well as storm watches and warnings for your area. Subscribe to weather alerts @ www.weather.com to receive the latest weather information sent to your mobile phone.

• Family Emergency Kit – Assemble an Emergency Kit or Disaster Preparedness Kit. It should include first aid supplies, a portable weather radio, flashlights, fresh batteries for your radio and flashlights, candles, portable lanterns, blankets, baby items, prescription medications, three-day supply of drinking water and food you don’t have to cook or refrigerate, lanterns, clothing, house keys, credit cards and cash, extra eye glasses and important documents (including insurance policies). It is a good idea to have these items packed in a suitcase or travel bag and put in a safe place where you can remember where they are located.

• Community Shelter- Be sure to decide in advance, where you will take shelter. Know what local community shelters are available and decide on one where you will take shelter. If you do not have time to get to a shelter, go to the centermost part of your basement or home. Stay away from windows and go preferably under something sturdy like a staircase.

• Severe Weather Warning System – Sit down with the family and become familiar with the community’s severe weather warning system and make sure every person (adult & teenagers) in your family knows what to do when a tornado watch or warning sounds go off. Also, learn about your workplace’s disaster safety plans, your children’s schools or daycare centers.

• Electronic Devices – Charge your electronic devices (mobile phone, laptop and other mobile devices). Keep extra batteries and charges together.

• Meeting Spot/Post Storm – Designate a place where family members can meet if you are separated after a storm.

• List of Contacts – Make a list of contact information for family members, insurance agencies, including policy types and numbers. Also, make a list for your utility providers, including gas, water and electricity. If you are told to evacuate before a storm, or a warning or watch is issued, notify family and/or friends who are unaffected by the storm of where you are going.

• Important Documents – Put all-important documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, insurance policies, wills, and ownership documentation in safe.

• Home Inventory – Take inventory of items in your home. Take photos and video of your valuables and store them in a fire-and-waterproof safe. Keep receipts for items for insurance claim.

• Review Homeowners Insurance Policy – Review your insurance policy with your insurance agent and make sure you have sufficient coverage to rebuild your life and home after a tornado. To file an insurance claim after a natural disaster, contact your insurance agent or insurance company.

• Secure Outdoor Items – Secure outdoor furniture and any objects that can blow away or can cause damage.

Never miss a severe weather alert again, subscribe @ www.weather.com.

For additional information on natural disasters or to apply for disaster assistance, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov) or www.ready.gov.