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Top 5 Tips to Survive Severe Storms

University of Michigan Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Brad Uren, and Washtenaw County Medical Society President-Elect, has seen the aftermaths of severe storms and shared his top 5 tips to avoid becoming one of his patients in the ER.

1. Shelter

Like Bob Dylan, your first concern should be for shelter from the storm.

The safest rooms are located in basements, but those without should look for a closet, bathroom or other rooms with no windows on the ground floor.

Those living in mobile homes are particularly at-risk in severe weather events with strong wind. Uren said people in those communities should have a plan to reach more stable and secure structures quickly if a tornado is on the way.

Make sure everyone in your family knows where to go in case of a severe weather warning. If you have small children, it's a good idea to have run family "drills" so everyone is prepared when the time comes to take cover.

2. Food and Water

Uren recommends having three days of food and one gallon of water per family member per day, including the family's furrier members.

"People often don't think about their pets when they're planning for disasters," he said. "If you don't, then you'll end up sharing your water and food and everyone comes up short."

A first aid kit, a sharp tool to open cans and a hand crank radio also are on Uren's list of things to have stocked in a safe room on the interior of the lowest available floor of your home.

3. Did you forget...

The tornado siren sounds in the middle of the night and you run downstairs to a room in your basement.

You've prepared for this, and the room is stocked with everything you might need. You have a first aid kit, plenty of food and enough water for you and your family.

But you can't see any of it.

Uren said many people don't remember to bring their glasses when they seek shelter.

"If you need those to function, you should make sure to have an old pair with all the rest of your emergency supplies," he said.

While most people are aware of the necessary steps to take when severe weather strikes, Uren said they are often not fully prepared to deal with the aftermath of a very severe thunderstorm or tornado.

"One thing a lot of people don't think about is their medications," he said. "If there are meds you need, you have to make sure you have a few days supply with you. It can take up to 72 hours after a major disaster for help to arrive and refill those."

It's also important to remember basic necessities such as diapers if there are infants or toddlers in the home.

4. Cars are not (usually) the answer

Uren said the most dangerous urban legends about severe weather safety mostly have to do with cars.

"People think that if you're in a car, the rubber tires will keep you safe from any lightning danger," he said. "That's just not the case."

If you're in contact with the metal frame of a car, you're liable to receive any electrical shock that would come through the frame from a lightning strike. The strong burst of energy also can damage the car or even set parts of it on fire.

Cars are not fast enough to outrun tornadoes, and pulling over to the side of the road in a storm is only a good idea if you're dealing with straight-line winds. One common misconception is that an overpass is a safe place to wait out a strong storm.

"Someone once got a video when they were able to pull over and stop under an overpass and they survived a tornado by getting up in between the steel girders," Uren said.

"These days, most overpasses have concrete girders or you can't even access them, and without that, an overpass is an incredibly dangerous place because of how the wind can get concentrated there."

Of course, being in a car is still preferable to being out in the open and completely unprotected during a storm. The best thing to do is know when storms are coming so you can avoid being stranded.

5. Be serious and have a lot of back-ups

Do you have a flashlight? Stock up with extra batteries.

Is your cellphone fully charged? An external charging source is probably also a good idea.

Uren's biggest message is that things can always go wrong, and even as we hope for the best, we should always prepare for the worst.

"These things can be very real," he said. "Everyone near Ann Arbor will remember the Dexter tornado we had. We were very fortunate there were no fatalities and not a lot of serious injuries related to that."

Don't take severe weather warnings lightly, Uren said. Make sure to pay attention to local news and reports from the National Weather Service. Knowing when a storm is coming can give you enough time to take the proper precautions necessary to keep yourself and loved ones out of harm's way.

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