A photo of someone walking through snow in Portland, Maine with a bright pink umbrella

There’s an old song that talks about raindrops falling on heads. If you know what song I’m talking about, it’s probably stuck in your head now; it’s quite catchy. (If not, I think it’s definitely worth a quick internet search.)

And when raindrops fall on your head, umbrellas and raincoats can be rather helpful. However—they don’t actually keep the rain from falling. They just (hopefully) keep your hair from getting wet.

Rain can lead to more damage than just wet hair and it isn’t the only hazard.

There are earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, snowstorms—the list continues on and on.

The hazards may differ, but one thing that binds them all together? The need to be prepared for them. Regardless of whether an event comes with a warning or not, preparedness is crucial.

This week, we’ve seen it with a nor’easter bringing the potential for high amounts of snow, rain, and wintry mix along the eastern seaboard. Earlier this year, we saw the need to prepare for severe weather and tornadoes out in the Midwest and Ohio Valley and we’ve continued to see it with wildfires sweeping across Kansas and Oklahoma. Last year, communities were hit by Hurricane Matthew, flooding in Louisiana, and wildfires in Canada.

We want people to be prepared. We want them to be ready and self-sufficient; able to face whatever comes their way. By preparing for a disaster, people may have more control over what can often make them feel powerless; circumstances that are often out of their control.  After a large disaster, it can take time for local responders to get to each person who needs help and anything that someone is able to do prior, to anticipate an event, can help.   

When we provide guidance on preparing for disasters, there are standard supplies that we recommend—the non-perishable food items and bottles of water, the cash and digital copies of important documents. Those can carry over for any emergency. They’re staples.

But there are also more nuanced things for different people, like for pets and small children we recommend having their respective foods and toys to keep them occupied and reduce potential disaster-related stress.

Older Americans and those with access and functional needs might need backup medical supplies—anything that might fall under the category of basic necessities for survival.

Some hazards have specific tips and tricks to know. For winter weather, we recommend stashing extra blankets, hats, and gloves in your emergency kit—in case it’s extra cold and the heat or power fail. For hurricanes and wildfires, you should know evacuation routes in case you need to make a quick getaway.

And for some hazards, ones that come with very little notice, there are a lot of things to consider. And particularly when it comes to tornadoes, which are especially nuanced. There are particular instructions for when you’re inside versus outside and even what to do based on where you are in either of those scenarios.

If you’re inside, the safest place to be is sheltered in a basement or storm cellar. If those aren’t options, or if there’s an added threat of flooding, you could head to an interior room with no windows on the lowest level, like a bathroom. Get under a table and cover your head and neck with your arms and stay away from doors, windows, or walls that could be damaged by high winds or airborne debris.

If you are caught outside during a tornado, you should seek shelter indoors immediately. Don’t try and outrun the tornado with your car; go to an area noticeably lower than the roadway and cover your head with your arms to keep safe from potential flying debris. (Flying debris is often the biggest cause of injuries during a tornado.) And while you might think that getting under an overpass or bridge might be safe, it’s actually not. They can serve as wind tunnels and may even increase the speed of a tornado’s winds, making them even more dangerous.1

All of this makes it particularly more important to be prepared for them ahead of time.

And regardless of the emergency, you should always heed the advice and recommendations of local officials.

And preparedness isn’t just about preparing individuals and households—communities work to prepare too.

Preparing communities is essentially taking individual preparedness and putting it on a much larger scale. It’s making sure there are safe locations for citizens to shelter in place or evacuate to, such as local churches or schools, and ensuring the emergency alert systems are functional and working properly, by testing them periodically.

It isn’t just the public and the communities that prepare—we prepare too!

Remember that time we did a full-scale earthquake exercise and live-blogged it? Not only was that a really cool exercise, it’s exercises like that, and the others we do periodically throughout each year, that help us make sure that we have the capacity to respond to any event that comes our way.

We all know that rain, emergencies, and other disasters are inevitable. And when they happen, we want you to be ready for them—with go-kits, umbrellas, and raincoats within arm’s reach.


Related Content:



  1. Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness Webpage on Tornado Safety: