Preparedness Urged for Seasonal Severe Weather

Wednesday, April 08, 2015 | 06:01am

NASHVILLE – While a tornado can occur anytime throughout the year, the peak risk months in Tennessee for property damage and loss of life from twisters and floods are March, April and May.  Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency this week reminded residents of the need to be alert for severe weather public messaging and to have a plan to protect themselves and their families.

“In 2014, a total of 47 people in nine states, including two in Tennessee, were killed by tornadoes,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.  “Hundreds of others were injured and property damage ran into the billions of dollars.  All of us, especially at this time of the year, need to have a heightened awareness about storm activity and the potential for injuries and death.  We each need to have a personal protection plan for ourselves and our families – and that should include where to shelter if a tornado is heading your way and having resources to be self-sufficient for at least three days.”

“Though Tennessee has an excellent network of first responders and trained professionals to work in emergency situations, in some extreme situations individuals may need to take care of themselves until aid or assistance can arrive,” said TEMA Deputy Commissioner David Purkey.  “Having a plan and a kit of supplies to meet personal needs can be critically important in saving a life and/or protecting health.”

A basic checklist of kit elements should include:

  • First aid kit, containing medications and medical supplies
  • Hand-crank or battery powered weather radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • One gallon of water per person per day
  • Non-perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Extra cash
  • Bedding supplies
  • Change of clothes
  • Sanitation/hygiene items
  • Copies of important documents
  • Matches
  • Gloves
  • Plastic sheeting

A protection plan should include designating a place to shelter quickly, a meeting location if loved ones are separated and identifying a contact person to check on your well-being. At least twice a year, families should practice sheltering, evacuation and evaluating their preparedness kit supplies.  Families with pets or livestock should consider preparedness efforts to protect animals.

Residents should also understand the difference in public messaging regarding tornado watches and tornado warnings.  A tornado watch means current weather conditions are favorable for a tornado to develop.  A tornado warning is an alert that a tornado has actually been observed on the ground or that a radar unit has recorded a wind rotation within a storm cell.

“Weather experts have gotten much better in recent years in predicting and assessing threats,” Dreyzehner said.  “Even so, tornadoes may develop quickly and strike with little or no warning. Giving some thought now to protecting yourself and others from harm, and planning to take care of basic needs after damage has occurred, can make a big difference in your life.”

“Minutes matter when a tornado is approaching,” Purkey said.  “Know now what you would do if a funnel cloud was approaching and be prepared to take care of yourself and your family with crucial supplies. If you are trusting on others to help you, understand they may be overwhelmed with helping many others.  Have a plan; have a kit.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

Press Releases | Health | Tennessee Emergency Management Agency