Last week, just like many of you, I was nervously listening to the crash of thunder and watching the strobe effects of lightning outside my window - even as I was watching TV and hearing weathermen tell the folks of Clovis , NM , to “take shelter immediately”. I was wondering what it must be like for the people hearing that bulletin. Were they scrambling to take shelter? Were they safe from a tornado that was bearing down upon their town? Or were they thinking that their odds of being hit were slimmer than their odds of being missed? And thus they weren't taking the warning seriously? Right behind those questions came this one….what would I do if Doppler Dave was telling the citizens of Boise City to take shelter immediately?
It would all depend on the time frame that accompanied the word “immediate”. If I had about fifteen minutes before the tornado (might possibly) strike our little town, I would call and make sure my family was on their way to my basement. I would then whistle for the dogs, pick up the cat, grab the cell phone along with a flashlight, and head downstairs. But if I had only a few minutes I would pull the mattress off my bed, drag it into the center hallway, hope the dogs and cat were safe, and pray - not only for my family's safety, but the safety of the entire town.
Would I have been making the right decisions if I had done what I said I'd do? Well, according to the information I have garnered in my emergency management studies - yes, and no. One of the most important elements in personal safety is to prepare before an emergency arises. If I had been prepared, my family and I would have already discussed where to meet (my basement). Valuable time wouldn't have been used on telephone calls. I would have already assembled a “disaster supply bag” - which should include a first aid kit, essentials, a battery-operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries and had it stored in the basement. I would have had on hand a case of bottled water and canned food.
As to where I chose to shelter, I made the right decisions. A basement is the best place to be during a tornado. If you don't have a basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor is where you should shelter. Protection of your body is vital, so pulling the mattress off your bed, or covering up with blankets and pillows is the thing to do.
Since I dearly love my animals, I know that a sticky point would occur if I had only minutes to seek protection. How many seconds of those minutes would I spend gathering them near me, and would I seek to protect them above protecting myself? I have read of cases where people died because they were trying to save a pet, but ultimately, preserving our own life must supersede our love for our animals when a tornado is roaring just beyond the window.
All of us must take the time to think about what we would do and what we should do “just in case” we are confronted with those words, “take shelter immediately”. We should all make plans and talk them over with our nearest and dearest ones. Decisions made beforehand are concise, thought-out and rational. Decisions made “on the fly” seconds before the storm hits are the ones that we may look back on with regret. And you know the old adage truly is true - better safe than sorry! Here's to all of us being safe!