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Summer Preparedness Safety Tips

Floods •  Tornadoes •  Lightning •  Excessive Heat •  NOAA Radio

Also see: Winter Safety

Flash Flooding

Preparations at home and work:

  • Determine if you are in a flood-prone area. If you are, know where to go if the water starts to rise. Have an escape route if you have to leave quickly.
  • Make a safety kit containing: A flashlight and extra batteries, battery-powered weather radio receiver and commercial radio, extra food and water, first-aid supplies, canned food and a can opener, water (three gallons per person), extra clothing, and bedding. Don't forget special items for family members such as diapers, baby formula, prescription or essential medications, extra eyeglasses or hearing aids, and pet supplies.
  • Know how and when to shut off utilities: Electricity, gas, and water.
  • Find out how to get local warning information, such as outdoor warning sirens or cable TV override systems.
  • If your home is equipped with a basement sump pump, check it's operation several times a year.

When traveling or outdoors:

  • Keep track of the counties, towns, rivers, and creeks along and near your route, so you will know if you are near a flood.
  • Take a weather radio with you wherever you go.
  • Check the weather forecast before a trip or outdoor activity. Postpone your plans if flooding is forecast.
  • Choose campsites AWAY from creeks and other low-lying areas.
  • Be especially cautious at night, when dangerous rising water is more difficult to detect.

Flash Flood Safety

  • If a flash flood warning is issued, get to higher ground immediately! Follow evacuation instructions, but don't wait for them if you think you are in danger.
  • Do not drive across flooded roads or bridges. They may be washed out, or your vehicle may stall in the water.
  • If your vehicle stalls in water, abandon it and get to higher ground. It takes only a foot or two of rapidly-moving water to sweep away a car.
  • Walking or playing around flood waters is dangerous; you can be knocked from your feet in water only six inches deep!

Carter Lake

  • In the spring of 2007, our family learned just what it means to flood in Carter Lake. In the early hours of Sunday, May 6, Carter Lake was hit with over 4 inches of rain. Almost an inch of moisture occurred in less than 15 minutes. The streets and storm drains swelled with water, but they handled it. Not so with the sewers, which are connected with Omaha. At approximately 2 a.m., every basement drain in every house began pouring sewage drenched storm water into basements. Those with sump pumps and main line check valves were lucky but many were not. If you live in Carter Lake and own a basement, now is the time to either install a main line check valve or sump pump system.
  • Our family was lucky. We have a sump pump, regularly checked and maintained, and it pumped over 2,500 gallons of sewage water safely out of our basement that night. We were spared.


  • Urban/Small Stream Flood Advisory - Alerts the public to flooding, which is generally only an inconvenience (not life-threatening) to those living in the affected area. Issued when heavy rain will cause flooding of streets and low-lying places in urban areas. Also used if small rural or urban streams are expected to reach or exceed bankfull. Some damage to homes or roads could occur.
  • Flash Flood Statement - A Flash Flood Statement is issued to inform the public about current flash flood conditions. These statements usually contain river stage information if major streams or rivers are involved.
  • Flash Flood Watch - Indicates that flash flooding is a possibility in or close to the watch area. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take action if a flash flood warning is issued or flooding is observed. These watches are issued for flooding that is expected to occur within 6 hours after the heavy rains have ended.
  • Flash Flood Warning - A flood warning issued for life/property threatening flooding that will occur within 6 hours. It could be issued for rural or urban areas as well as for areas along the major rivers. Very heavy rain in a short period of time can lead to flash flooding, depending on local terrain, ground cover, degree of urbanization, amount of man-made changes to the natural river banks, and initial ground or river conditions. Dam breaks or ice jams can also create flash flooding.

NOAA Floods

FEMA Floods

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Before the Storm:

  • Make sure everyone in the family knows where to go and what to bring during a weather emergency.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.
  • Listen to radio and television for information.
  • If planning a trip outdoors, listen to the latest forecasts and take necessary action if threatening weather is possible.

If a Warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches:

  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Keep windows closed. Houses do not explode due to air pressure differences. Stay away from windows during severe storms. Flying debris could shatter the glass and cause injury.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. Instead, leave it immediately and find shelter. If a sturdy building is not available, then get out of the vehicle and lay down in a low spot on the ground not subject to flooding, protecting the head and neck.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
  • Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.


