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  • The Pillowcase Project - Preparing Children for Emergencies

    How much of your stuff can you fit in your pillowcase?

    No, I’m not talking about your major haul from trick-or-treating at Halloween. I’m talking about in the event of an emergency, what do you have around the house that you would need to take with you that can fit inside a pillowcase?

    Pillowcase Project - Red Cross Pillowcase Project via Red Cross

    The Red Cross has a program called the Pillowcase Project in which children learn all about local hazards, basic coping skills, as well as family and personal preparedness. One of the ways this program helps children learn about emergency preparedness is by using their pillowcase as an impromptu emergency kit. The pillowcase makes it easy to carry their belongings and emergency supplies, and they can even decorate their pillowcase with useful information, such as steps to take during an emergency.

    FEMA has a printout of things children should have in their emergency kits. Items include toothbrush and toothpaste, change of clothes for three days, water, food, and flashlights with extra batteries. The list also includes comfort items, including books, games, puzzles, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

    Having these personal toys can help bring a feeling of normalcy to an otherwise frightening situation. If you think it will be tough for you to go without your modern comforts, just think what it must be like for them! These comforting toys can really go a long way in helping your children cope during an emergency.

    Make sure your children know what they should bring before an emergency happens. This means you will need to find a way to go over this information with your children multiple times until they understand and know exactly what it is they need to do.

    When discussing disasters with your kids, try not to alarm them overly much. Staying calm yourself during an emergency can really help with your children’s demeanor.

    In the event of an emergency, swift action must be taken. There usually isn’t a lot of warning time before an evacuation happens. In the case of a fire, evacuation must be immediate. That means there won’t be time to decide what to take, or even scarier, which of their favorite toys to leave behind.

    Of course, children aren’t always going to be at home when a disaster comes. Besides teaching them about things to grab at home, also teach them about proper ways to act at school, their friend’s house, or anywhere else they may be.

    Teach your children how to properly prepare for emergencies. The Pillowcase Project is just one method, but there are other ways to teach your children. Find the method that works best for you and your children, and makes sure they know what to do when an emergency happens.


    How do you help your children prepare for disasters? Let us know in the comments!


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  • Finding a Proper Tornado Shelter During a Twister

    The sky darkens. Winds pick up, and it’s only a matter of time before hail starts falling from the sky. A tornado is coming, something you’re all too familiar with.

    Where do you go? There are three buildings nearby, each within the same distance. Do you hit up the mall? Or what about that well-built home? But there’s also a community shelter nearby. One option is better than the others, but how will you know which to take shelter in?

    FEMA has some recommendations as to what constitutes as best protection, and what really doesn’t do much for you during a tornado. So follow these guidelines and know where to go the next time a tornado threatens your area!


    Minimal/Inadequate Protection

    This trailer park suffered devistation after a tornado.

    While it may be tempting to run to the nearest building, doing so may not be to your advantage. Manufactured homes and offices (i.e. mobile), malls, gymnasiums, vehicles, and the great expanses of the outdoors don’t give you the adequate protection necessary should a tornado roar by. Manufactured buildings blow away easily, as do vehicles. Malls, gymnasiums, and other open-plan buildings are just that – too open. If a tornado did come through those types of buildings, there would be nowhere to take cover should the walls or roof blow away.

    If you find yourself outdoors with no readily available shelter, lay flat in a ditch or low-lying area and protect your head with your arms or other object if available. Avoid areas with trees.


    Moderate Protection

    Home & TornadoSturdy buildings can provide some decent protection, especially if you have a small, interior and windowless room to bunker down in. Even if your building is sturdy, stay away from the upper levels. Find a safe room on the lowest level of the building, as that will give you the most protection.

    While the tornado twists madly about outside, FEMA warns to stay covered. You never know when debris can break through, so cover up with cushions, a sleeping bag, blanket, or anything else you can find. Just remember, these buildings aren’t designed to stand up to the ferocity of tornadoes, so even if you are in a sturdy building, a powerful tornado could still do major damage, so take as many precautions as you can.


    Best Protection

    Tornado ShelterIf you live in a tornado prone area, you might want to consider looking into a safe room or storm shelter. When properly constructed, these safe havens will protect you from nearly all strengths of tornadoes. Having a tornado shelter will greatly increase your odds of safety, and they can be built in your home, business, or even in the community. For more information on building a personal safe room, check out FEMA’s guide by following this link.



    If you live in Tornado Alley, you need to know the best places to take shelter when a tornado is coming. For those not effected by tornadoes frequently, it’s still good to know where you should take shelter. Tornadoes come to every state, so there’s always a possibility of being hit by one (if you haven’t already).


    Where do you go to shelter from tornadoes? Let us know in the comments!


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  • Severe Weather Has Its Own Timetable: Now Is the Time to Prepare

    Tornado Severe WeatherIowa’s statewide tornado drill, held on March 24, was supposed to be held the day before. It was postponed because of bad weather.

    Natural disasters don’t exactly conform to our timetables. Yet many have a seasonal ebb and flow. Although tornadoes occur year-round, most take place in the spring and early summer – hence, tornado season. Floods are common in March and April because of heavy rain and melting snow. Hurricane season peaks in August and September.

    This seasonal nature of wild weather could explain why 33 states and U.S. territories held severe weather awareness events in March. Another 21 events are planned for April.

    Events varied from state to state. Last week, for example, California sponsored Tsunami Preparedness Week, while Colorado nailed some extremes with Flood Safety and Wildfire Preparedness Week. Maryland’s Severe Storms Awareness Week highlighted a different hazard every day.

    The point of all this is, if you haven’t started preparing for a natural disaster, now’s a good time.

    One goal of Maryland’s awareness week was to highlight the difference between a watch and a warning, so people can act appropriately.

    A watch meansTornado Watch - Severe Weather that atmospheric conditions are right for severe weather to develop, but it hasn’t yet. Severe weather watches tend to last for longer time periods. A warning means severe weather is imminent or occurring, so take appropriate action now. The terminology is the same for many types of severe weather: tornadoes, flooding, severe thunderstorms, winter storms and hurricanes.

    Sometimes the National Weather Service issues weather advisories. These can refer to specific weather hazards within a storm, like a high wind advisory. They can also refer to severe weather that is imminent or occurring but won’t have quite as adverse an impact. A flood advisory, for example, is for flooding that shouldn’t really affect life or property.

    A month ago, eight tornadoes touched down in Virginia, killing five people.  Virginia’s governor referenced that disaster in a proclamation calling March 22 Tornado Preparedness Day.

    “All Virginians should know where to seek shelter during a tornado, whether at home, at work, at school, or elsewhere,” the proclamation said.

    Part of preparing for a disaster is knowing how to respond appropriately. For example, before a tornado, pick the safest place to shelter in a building. A basement is best, but if that’s not available, go to the center of a small, interior room on a building’s lowest floor. Either way, get under something and cover your head and neck. This advice doesn’t apply to mobile homes or buildings. From those, go to the nearest shelter.

    Flooded Street of Des Plains City - Severe Weather

    Evacuating if directed is also the best course of action during a flood. But be careful. Flooding is the deadliest weather hazard, mostly because people try to drive or walk across flooded roads and bridges. Be sure to have alternate routes to get to a shelter in case the main route is flooded.

    Once you’ve got a plan, practicing it is equally important.

    Employees of the Clear Lake, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce participated in this year’s delayed Iowa tornado drill. The Chamber’s Director of Tourism, Libbey Patton, said in a TV news story that chamber members had inclement weather plans for both office and events.

    “And we have had to use it a few years ago for [a weekly event] just to get everyone home and off the roads,” she said.


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