According to CNN in 2017, a category 4 hurricane named Harvey hit Texas, causing up to $75 billion worth of damage and dislocating about 30,000 residents. Shortly after, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico even harder, blacking out large parts of the island for months. Read how the devastation is still a problem at National Geographic.

Severe weather can strike at any time and if you live in a big city, advance notice may not be enough to keep you safe. Severe weather storms can include thunderstorms, which can cause severe flooding, lightning, hail and tornadoes. NOAA is the federal agency tasked with tracking these storms and they issue about 15,000 severe storm and tornado warnings each year.

How can you keep your family safe from these events?

Disaster Planning Is Key

It’s important to plan ahead to make sure that you can keep your family safe. Proper planning includes:

  • Creating emergency kits.
  • Knowing how to get information during an emergency.
  • Creating a plan for your family.
  • Keeping your children distracted through difficult times.

Let’s look at each item and what you need.

Emergency Kits

Depending on where you live, this kit will help you survive the storm. Some of the key elements you should have in it include:

  • At least a gallon of water and nonperishable food.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries.
  • A first aid kit and whistle.

You may want to set up an emergency bag in advance. Also don’t forget to pack all the necessary items such as contact lens, eyeglasses, car keys and medications. It might be wise to have spares of some of those items if you live in a high-risk area. Learn what else to add to your kit from Stormwise.

Getting Information

Information is critical before, during, and after an emergency. You need to make sure you can keep in touch with family, as well as know if storm warnings and instructions from officials change even if the phone lines go down. You also need to keep advised if flood evacuation routes are altered or closed.

One way to keep up with the data is by signing up to receive text messages from FEMA during the emergency. also has more tips on what to do in case of a hurricane, including signing up for local emergency alerts.

Creating A Plan For Your Family

Create a plan that fits your family. This may look different, depending on if you have pets or anyone in the family who needs special assistance. Some family members may require additional assistance like a wheelchair-bound individual or someone who uses a walker.

Once you have a plan in place, you should run drills so everyone knows what to do if and when a severe storm strikes, including what to do if separated and where to rendezvous. If you have younger children, recommends preparing them in advance by reading books about disasters.

Keeping The Kids Distracted

During the storm, the kids might be frightened. To help them, use activities to distract them particularly during the worst parts of the storm. Here are some activities you can do:

  • Do a scavenger hunt.
    Plan this out in advance and buy some fun reward toys for the end of the hunt. Doing a flashlight hunt is a good distraction when the lights are out.
  • Family storytelling.
    Sit everyone in a circle on the floor and have each person put the flashlight to their chin. Let them tell three sentences of a story before passing it on to the next person. See how many rounds you can go.
  • Listening to music.
    Pick songs that are upbeat, happy and inspire dancing, turning your darkened room into a kids’ dance club.

If your children are still fearful, try these ideas from on what to do to help them.

Storm emergencies are not fun and can be frightening for kids. Plan in advance to make sure you are all safe and help the children stay calm.

Written by
Mark Conner with Drive Safely