Emergency preparedness: 5 things you may not have thought about

(file photo)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD)– It has been more than 40 years since West Michigan has seen a violent tornado (EF4 or stronger). On Palm Sunday in 1965 five tornadoes struck Michigan in just one day.

april 11 tornadoes
Tornadoes and paths in Michigan from the April 11th, 1956 tornado outbreak courtesy of the Tornado Project:

Having food, water and prescription drugs for disasters this big are the no-brainers. Here are some big things you may not have thought about.

1. Know how to communicate if cell phone towers are down:
Tornadoes that can take down houses can definitely take down cell phone towers. This can leave you with a dead signal, even if your phone is fully charged. Take time to download apps on your phone that allow easy satellite communication with members of your family. These apps, like “Whats App” and “Viber” use satellites to pass information. This will be key for instant communication after a tornado, to let others know you are OK or need help.

2. Have a battery-powered phone charger:
It can take days for power to be restored to an area affected by violent tornadoes. Having a battery-powered cell phone charger in your preparedness kit can insure you will be able to stay connected, even if the connection is only via satellite. Most battery-powered cell phone chargers are only about $20. They are not typically waterproof so it is important to store it so it will stay dry, like a Zip Lock bag.

3. Carry cash:
Tornado outbreaks aren’t like snow storms. People rarely stock up on the bread and milk days before severe weather is expected. This means you may be caught with low supplies after storms roll through. Carry cash. Areas may be slow to get the power back on. Credit cards may not work in ATMs or local businesses. Cash will.

4. Have proof of address:
After particularly bad disasters, neighborhoods are frequently evacuated, so emergency personnel and clean-up can begin. Carry a proof of address to show to these workers so you can get back to your home. Typically there is a strict “keep out” policy emergency workers enforce.Two reasons why: to prevent against looting, and to keep spectators (which can greatly slow down the speed of clean-up) out of the way.

5. Don’t gas yourself:
After an outbreak, several homes may make it through damage-free, but still lose power. Generators provide instant power, but they are also misused every year. One of the biggest causes of death during winter storms is carbon monoxide poisoning, (because people run their generators indoors, in a garage, or close to their home’s air intake). Never run a generator indoors. This includes your garage. Be sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working to detect a problem immediately.

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