  • Tornado Watch - This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Their size can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
  • Tornado Warning - A Tornado Warning is issued by your local National Weather Service office. It will include where the tornado was located and what towns will be in its path. If the warning is for the county you live in, you should take immediate, appropriate action.

NOAA Tornados

FEMA Tornados

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Fast Facts:

  • If you can see it or hear it, lightning can hit you. Find shelter now.
  • Lightning is the No. 2 weather killer in the US (behind floods).
  • Every 5 seconds between flash and boom is a mile's distance from you.
  • Under ideal conditions, lightning's thunder can be heard 12 miles away.
  • Lightning is really no wider than a few inches.
  • All thunderstorms produce lightning.

Safety Tips for Inside the Home

  • Avoid contact with corded phones
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

Safety Tips for Outside the Home

  • Do NOT seek shelter under tall isolated trees! The tree may help you stay dry but will significantly increase your risk of being struck by lightning. Rain will not kill you, but the lightning can!
  • Do NOT seek shelter under partially enclosed buildings
  • Stay away from tall, isolated objects. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object. That may be you in an open field or clearing.
  • Know the weather patterns of the area. For example, here in the Omaha Valley, storms generally sweep in from the West. Keep an eye in that direction for darkening skies or flashes of lightning.
  • Know the weather forecast. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, curtail your outdoor activities.
  • If camping, do not place your campsite in an open field on the top of a hill or on a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. A tent offers NO protection from lightning.
  • Stay away from metal objects, such as fences, poles and backpacks. Metal is an excellent conductor. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
  • If lightning is in the immediate area, and there is no safe location nearby, get into the lightning desperation position. Crouch down but do NOT lay down. Bend your knees down while keeping your feet together.

NOAA Lightning

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Heat Safety

Preventing Heat Illness

  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy. It is also a good idea to wear a hat.
  • Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein which increase metabolic heat.
  • Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay indoors when possible.
  • Take regular breaks when engaged in physical activity on warm days. Take time out to find a cool place. If you recognize that you, or someone else, is showing the signals of a heat-related illness, stop activity and find a cool place. Remember, have fun, but stay cool!

Signs of Heat Illness

  • Cool, moist, pale skin (the skin may be red right after physical activity).
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness and weakness or exhaustion.
  • Nausea.
  • The skin may or may not feel hot.
  • Vomiting.
  • Decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness.
  • High body temperature (sometimes as high as 105F).
  • Skin may still be moist or the victim may stop sweating and the skin may be red, hot and dry.
  • Rapid, weak pulse.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing.

Treating Heat Illness

  • For heat cramps or heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels or wet sheets. Call 9-1-1 if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness
  • For heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation! Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. (Do not use rubbing alcohol because it closes the skin's pores and prevents heat loss.) Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.


  • Heat Advisory - issued by your local NWS Forecast Office when the heat index is expected to exceed 105 degrees (100 degrees for New York City) but be less 115 degrees than for less than 3 hours in a day and/or when nighttime lows are forecast to remain above 80 degrees for 2 consecutive days.
  • Excessive Heat Watch - issued by your local NWS Forecast Office when it is possible for the heat index to exceed 115 degrees for any length of time during the day or the heat index will be equal to or exceed 105 degrees for more than 3 hours in a day for at least 2 consecutive days.
  • Excessive Heat Warning - issued by your local NWS Forecast Office when the heat index is expected to exceed 115 degrees for any length of time during the day or the heat index will be equal to or exceed 105 degrees for more than 3 hours in a day for at least 2 consecutive days.

NOAA Heat Safety

FEMA Extreme Heat

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NOAA Radio

Do you love your family? Want to keep them safe? Then get a NOAA Weather Radio with EAS audio alarms. For the same reason that we have smoke detectors to detect smoke, our family has an EAS weather radio to detect dangerous weather.

NWR broadcasts NWS warnings, watches, forecasts and other non-weather related hazard information 24 hours a day. During an emergency, NWS forecasters interrupt routine broadcasts and send a special tone activating local weather radios. Weather radios with a special alarm tone feature are equipped to sound an alert to give immediate information about life-threatening weather.

Radios with S.A.M.E. receive the same alerts and warnings as the NOAA radios, but allow users to adjust reception for specific counties. This keeps false alarms to a minimum.

Our Midland WR-100B S.A.M.E. EAS weather radio is programmed to sound an alert day or night when severe weather threatens Pottawattamie or Douglas counties.

Listen to NOAA Radio

NOAA Radio Info

Weather Radio Buyer's Guide

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