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Surviving Severe Weather: Essential Safety Tips

Each year, our area typically sees around 56 days of severe weather. Spring weather is right around the corner, marking the beginning of the severe weather season. Being aware of what constitutes hazardous weather and what you can do to prepare is important to keep yourself and others safe, both at the office and at home.

Doherty Staffing Solutions prioritizes the health and safety of our employees, workforce, and team members, which is why we share safety tips to help inform and prevent accidents from occurring. In this article, you will learn more about severe weather and how to prepare for some of the most common severe weather types.

What is Severe Weather?

Severe weather is defined as weather events that have the potential to cause the loss of life or injuries, significant damage to structures, or any other serious disruption to communities. These kinds of weather can of course vary, but some of the most common severe weather events are storms that include tornadoes, high winds, hail, thunder/lightning, or flooding. Additionally, in the summer, there are risks for hazards caused by excessive heat and drought, such as wildfires.

While it is impossible to prevent severe weather from occurring, there are best practices for staying safe during a storm. Next, we will cover the most common severe weather events and what you can do to prepare for each one.

Staying Safe During Severe Weather

When encountering severe weather, it is important not to panic, but to move to safety as quickly as possible. If you’re working in an office or within a facility when severe weather hits, here are some rules of thumb to follow:

  • Move to the lowest floor you can access. This may be a basement area or the ground floor of the building.
  • Stay away from windows, glass doors, or other sheet glass (e.g. skylights) that may shatter from wind and debris.
  • Head to a room or area surrounded by interior walls (e.g. bathrooms, hallways). This will provide more insulation from severe weather outside.
  • Get under a desk with the opening under the desk facing away from windows or glass doors.

Next, we will cover the specific steps for keeping yourself safe in severe thunderstorms with straight-line winds, tornadoes, and flash floods. It is important to note that in every category, paying attention to weather alerts/warnings and taking them seriously is critical.

Severe Thunderstorm Straight-line Winds

Severe thunderstorms with straight-line winds, defined as high-speed winds (reaching 100-150 mph) without rotation, can cause serious damage and threat to life. Be aware that tall trees near a building can be uprooted by straight-line winds, which can result in a tree falling into surrounding structures. Similarly, powerful straight-line winds can overturn cars and lift other objects off of the ground, making it critical to stay indoors. One type of straight-line wind event is a downburst, which is a small area of rapidly descending rain-cooled air and rain beneath a thunderstorm. A downburst can cause damage equivalent to a strong tornado.

Here is what you can do to keep yourself safe during this type of severe weather:

  1. If you are driving, turn around and go home, or find a nearby building to seek shelter inside.
  2. If a severe thunderstorm warning contains hurricane-force wind speeds (74+ mph) seek shelter immediately as you would for a tornado situation.
  3. Stay away from windows and go to the basement or an interior room/hallway.
  4. Do not use electrical appliances connected to outlets.

Tornados are another type of dangerous severe weather. Although not as common as thunderstorms or floods, it is still critical to know what to do in the case of a tornado. Here is what you can do to stay safe:

  1. Seek shelter in a sturdy building or a pre-designated building/space. Go to the lowest level of the building, preferably in a basement, and get under a heavy desk or workbench or sit next to the wall and cover your head with your arms and hands.
  2. If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room/hallway – put as many walls between you and the outside of the building as possible, and stay away from windows. You may want to get into a bathtub or under a mattress or sofa, if available.
  3. Get out of vehicles, as they can easily be tossed around; do not try to outrun a tornado.
  4. If caught outside, lie flat on the ground and cover your head with your hands. Remember, in tornado situations debris likes to settle in roadside ditches or other low spots. If heavy rains are falling in the area, ditches and low spots may quickly flood. Therefore, sheltering in a ditch is not advised.
  5. Be aware of flying debris, as most deaths and injuries during tornadoes are caused by being hit with objects in flight.
  6. Don’t waste time opening windows and doors to equalize air pressure differences, as buildings have enough air leakage to equalize air pressure differences anyway. Buildings are more likely to explode after the wind gets inside.
  7. Remember a tornado can occur before there is a visible funnel cloud. A tornado is nothing more than a violently rotating column of air extending from the ground to the cloud base. You may not be able to see the tornado until enough debris and dirt get swept into the vortex, and/or the visible funnel cloud develops onto the ground.
Torrents & Flash Floods

Lastly, we will cover tips on how to stay safe during torrents and flash floods.

  1. Nearly half of all fatalities in a flash flood involve a person driving a vehicle. It takes only two feet of water to float away most cars, so do not drive into a flooded area.
  2. It takes only six inches of fast-moving water to sweep a person off their feet, which is why it is important not to walk through a flooded area
  3. If you are camping in a river valley, move to higher ground if thunderstorms with heavy rains are in the area. Do not attempt to drive away.
  4. Don’t operate electrical tools in flooded areas.
  5. Most flash flood deaths occur in the middle of the night when it is more difficult to see rising water levels and judge the depth of water covering road surfaces. If there are warnings for flash floods, wait until daylight for any necessary travel.

We hope that you feel better informed about severe weather and what to do to keep yourself and others safe from harm during the weather events that we covered in this article.

Doherty Staffing Solutions publishes safety tips for keeping our workforce, team members, and employees safe, plus we also offer industry insights, tips, and robust workforce solutions. Learn more by checking out our blog, or get in touch with one of our employment experts today!