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Being prepared for a disaster means playing for keeps

Do you know what to do when a storm hits? Do your kids and grandkids know?

April 30, 2020

3 Min Read
fallen tree on Tom Bechman's roof
DIRECT HIT: Here is proof that the storm doesn’t always just hit somewhere else. This tree hit the author’s house. Are you prepared if a storm is headed toward your place?Tom J. Bechman

When is it time to talk about what to do if a severe thunderstorm approaches? It’s not when it’s on top of you!

In the 30-plus years my wife, Carla, and I have lived in our present home, we’ve never had one hit as hard as on Wednesday evening, April 8. Carla and I were at a friend’s house when Carla’s phone beeped — a tornado warning! We all heard sirens. Carla and I ran for the van.

We saw lightning ahead. I called our daughter, Ashley, who lives with us with her four young children. I said, ‘Be home soon — clear space over the trap door,” and hung up.

About 400 feet from home, the wind blasted sideways. Carla feared the van would topple.

“Keep going,” I yelled. “It’s our only choice.”

Inside the house, Ashley had her kids ready to go into the crawl space. I joined them, pulling the lid shut. Carla took shelter in a closet.

I’m not sure we ever explained to our grandkids what a tornado shelter was for. Obviously, we should have. This was not the time!

With a few prayers and assurances that the crawl space wouldn’t flood, they calmed down. After crashing and banging, the storm passed.

Get prepared

This experience reminded me that knowing what to do when a bad storm threatens is crucial. Practicing drills with all family members is something most of us neglect. Yet it’s worth it. Even a moment’s indecision in knowing the best place to go could spell the difference between safety and disaster.

Bill Field and his staff have filled a website with helpful information for preparing for natural disasters — even for coping with COVID-19. Find it at

If you click on “Resources” and then scroll down to “PREPnotes,” you’ll find a series of one-page bulletins with useful information. I found “Helping children to cope before a disaster strikes.” The opening lines say it all: “Your family may realize clearly after a disaster what should have been done. But whatever the crisis … some thought and action beforehand can usually help the members react more wisely.”

Tips include giving children familiar patterns to follow, and basic information and supplies for meeting a variety of possible situations. It also mentions actively talking, practicing and actively preparing together so you can make the unknown more familiar to them. Take it from me, that would help!

Back on the home page, I clicked on “Disaster info,” then “Thunderstorms,” and then “Get GoBag.” A Home Emergency Kit GoBag checklist with 20 items pops up. Here are a few you may not have thought about to have handy: a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio with tone alert, and a simple whistle to signal for help. How about a multiwrench tool and pliers, plus a first aid kit?

Check out the website. It certainly would have helped us be more prepared on April 8. By the way, my birthday was April 9. When I woke up to more storm damage than I found the night before, someone said, “Wow, what a great birthday.”

My response? “It was a great birthday. We were all alive and safe. It could have been much worse. Praise God!”

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