AUSTIN (KXAN) — Stormy weather can be scary for both kids and “grown ups” alike… but the key to preparation is having the conversation before the storm strikes. Below are a few ideas, tips and suggestions on what to discuss with your family ahead of hazardous weather.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: You know your child better than anyone else. The discussion below is meant to act as a guide and not a “set of rules.” Feel free to modify these suggestions to your child’s needs, family situation, etc.
When discussing severe weather safety with your kids, make sure they know the following:
- At least one family phone number
- What street and city the live in
- Which county they live in (as this is how weather alerts are issued)
- At least one neighbor they would feel comfortable going to for help if needed
It’s also important to stress that in many situations, an adult will be present to help make safety decisions. But in the case one is not available and/or to alleviate fear of the unknown, talk with your family about what to do if a particular weather situation were to occur.
Perhaps the most common weather hazard in Central Texas: thunderstorms. They can and do pop up every spring and summer. Here are some questions & ideas to help start the conversation:
- “What should you do if you hear thunder outside? Or see a thunderstorms out the window?”
ANSWER: The only safe place to be in a thunderstorm is inside. Ask your child follow up questions by giving likely scenarios. For example, would under the slide at the playground be safe? (no) Or outside under the roof? (no) Or how about in the baseball dugout? (no). The only place to be safe in a thunderstorm is with ‘4 walls around you and a roof over your head’.
- “Does every thunderstorm make a tornado?”
ANSWER: No. But every thunderstorm does contain lightning with can strike more than 10 miles away from the cloud. A good way to think of it: if you see lightning or hear thunder, you’re already too close.
- “What if I’m outside and there’s no where to go inside?”
ANSWER: Keep moving until you find an inside. Those who are struck by lightning have a very low survival rate (kid-friendly version: “it’s not going to feel good if you get hit by lightning”). So keep walking, driving, moving until you find a safe place.
Although not an everyday occurrence, tornadoes can happen in Central Texas. Here are a few things to discuss with your kids:
- SAFE PLACE: decide on where your family’s tornado shelter is. As most homes in Central Texas are not built with basements, pick out a room or area on the ground level of your residence that has no windows and/or is farthest away from the outside. Put simply, you want to put as many walls between you and the outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows that is where to go if a Tornado Warning is issued. (And don’t forget – pets need to go into the tornado safe place too!)
- GRAB A HELMET: if your child rides a bike, skateboards, roller skates, etc. encourage them to put on their helmet before seeking shelter. In the case of debris, this will protect their head.
- BRING PILLOWS/BLANKETS: the more cushion, the better. In the case of falling debris, pillows and blankets can help protect you from serious injury.
- TURN UP THE VOLUME: if there is a risk of tornadoes in Central Texas, there is a near-guarantee that a member of the KXAN First Warning Weather team will be on-air covering the storm. In this case, turn on your TV, turn to KXAN-TV and turn the volume to the maximum level. Why? That way you can hear the voice of the meteorologist telling you where the storm is, what is happening and when it’s safe to come out of your safe place.
Central Texas is known as “Flash Flood Alley” due to the high risk of flash flooding during heavy rain events. When talking to you kids about the potential for a flood, consider the following:
- The key to staying safe in a flash flood: HIGHER GROUND
- Think about where to go if water was to enter the house (if in a two-story home, move upstairs)
- Wait to evacuate until told to do so by fire department, police, etc.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to a KXAN meteorologist at weather@KXAN.com