Though bipolar shifts in weather — sometimes daily —are often found to be the norm in Oklahoma, there are some constants that eventually settle into the area each year — like storm season.

Though bipolar shifts in weather — sometimes daily —are often found to be the norm in Oklahoma, there are some constants that eventually settle into the area each year — like storm season.

With Spring officially here, getting back into the mindset of storm safety is a must.

Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said having a safety plan, multiple ways to receive weather bulletins and a family disaster supplies kit will help residents weather the storm.

“We recommend that everyone have at least two ways to receive weather bulletins,” Lynch said. “A NOAA Weather Radio can provide you with information directly from the National Weather Service office in Norman.”

He said these radio receivers can be obtained from electronics stores, Walmart and Homeland stores for around $35.

“Those radios containing the Specific Area Messaging Encoder (SAME) feature can be programmed to alert you when the specific counties are warned,” he said.

Commercial television and radio can provide you with warnings and updated information.

“All of our local television stations have apps you can download for your smart device to provide you with warnings,” Lynch said. “Apps are also available from the National Weather Service, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, and the American Red Cross.”

The City of Shawnee also offers its Citizen Alerts program to Shawnee residents.

“You can register for notifications to your phones, e-mail, and text messaging at www. Shawneeok.org/CitizenAlerts,” he said.

Lynch said it’s vital to think about tornado safety long before there’s a storm on the horizon.

“Plan what to do to stay safe no matter where you may be when storms threaten,” he said.

When a severe storm or tornado threatens, some basic guidelines, he said, are:

• Get in — get as far inside a strong building as you can, away from doors and windows.

“A reinforced underground storm shelter, storm cellar, enclosed basement or safe room rated to provide EF5 conditions protection in accordance with FEMA publication 361 are usually the safest places in a tornado,” he said. “Underground shelters get you out of the way of flying and falling debris, which is a tornado’s most lethal weapon.”

Being outdoors, in a mobile home or in a vehicle Lynch said are all unsafe in a tornado or severe thunderstorm.

• Get down — get to the lowest floor.

“If you cannot get underground, get as low as you can. Go to the lowest floor of the building you’re in,” he said.

• Cover up — use whatever you can to protect yourself from flying or falling debris.

“Cover up to protect yourself from flying and falling debris,” Lynch said. “Use whatever you can find — pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, mattresses; wearing a helmet or hardhat will help protect your head from debris.”

After a storm is over, gears shift immediately to search-and-rescue/clean-up efforts.

“We encourage Pottawatomie County residents to register their safe rooms at www.shawneeok.org/EmergencyManage/shelter/,” he said. “We will enter this information into a database that will be given to Search and Rescue personnel to assist them in locating persons who may be trapped in the shelter by storm debris.”

Related issues

Flooding:

Lynch said tornadoes are not the only element worthy of preparation.

“Flooding is often a factor with severe thunderstorms,” he said.

Before a flood:

• Find out if you live in a flood-prone area

• Plan and practice an evacuation route

• Have disaster supplies on hand

• Develop an emergency communications plan

• Learn about the National Flood Insurance Program

During a flood:

• Stay informed; turn on a battery-operated radio or television to get the latest emergency information

• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately

• Avoid walking through floodwater.

“Water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet if it is moving swiftly,” he said.

• Do not drive into a flooded street. Cars can be swept away by two feet of moving water or there may be unseen damage to the road, he said.

“If you come to a flooded area, turn around and go another way,” Lynch said. “Most flood-related deaths are caused by people driving through water — remember, turn around; don't drown.”

• Watch out for fire hazards

After a flood:

• Take care of yourself first

• Dry out your home

• Restore the utilities

• Clean up

• Rebuild and flood proof

• Prepare for the next flood

• Protect yourself from the next flood with flood insurance, a flood response plan and community flood protection programs

Lightning:

Every year people are killed by lightning strikes in Oklahoma, Lynch said.

“Statistics show that about 50 bolts of lightning strike less than a mile from you each year in Oklahoma — about 1 million strikes per year across the state,” he said. “Your location when these strikes occur could greatly affect your chances of getting struck by lightning.”

Once thunder can be heard, he said lightning is close enough to strike.

“Go inside or get into a hard-topped vehicle,” he said.

If caught outside:

• Do not lie flat on the ground

• Crouch with feet together

• Do not seek shelter under trees

When inside:

• Stay away from windows

• Don’t use the phone

• Stay away from electric appliances

• Stay away from water

• Unplug appliances to protect them

When Boating:

A boat is usually the highest object in its area, he said. “This situation makes boats especially vulnerable to lightning strikes,” Lynch said. “Get to shore and into a building, if possible.”

• Lower fishing poles and other tall objects

• Stay in a dry spot on the boat, if possible

• Do not touch electrical or metal objects

“The best way to protect yourself is to plan ahead so you’re not caught outside when storms threaten,” he said. “Also, be prepared to make a tough decision — to stop your golf game or your work when storms approach; when you think about it, the consequences of missing part of a golf game are a small price to pay for assured safety.”

Supplies

Lynch said a 72-hour disaster supplies kit is helpful in preparing to deal with the consequences of severe weather.

“You can find out how to build your 72-hour disaster supplies kit at www.ready.gov,” he said.

Scott Sproat, director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), said families who have members with medical conditions and disabilities need to consider any unique needs during and after a disaster.

“If you have, or care for someone, with a disability or access and functional needs, it’s especially important to include needed supplies, equipment and medications as part of your planning efforts,” Sproat said. “If evacuating from the home is necessary, it is important to take medication and specialty equipment such as hearing aids, oxygen, a wheelchair, diabetic supplies, food for a special diet or supplies for a service animal.”

OSDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the additional following tips for families preparing for disasters:

• Check with your mobile carrier for options on wireless emergency alerts being delivered to your cell phone or other device

• Practice your plan by quizzing your children periodically, and conduct fire and other emergency drills

• Check emergency supplies throughout the year to replace batteries, food and water as needed

• Plan alternate ways to charge communication and assistive technology devices if there is loss of power

• Plan for medication requiring refrigeration