Louisiana residents are no strangers to weather emergencies, which often come in the form of devastating tornadoes, floods or hurricanes.
Severe Weather Awareness Week, organized by the National Weather Service, is dedicated every year to spreading knowledge about what those warnings mean, how to act, and how best to keep you and your family safe. This year’s event was hosted by the City of Bossier City at the BCFD Public Safety Training Complex, a facility equipped to house an Emergency Operations Center if the need arises.
The NWS Shreveport office, along with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and the American Red Cross, are urging residents to not only equip themselves with information, but to also take steps now to ensure they’re ready when severe weather strikes.
When it comes to tornado safety, its crucial to know what to do when one threatens your area. During a tornado warning:
- You should go to the lowest level of building if you’re in a single family home. If there’s no basement, which is likely the case in Louisiana, go to a closet, bathroom or interior hallway away from windows. The goal is to put as many walls between the outside and you as possible.
- In larger buildings such as schools, factories or shopping malls, go to designated shelter areas like interior hallways or lowest floors. Kneel on the floor against the wall and put your hands over your head.
- If you’re in mobile or manufactured home, keep in mind that these are not safe shelters during a tornado. It’s best to make a plan for where you would evacuate, verify that location the day before storms are forecast, and consider evacuating when a Tornado Watch is issued, because it may be too dangerous by the time a warning is issued.
When facing severe thunderstorms, the NWS Shreveport reminds you to move indoors and away from windows. Be aware of trees that could fall onto your home, and move to areas where this would be less likely to happen.
Lightning can also be dangerous, and you’re urged to remember this rule: When thunder roars, go indoors. This rule can help prevent you being struck by lightning.
Another weather emergency that is not uncommon in Louisiana is flash flooding. When the forecast calls for this possibility:
- Avoid low lying areas and don’t camp or park your vehicle along streams or washes.
- If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and move to higher ground.
- NEVER attempt to drive across roadways that are covered in water. Always remember: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
GOHSEP encourages everyone to be weather-ready, which means checking the forecast, monitoring your local NWS office and stay tuned to your local meteorologists. You should also sign up for emergency alert notifications in your community and follow those agencies on social media. You’re also urged to create a communications plan with your family that includes designating a meeting place and identifying a safe room inside your home.
Preparing your home for a severe weather event, reminds GOHSEP, is another important step. Keep tree branches trimmed, secure loose objects, close windows and doors, and move valuables inside if possible.
GOHSEP says insurance is still the number one way you can protect your home, so you should routinely perform an “insurance check-up” to ensure you have enough homeowners insurance to cover repairs or even a home replacement. Always keep in mind that flooding is a separate policy.
Find GOHSEP’s full Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide here.
The American Red Cross emphasizes the need to have an emergency survival kit packed and ready. They suggest including basic supplies such as:
- Water (one gallon per person, per day)
- Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food items
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA radio if possible)
- First Aid kit
- 7-day supply of any medications you take
- A multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation & personal hygiene items
- Copies of important personal documents (medication lists, proof of address, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phones with extra chargers
- Family & emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
Additional items may be necessary based on the region where you live and the severe weather that’s common in your area. Get more safety preparedness tips from the American Red Cross here.