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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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  • Tornadoes 101: What Are They?

    When the weather gets blustery and the sky goes dark, no matter where you live you probably have a thought or two about a tornado. In some parts of the country, this kind of weather really could mean a tornado is imminent. In other parts, it’s probably just a storm brewing that won’t have any funnel clouds as a side effect.

    But no matter where you live, you’re not immune from tornadoes. Sure, they’re more prevalent in what is known as Tornado Alley, but they can also happen in every state in the country. This makes planning for them important for everyone, regardless of location.

    In order to prepare for a tornado, it would be useful to know what they are. After all, knowing is half the battle.


    What’s a Tornado?

    Tornado 01You’ve probably at least seen a picture of a tornado before (if not, check out the image to the right – that’s a tornado). According to The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a tornado “is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground.” If the rotating column of air doesn’t connect with the ground, then it’s known as a funnel cloud.

    As noted, tornadoes are a rotating column of air. Air itself is invisible, so the only way to see a tornado is when its funnel is made up of water droplets, dust, and debris. That’s what gives it its dark color.


    How Do They Form?

    Tornado DiagramTornadoes mostly form from thunderstorms. When warm, moist air clashes with cool, dry air, the atmosphere becomes unstable, creating a change in wind direction and increase of wind speed. Increased wind speed and change in wind direction then causes the cloud to spin vertically. Tornadoes form inside this rotating cloud.

    That’s the science behind it (albeit a little confusing perhaps…). However, it’s still not fully understood how tornadoes actually form. The NSSL explained that tornadoes “can happen without such temperature patterns.” So while those temperature fluctuations are a fairly safe bet for a tornado, that doesn’t mean one won’t form independent of those factors.


    How Strong are Tornadoes?

    Tornado DamageTornadoes can range from fairly weak to devastatingly strong. They are ranked according to the Fukita Tornado Damage Scale, beginning at F0 and going as high as an F5. The wind speeds of an F0 are less than 73 mph, whereas the wind speeds of an F5 range between 261 and 318 mph. That’s some crazy wind! And with winds that fast, nothing is safe. Fortunately, F5’s don’t happen as frequently as others. In fact, there have only been 59 officially rated F5 tornadoes in the United States since 1950. While not frequent, that’s still quite a bit for something so powerful.



    Tornadoes are scary, but according to Accuweather, your odds of being hit by a tornado are pretty slim. That being said, if you live in Tornado Alley, your odds just increased exponentially. For those outside that wind tunnel of states, odds are much lower. But remember – tornadoes do happen in every state, so no matter where you live, be prepared!


    How have you prepared for a tornado in your area? Let us know in the comments!




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