Severe weather preparedness tips from HCMC

by Hennepin Healthcare

Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 16-20, 2012.  Emergency preparedness experts at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) encourage you to take time to talk to your family, neighbors and co-workers about how you can prepare for severe weather events.

“Be sure you have identified a safe location within your home for family members to meet when storms are approaching,” explains Mark Lappe, Program Manager for Hennepin County Medical Center’s Emergency Management. “A  basement area with no windows is preferred. If you live in a mobile home or apartment discuss the safe meeting location with the management or landlord. In the event of damage to your home you should have a kit prepared that includes essential items.”

Lappe suggests that the following items be included in weather emergency kits :

  • A weather radio and flash lights with extra batteries
  • Bottled water and non perishable food items
  • Water sanitation supplies
  • Copies of all important documents and store them in a  secure location away from home
  • Extra cash
  • A list of all important numbers such as insurance policy numbers, drivers’ license, passport numbers, etc.
  • A “Go Bag” for each member of the family which includes clothes, medicines, toiletries and pastime items (books, cards, etc.)
  • Tennis shoes, helmet, car seat

New life for old shoes, bike helmets, car seats
Many people are injured when climbing out of the debris from a storm in flip flops, sandals, or bare feet — so reuse those old shoes so you can safely leave your home after a storm.

Following recent storms in the south and Midwest, experts are now also recommending that families keep helmets in severe weather kits along with the water and flashlights.

“Head injuries are a major cause of tornado-related deaths in the United States,” said Scott Crawford, MPH, a research assistant at the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to the medical examiner’s office in Jefferson County, Alabama, at least 11 of the 21 fatalities in the county in the wake of the massive April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak resulted from head or neck injuries. The researchers recommend the use of any helmet, or head covering made of a hard material and worn to protect the head from injury, stored in an easily and readily accessible location in the home, workplace or vehicle.

Julie Philbrook, RN, Trauma Prevention Specialist for HCMC suggests placing unused car seats and helmets in or near severe weather kits instead of throwing them away.

“If you have a car seat you are no longer using in a vehicle and extra helmets for biking or sports, keep them in or near your severe weather kit and put them on when the sirens sound. It is easy, inexpensive, and it could save your life.”

A safety helmet is any structurally sound helmet, such as a motorcycle helmet, football helmet, baseball helmet, bicycle helmet, skateboard helmet, or even a construction hardhatas long as the helmet’s original intended purpose is to minimize anatomical damage sustained as a result of high-velocity impacts.
For babies and younger children who might not fit in a helmet, a car seat can provide some protection for their head and neck. Families are encouraged to store unused car seats near their meeting area and harness the child into the seat during the severe weather alerts.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has created several useful tools and worksheets to use in your planning they can be found at

Make sure you get all the news on Severe Weather Week, Winter Hazards and other weather safety events! Subscribe to free Weather Awareness Notification Service to receive electronic updates.

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HCMC is the backbone of the state’s disaster preparedness system and a nationally recognized Level 1 Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital includes a 477-bed acute care hospital and primary care and specialty clinics located in downtown Minneapolis and surrounding communities.

For the fifteenth year in a row, Hennepin County Medical Center is listed in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the top U.S. Hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” report.