3 minute readDisaster, Preparedness
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Having a Plan Helped My Family Stay Safe during the Dayton Tornado

In that glorious window of time between putting the kids to bed and succumbing to sleep myself, I had planned to do the dishes. After I placed the baby in his crib, my husband came in from hauling mulch bags to report that a tornado watch alert had popped up on his phone.

We turned on the news to check and didn’t turn it off for the next four hours. We watched the radar as tornadoes formed. We heard meteorologists reporting with increasing urgency. And as we looked at our sweet kids sleeping via their video monitors, we wrestled with a decision no parent wants to face: when to grab the kids and head to our safe spot.

The final tornado warning came through just before midnight – a second possible tornado was forming behind the one that had already caused major destruction in Trotwood and Beavercreek. This new one had a potential southbound track.

We kept watching carefully, mindlessly repeating “Oh my gosh,” (as one does in unbelievable situations), trying to figure out what landmarks might be in the path.

While I normally stick to a quiet, dark room for nighttime feedings, last night I nursed the baby next to a glowing TV, obsessively refreshing Twitter and fielding new alerts on my Red Cross Emergency App. Thankfully, the last tornado-warned cell stayed north of us. I breathed a sigh of relief as my 6-month-old baby slept soundly on my chest with a full tummy, oblivious to the destruction we narrowly avoided.

There are three main things I have in place to stay safe and informed in emergency situations like this that I highly recommend other families put together. Luckily, the threat never got close enough to wake everyone and get in the bathtub, but we were ready.

Find a Way to Get Real-time Information

We don’t have cable, but when we cut the cord we decided to install an antenna to get local news stations. We really only turn it on if I wake up before the kids and can watch the TODAY show (it’s the little things, folks!), and for emergency weather situations. I would have been beside myself last night had we not been able to watch local meteorologists tracking tornado paths, which helped us make smart, informed decisions for our family.

I have our location saved in the Red Cross Emergency App, which sends out real-time alerts for a long list of possible disasters. I also have alerts saved for my family members, which came in handy last night as the storms headed straight to my sister’s town.

Additionally, I can check this app for other ideas about what preparedness items to collect, where to go and how to stay safe when my brain is in overdrive during an emergency.

Sarah and her son scrolling through the Red Cross Emergency App.

Have an Easy Action Plan

When we first moved into our single-story ranch home, we had to figure out our safe spot. Typically, it’s the most interior room on the lowest level of your home. We don’t have a basement, so we identified our master bathroom tub as the most interior spot in the house to shelter from a tornado. Last night we slipped on our tennis shoes (in case we had to walk through debris) and grabbed our bike helmets from the garage. The baby’s car seat was even moved to the bathroom in lieu of a helmet, and I found myself wishing I too had a five-point harness contraption for protection. We had pillows ready to cover our heads, and even a whistle in the room in case we needed to lead rescuers to our location.

My husband and I both know our safe spot, we know what items to grab (shoes, helmets, pillows, etc.) and even assigned ourselves each a kid to grab so we are on the same page and can act quickly.

A photo of Sarah's emergency gear for her family.

Stock Emergency Supplies and Water

This morning we learned we’re under a boil advisory and there’s an urgent need to conserve water, since the water plants are out of power. We already have gallons of water with spigots tucked in the corners of our garage, so I hauled one out for dishes, drinking and hand-washing. Thank goodness we already had them bought and stored – dragging a 3-year-old and a baby to the grocery store during a community-wide run for water would not be fun.

I also make sure to keep a rotating stock of dry goods that we can eat in case we lose electricity or water, and a host of other useful items like lanterns, a hand-crank radio and even cash for emergencies. I’m a big list maker, so luckily the Red Cross has already compiled some great ideas of what to have on hand for emergencies.

Sarah and her son washing their hands with a gallon of water.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Today I’m left with a sink full of dirty dishes, unable to use our water safely. If a boil advisory is all we are left with, and our friends and family members have checked in safe, I’m grateful. Many folks in our community are dealing with a long road of recovery, so I’m keeping my eye out for official accounts and established, reputable organizations to donate to and lend a hand to my neighbors.

(By the way, if you are wondering how you can prepare your own family, the American Red Cross has some awesome ideas to get started).