Severe Weather Safety

Staying safe starts with a plan

Develop a family disaster plan

  • Gather information about hazards. Contact your local National Weather Service office, emergency management office or civil defense office, and American Red Cross chapter. Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.
  • Ask yourself: Where will my family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere—at work, at school, or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe? Disasters may force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones were cut off?
  • Meet with your family to create a plan. Discuss the information you've gathered. Pick two places to meet: a spot right outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Choose an out-of-state friend as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if your family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate.
  • Implement your plan.
    1. Post emergency telephone numbers by phones.
    2. Install safety features in your house, such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
    3. Inspect your home for potential hazards (such as items that can move, fall, break, or catch fire) and correct them.
    4. Have your family learn basic safety measures, such as CPR and first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
    5. Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number.
    6. Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days.
    7. Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items you may need in case of an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks or duffel bags.
    8. Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.
    9. Keep a smaller disaster supplies kit in the trunk of your car.
  • Practice and maintain your plan. Ask questions to make sure your family remembers meeting places, phone numbers, and safety rules. Conduct drills. Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions. Replace stored water and food every six months.

Prepare a winter storm kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.
  • Extra food and water. High energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Extra medicine, baby items, and pet supplies.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc. Learn to use properly to prevent a fire and have proper ventilation.
  • Fire extinguisher and smoke detector. Test units regularly to ensure that they work.

During a storm:

  • Stay inside.
  • Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.
  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.:
    • Use fire safeguards.
    • Properly ventilate.

Prepare a summer storm kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information.
  • Food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Extra medicine, baby items, and pet supplies.
  • First-aid supplies.

During a storm:

  • Take shelter in a sturdy building if you're outdoors.
  • Stay away from doors and windows.
  • Use only wireless phones.
  • Don't use the shower or bathtub.
  • Unplug sensitive electronic appliances such as computers, TVs, VCR and DVD players, etc.
  • Make sure backup generators are properly wired to prevent backfeed which will harm electrical workers restoring power and damage your equipment once electric service is restored.
  • Stay away and call 911 if you see a fallen or low-hanging power line.

Prepare for possible flooding

  • Stock a supply of bottled drinking water and food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration. Your emergency kit also should contain a manual can opener, battery-powered radio and flashlight, extra batteries, medicines, and baby and pet supplies.
  • Charge your cell phone and keep the charger with you in case you need to leave your home.
  • Make sure your sump pump is operational and that the discharge hose isn't frozen or plugged. Pour some water into the sump to see if the pump starts. If it doesn't, check the electrical connections, consult your owner's manual, or call a plumber.
  • It's a good idea to have a battery-operated power supply or portable generator to run the sump pump and other critical electrical appliances in case of a power interruption. But remember to disconnect these power supplies if you must evacuate. Learn about generator safety.
  • Plug basement floor drains, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets in case your basement floods or the power goes out.
  • Do not use power tools or other electrical appliances in damp or wet areas. 
  • If you must evacuate your home or business and can shut off your main breaker or fuse box safely, do so. If you don't know how, call customer service toll-free at 800-257-4044 or 218-739-8877 for advice or assistance.

During or after a flood

We'll disconnect your electric service:

  • At your request.
  • If ordered to do so by a governing authority.
  • In the event of imminent threat to life.

So, it's important to plan ahead. Make note of our toll-free customer service number, 800-257-4044 or 218-739-8877, and allow us adequate time to safely disconnect your service.

If your home has been without electrical service due to a flood-related power interruption, electrical codes may require an electrical inspector’s wiring certificate before your home can be reenergized.

Because high water levels may reduce line clearances, flood-response personnel must be especially alert when their work in flooded areas might put them in contact with energized electrical equipment including overhead lines, transformers, and substations.

Safety reminders

  • If you have water in your basement, do not go down there to shut off your main breaker or fuse box.
  • Do not go near any flooded areas, including basements, if the water level has reached any part of the electrical system such as electrical outlets or the electrical connections on water heaters, water softeners, heating systems, etc.
  • Don't attempt to operate equipment or electrical appliances that have been submerged in floodwater.
  • Don't even consider going near a downed power line or near water that's in contact with any electrical component such as a pad-mount transformer or a downed power line.