Severe weather can happen year round, as we saw with the December 2015 tornadoes. When it does, or has the potential to, the National Weather Service issues alerts in the form of Watches and Warnings. But what do these terms mean, and what should you do when they are issued?
A WATCH means just that – Watch Out! Severe weather has the potential to happen. The indicators are there for an event, like a thunderstorm or tornado, to occur. When a watch is issued, prepare to take – or get to – shelter. Keep an eye on the weather through broadcast media, NOAA radios, or your device. Locate your emergency kit and have it handy.
When a watch is issued, bring in pets and secure anything that can blow away. If you're outside, identify the nearest secure shelter and head that way. Get off the roads if at all possible. Don't wait for the warning to occur. Many storms are fast-moving and can go from possible to happening very quickly.
A WARNING means severe weather is HAPPENING or about to happen. When a warning issued take immediate shelter with your family, your pets, your NOAA radio, and your emergency kit. Shelter should be in the lowest possible level of a building – such as a basement if possible. Get to an interior, windowless room – like a bathroom, closet, or underneath a stairwell.
When warnings are issued, they're generally for a more localized area than a watch – covering smaller areas and, perhaps, shorter periods of time. When warnings occur, follow the instructions and take battery powered devices to your designated shelter spot to keep current on information. That will also let you know when it's safe to resume your activities.
When preparing for watches and warnings, check your emergency kit regularly for expired items. Make sure the batteries are replaced, recharged, or your device can be powered through alternative methods – like a hand crank. If you don't have a kit click HERE for advice on how to build a kit. Talk with your family about your plans for communication and what to do if you're separated. If you don't have a plan our Planning Tool helps you put one together.
Remember: Build a Kit, Make a Plan, Get Informed.