Tulsa, OK – In 2010, 102 tornadoes struck Oklahoma. And this month marks the 20- and 30-year anniversaries of two of the most devastating tornadoes to strike eastern Oklahoma. On April 19, 1981 - Easter Sunday - a deadly tornado struck Bixby. Ten years later, on April 26, 1991, Oologah fell victim to a massive tornado outbreak. Another April tornado claimed lives when it struck Catoosa on April 24, 1993.
April is Tornado Preparedness Month, and with severe storms in the forecast for Thursday, the Red Cross urges people to plan ahead, prepare a disaster kit and be sure all family members - especially children and those in your household with special needs - know what to do when severe weather threatens.
A disaster kit becomes invaluable if you are stranded in your home and without power or if you are forced to evacuate due to floods or severe damage to your home. Take time now to assemble your kit. Keep it in an easy-to-carry container and in an easily-accessible place.
Build an emergency preparedness kit and include these items:
First aid kit and essential medications. (Family first aid kits can be purchased from the Red Cross at www.oklahomaredcross.org).
Canned food and can opener.
A three-day supply of water - three gallons of water per person per day.
Protective clothing, rainwear, bedding or sleeping bags.
Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Do not use candles!
Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members, including must-have prescription medications.
Cell phone and chargers.
Pet supplies such as leashes, food, water, medication, toys and vaccination records.
Camera for photographing damage.
Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so.
Copies of important documents.
It's important that families have a plan already in place for what they'll do in a severe weather situation. Once the storm hits, it's too late.
When severe weather is in the forecast, stay tuned to local television and radio stations for storm warnings and emergency information.
Identify your "safe spot" where everyone in the family knows to gather if a tornado or severe thunderstorm threatens. Some families choose to indicate the location with a sticker or other marker so that children always know where to go.
Practice your plan! Hold tornado drills so your children, pets and those in your household with special needs will know what to do and what to expect.
Prepare an evacuation plan (in case of floods). Identify several places you could go if you were told to evacuate -a motel, a community shelter or a friend's home in another area or town, for example. Plan to take your emergency preparedness kit with you.
Know your area's flood risk. Your local emergency management office or planning and zoning department can help.
Keep documents such as insurance policies and birth certificates in a safe deposit box, and put copies in your disaster preparedness kit.
Identify your safe shelter and make sure everyone in your family knows to go there if storms threaten.
Safe shelter -
o A certified safe room (storm shelter) is best.
o If there is no safe room, choose a basement if available.
o Otherwise, choose lowest floor interior rooms that are surrounded by other rooms, such as closets, center hallways or bathrooms. Avoid rooms on the south and west sides of the structure. Most storms approach our area from the southwest.
o Avoid windows or glass tub/shower enclosures and mirrors.
o In a high rise, you may not have enough time to get to the ground floor. In that case, choose a center hallway.
If you are outside -
o Hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building, or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
o If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and try to drive to safe shelter.
o If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with your hands and a blanket, if possible.
If you can safely move to ground lower than the roadway (such as a ditch or culvert), exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
Your choice should be determined by your specific circumstances.
Evacuate mobile homes and seek safe shelter.
Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet from debris after the storm.
Many injuries and deaths result from flying glass and other debris. Always cover yourself with blankets, coats, mattresses or other protective items. If you have a bicycle or other safety helmet, wear it.