How to Prepare Your Family and Home for a Severe Storm

With winter storm season fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, we thought we’d share a piece from special guest writer Jim McKinley. Jim writes Money With Jim, where he shares his knowledge and experience about money, wealth and stewardship. This post has some ideas about how to manage the ultimate asset – your safety and well being – when a storm comes.


From the loud crashing noises to the threat of destruction, severe storms can be terrifying, particularly if you have a family. This is why it is always a good idea to have a set plan in place to deal with a storm, should one arise. We’re presenting, along with G.D. Herring, some ways to prepare yourself, your family, and your home for a big storm.

Different Types of Storms Require Different Preparation

Severe weather can happen anywhere, anytime; even though you can frequently see them approaching, sometimes storms can move quickly and with little warning. Know your area and its associated level of risk for thunderstorms, as well as tornadoes and floods. If you are in an area with frequent severe thunderstorms, trim, move, or cut any large trees too close to your house — given a powerful enough storm, the tree could fall on your house and cause great damage to your property. Tree removal can be dangerous so it’s best to hire professionals for the job. Review a professional services site like Angi tree service to find highly-rated professionals in your area. You should also know your home’s elevation, as this affects the chances of flood waters reaching your door. 

Have an Emergency Plan in Place

Ready.gov recommends meeting with your family to discuss storm preparation. The first thing to decide is how each member of your family will receive emergency alerts and updates. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a free app for your smartphone that provides alerts from the National Weather Service, shelter locations, and disaster safety tips. Next, you should have a shelter plan in place. Don’t count on your home being the de facto shelter — your family may not be together when the storm hits, so plan for several different frequented locations, including work, school, and the grocery store. Also, have an evacuation route planned in case you have to leave your house in a hurry. Finally, know how you will contact your family in the event of an emergency.

Once you have the basics of the plan, factor in your family’s particular needs. Are there medicines that need to be administered or specific dietary needs? What are the ages of your family members? Do you have pets that will require shelter as well? FEMA recommends that you write the plan down in detail and keep several copies, in several formats. Include maps of the area and of your house, with escape routes highlighted. Finally, practice the plan regularly as a family to minimize panic in the event of an actual emergency.

Protecting Yourself and Your Home During the Storm

When a major storm hits, you will need to follow your plan and all safety precautions. To use your home as shelter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests hiding out in a basement or an interior room with minimal windows, as they can break and become dangerous. Do not use electrical appliances. Also, just as high winds can uproot trees, they can also lift up cars or even people, so try not to go outside. If you are caught outside in the middle of a storm, be extremely careful of flying debris. Have an emergency kit with flashlights, provisions, and first aid prepared and easily accessible just in case.

If you do need to utilize appliances, make sure they’re protected by a surge protector. Without proper protection, appliances can sustain a great deal of damage during a storm. A whole house surge protector is ideal, or you can get a surge protector from your power company for a monthly fee.

Help Ease Your Children’s Fear

If you have children, it is important to help to keep them calm during a severe storm. With loud thunderclaps, flashes of lightning, cold rain, and gusts, thunderstorms put all the senses on high alert. To keep your children from getting overwhelmed, remain calm and try to distract them with games and activities. Storytelling can be a great way to comfort and engage your children — try telling a story together to involve everyone in the room. Similarly, music can help soothe a tense room. Put on some music your child enjoys, or, if your family is musically inclined, play some yourself! If you add blankets, pillows, and soft toys to your emergency kit, your children will feel more at ease.

If they are old enough, be sure to include children in the family planning! The calmest child is going to be the child who knows what to do and feels like they have something to contribute, so involve them whenever possible (provided their “job” doesn’t put them at undue risk of course!).

Remember: Put together your plan now to make your lives easier if a storm hits. Write out your emergency plan, have an emergency kit with provisions, and make sure your family knows each part of the strategy.  Preparation saves lives.


Jim McKinley is a retired banker with almost 30 years of experience in the financial world. He created Money with Jim to share his advice and other resources on a variety of financial topics.

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