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Emergency Response

Guest blogger Mary Riley is the Director of ACF’s Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness Response CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service.

Image of a tornado funnel.As the first day of spring approaches, many Americans look forward to picnics, outdoor sports, and lower utility bills. For the Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (OHSEPR), springtime means the beginning of extreme weather conditions that can cause tornados.

Last year, 550 lost their lives to tornados in the United States. In early March, tornados struck several Midwestern states, killing 39 in one day.

For every tragic death, there are hundreds of survivors wrestling with the storm’s aftermath. Even if your house escapes the wrath of a tornado, your access to basic necessities and services could be disrupted.  Thus, every family should have an emergency plan.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an excellent on-line resource to help communities prepare for all types of emergencies: has three simple recommendations for folks in areas prone to tornados: Be Informed, Make a Plan and Build a Kit.

  • Being informed means recognizing threats before they happen. Get access to a weather radio. Monitor dangerous weather conditions. Know the difference between a watch and a warning.
  • Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to radio and television reports.
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Making a plan in advance is essential because when disaster strikes, your family may not be together. includes a basic information sheet that asks you to write down important information like contact phone numbers, locations where family members work or attend school, and the designated location where family members have agreed to meet after a disaster.
  • Building a kit to survive an emergency means gathering what you would need for 72 hours. After a storm hits, electricity, gas, water, and telephones may be down for days, weeks or even longer. Prepare your supplies ahead of time, so you can grab them at a moment’s notice. provides a checklist, which advises you to include three days’ worth of prescription medicine, cash, blankets, complete change of clothing, and hygiene supplies.

The Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response encourages you to talk with your family today. The 30 minutes you spend at the dinner table devising an emergency plan will help you and your loved ones not only find each other after a disaster, but most importantly, survive one.


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