Severe Weather Awareness: What To Do In The Event Of Severe Weather

Severe Weather Awareness: What To Do In The Event Of Severe Weather

severe weather

“Boo Doo Dee Doo Doop…
The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities has issued a tornado watch for all of Delaware County.

Boo Doo Dee Doo Doop…
Paging the Dundee Fire Department for storm watch.”

I grew up near Backbone State Park (the oldest state park in Iowa), and my dad was (and still is) a volunteer firefighter for the local community.

When the pager tones went off for storm watch, my heart would begin to race a little, then I would watch my dad grab his wallet and keys, and he’d rush out the door, giving me the “look.” This “look” meant many things:

  • Follow mom’s directions.
  • Stay with your sisters.
  • Make sure Bob and Babe get here.

Bob and Babe were our elderly neighbors who did not have a basement, so we always made sure that we would get Bob and Babe to our house when there was severe weather.

As I got older, I became more intrigued by ‘storm watch’ and began to ask my dad more questions. I knew from the radio communication on dad’s pager that storm watch meant he’d be on “Wolf Hill” in the firetruck… but never did I know what it truly meant…

Until one day, at age 16, when I joined the fire department as a Junior Firefighter and began training.

At age 18, I completed and passed my Firefighter 1 course and became a firefighter. Years later, I completed my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class and became a National and State Registered EMT for Robins Fire Department.

Alyssa Williams,      Firefighter and EMT

My passion for becoming a firefighter was motivated by storm watch, the desire to serve my community and help others. My dad (firefighter for over 25 years) and my late uncle Scott (firefighter and EMT for over 25 years) also heavily influenced my decision to join the fire service. Sadly, my uncle passed away at 50 from a massive heart attack in the hospital’s parking lot. We often called him “radioman,” and he was also highly interested in severe weather.

The storm season always gets my adrenaline pumping, and with Severe Weather Awareness Week on March 21-25th, 2022, I wanted to share some knowledge, tips, and things you can do to help keep your loved ones safe should the siren sound.

I also partnered with Jason Alt; EMS Director, Fire Officer, Inspector I with the Robins Fire Department, and a Lieutenant with Linn County Haz-Mat team. Lieutenant Alt is a 27-year veteran in the Fire/EMS service and has a passion for serving his community and teaching others. 

Jason Alt
Jason Alt, EMS Director, Fire Officer, and Inspector I with the Robins Fire Department, and a Lieutenant with Linn County Haz-Mat team



Severe Weather Awareness Week: March 21-25, 2022
Statewide Tornado Drill: Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at 10 AM

Storm season is upon us, and unfortunately, every year in the United States, hundreds of people are killed, and thousands are injured due to the weather.

While we can’t control mother nature or stop dangerous weather from affecting us, there are things we can do to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe when the weather turns nasty.

Here is a list of ways to prepare and things you should know as we head into storm season.

1. Know the difference between a watch and a warning.

Watch: Be prepared…  severe weather is possible!

A tornado watch is when the conditions are right, sort of like a recipe. -Jason Alt.

  • Check for forecast update
  • Safely monitor and watch the sky conditions
  • Know where to take shelter

Warning: Severe weather is imminent. A tornado warning means that a funnel or tornado is either confirmed by trained spotters or radar indicated.

  • Seek shelter immediately
  • Get further information
  • Check for forecast updates

2. Make sure you have ways of being informed.

Local to Cedar Rapids? Subscribe to CR NEWS NOW for weather alerts sent directly from the National Weather Service. It’s also a good idea to get a weather radio. Here are a few that we have tried:

3. Have a plan and an emergency kit ready to go.

It’s always essential to have a plan in place. You can and should practice your plan with your family! Here’s what your plan should include:

  • Know your safe room: Pick a safe space in your home where household members, guests, and pets can gather during dangerous weather. Ideally, this would be located in the basement or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Have an Emergency Kit ready and stocked.

An Emergency Kit should include:

  • Water and canned or dried food
  • Can opener (if you have canned food in your kit)
  • Battery Powered Radio (Note: A smartphone is convenient and may provide the latest emergency weather information; however, it should not be relied on)
  • Flashlight (2 to 3)
  • Extra batteries
  • First Aid-Kit
  • Medicine
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Dust mask or cotton t-shirts for each person in the family
  • Whistle

“With storm season approaching, it’s a good idea to put together a safety kit for when time is limited to seek shelter. Have on hand bottled water and a flashlight. Sometimes a granola bar or two is handy,” says Alt.

It’s also a good idea to have the following on hand in addition to an emergency kit:

Know what to do in the event of a tornado. 

Make sure you’re prepared, have your emergency kit ready, and stay aware of your surroundings.

It’s crucial that you find shelter quickly after a tornado siren. Outdoor warning sirens sound when wind or hail potentials reach damaging levels, and it’s essential to take them seriously.

  • Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (i.e., bathroom, center hallway, closet)
  • Avoid sheltering in a room with windows.
  • Get under something sturdy for added protection (i.e., table, workbench); cover with a blanket/sleeping bag/mattress; protect your head.

“Tornados can change direction very quickly, and a perceived safe vantage point may not be rapidly. Strongly resist the urge to look out windows or doors. Taking pictures with cellular devices is not worth your safety. It also creates a secondary hazard for rescue crews who will have to brave the elements to perform a rescue that maybe didn’t need to happen had everyone sought shelter. When advised by authorities to seek shelter do that.” – Alt

Take Precautions During and After a Storm

Storms can wreak havoc on the community (as we all know too well). It’s important to remember that even after a storm has passed, you still need to use safety precautions as you move about town.

Do not drive over downed lines. Downed power lines can still be energized and disperse energy to any ground potential up to 16 feet away.

Never drive through standing water on a road. It takes 6 inches of water to lift a car off its contact with the pavement. Going through water may also force responders to execute dangerous rescues.

Learn more about the hazards from the National Weather Service below to see how you can be prepared and ready to react to dangerous weather.





In case of an emergency always dial 911.

Linn County Emergency Management has also prepared a great list for Emergency Preparedness that covers before the disaster, benefits of being prepared, knowing your child’s school emergency plan, plans for pet needs, and more.

Check out Must-Have Spring Items and Emergency Preparedness.

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