Weather Center

Severe Storm Preparedness

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 4.1.17

It was after 10 o’clock on a Sunday night, and the TV was on mute. So was my smartphone. But as I worked on my laptop, a light flashed from my phone. A text alert blurted out that San Antonio was under a tornado warning. Not a watch, but a warning. I was shocked. Tornadoes hardly ever blow through the Alamo City, but hailing from Alabama where tornado drills were part of the school day when I was growing up, I knew just what to do.

I woke my husband and the kids, and we huddled in a windowless, downstairs bathroom. The storm passed us by, but others just a few miles away weren’t so lucky, as many homes and business were lost or damaged. It got me thinking. How prepared is my family should disaster strike? After all, when the sirens sound or the text alerts come, it’s always a surprise. But a little advance prep can help you and your family weather the storm — and its aftermath.

Create an emergency plan.

When it comes to severe weather, don’t wing it. Think through what you and your family will do and even rehearse the plan. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that you:

  • Understand severe weather threats in your part of Texas so that you know what you’re dealing with, from potential hurricanes and tropical storms along the coast to ice storms and tornadoes. In San Antonio, for instance, where flash flooding is a recurrent threat after rainstorms, newcomers quickly learn the mantra “turn around, don’t drown.”
  • Make sure you can get weather alerts — such as the Wireless Emergency Alerts (free of charge and unaffected by data plan restrictions) — or alerts from some of these handy resources in our weather app guide
  • Determine where to go as a storm approaches and establish a safe meeting place afterward, whether it’s the mailbox in your front yard or the neighborhood recreation center.
  • Practice your plan. That means actually walking through it with the whole family.
  • Discuss a communication plan to make sure you and your spouse can check in and that your tweens and teens know how to reach Mom and Dad in case of a severe weather event.
  • Talk about and practice where to go during different types of threats — from lightning storms to tornado warnings and hurricane evacuations.

Prep your home.

Just as you plan with your family for potential weather threats, make sure your property is ready for the storm. Following a regimen of smart home maintenance year-round can help your house stand strong, from keeping gutters in good repair to inspecting your roof for loose shingles.

To guard against damage from high winds when severe storms come, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends simple steps such as:

  • Replacing gravel in driveways with softer mulch or dirt to avoid damage from flying pebbles.
  • Pruning shrubs and trees.
  • Keeping the yard clear of debris.

As well as you maintain your home, insurance helps protect it against losses that you can’t control. Make sure to evaluate and update your homeowners insurance annually.

Keep in mind homeowners policies may not cover flooding, so consider flood insurance, available only from the National Flood Insurance Program.

And don’t wait until after the storm to try to list all your possessions when you have to make an insurance claim: Track your worldly goods now with our home inventory evaluation sheet.

Pack a go-bag.

Consult the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s extensive list to create a portable stash of supplies — just in case a storm leaves you stranded. Whether you’re forced to evacuate your home due to damage or live in the aftermath without power or water, be prepared.

You know you need food and water, but FEMA helps you know how much. Its list includes items you might not have thought about, such as a wrench or pliers to shut off utilities if needed. Key items from FEMA’s suggested list include:

  • Three days’ worth of water — that’s one gallon per person, per day.
  • A three-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Flashlight and batteries.
  • A whistle to signal for help.

Other items FEMA suggests you think about including range from a change of clothing for each family member and medications to diapers and formula, matches in a waterproof container, and books and puzzles to occupy kids. You may even include an extra toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, along with dry shampoo spray, feminine protection products, and the like.

Do your research.

Learn more about the disasters that could affect your property and your family’s safety.

  • IBHS offers advice broken out by category under its resources section.
  • The American Red Cross offers tips on packing lists and planning ahead of a storm. It also offers a handy emergency app for Android and iPhone users. Learn more.
  • FEMA offers guidance for storm prep at ready.gov.
  • The Insurance Information Institute can help you understand how your homeowners policy can protect you. Of course, your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent is always available to answer any questions and review your policy with you during a complimentary 360 Review.

Whether standing up to the Wimberley flood on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, the wildfires in Bastrop later that year, or the unexpected tornadoes in San Antonio this past February, many Texans have faced the sudden wrath of Mother Nature. Plan now so you can weather the storm later.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance