Main Content

‘Set to Go’ for Anything


The author is a Broadcast Meteorologist and TV personality at The Weather Channel

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Jim Cantore do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

After last year’s historic year for devastating tornadoes, we all recall the scenes that played out in places like Joplin and Tuscaloosa. But it’s important to note that severe weather occurs year-round.

During the first National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, everybody needs to realize what disasters they are prone to, depending on where they live, and most importantly be prepared for them. After tracking storms for twenty-five years, I’ve learned a few things, both from the storms and from people who survive them.

You can’t prevent severe weather, but everyone can be better prepared. I’ve got my kit set to go at all times, stocked with food, water, a flashlight, batteries, chargers, and plastic bags for important papers. I have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, because it’s my job, but we should all have a kit and a plan in case we ever need to evacuate quickly. Even my two kids are ready in case there is a disaster. The basement is always set to go with food, water and other key items including helmets to prevent head injuries. If you’re taking shelter from a tornado, put on a baseball helmet to prevent head injuries. You also might not think to bring shoes. Putting shoes in your basement, shelter or kit will protect your feet in case you have to climb out over debris after a storm.

And don’t forget that not only you should be prepped, but you should prepare your home for disaster potential as well. If you’re building or fortifying your home, and you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, think about options like fireproofing your roof. If your area is prone to hurricanes, tornadoes or windstorms, consider wind resistant roofs.

Severe weather doesn’t always allow us time to get ready – so you should already have a plan. Even tornadoes that tear buildings off their foundations may start as small funnels, and grow within minutes. Have a plan for what you would do if you need to evacuate or take shelter. Remember that people with disabilities, access or functional needs probably need additional time. Plan for this and also for additional items you may need like chargers for electrical equipment, or medications to last several days.

Part of your plan should be communication, too. I wish I could have used Twitter in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina to tweet out that I was safe, because most methods of communication were down. Now, I use Twitter and Facebook a lot as a part of my severe weather arsenal. Technology has come a long way, and there are many ways to be warned of pending doom. So, like most people, you probably have multiple ways of receiving warnings.

Sometimes warnings come from friends or family but can also come from our local TV or radio stations, social media, local sirens, or from NOAA Weather Radios. These radios save lives. I’ve seen it. Just make sure that you seek help if you need it for programming your NOAA Weather Radio. You may want to only receive certain warnings, such as a tornado warning, so that you don’t become desensitized. We know from studies that when people are warned of severe weather, they tend to seek out reassurance of that warning. Please take these warnings seriously, and follow instructions. It’s worth it because we’ve all seen how quickly severe weather can move in.

When I’m tracking a storm, the main thing I’m thinking about is getting people out of harm’s way. I’m wondering, are people getting the warnings and are they heeding them. Even though I’m on the coast, Hurricanes impact areas well inland. An example of that occurred last summer in my home state, Vermont, with devastating flooding from Irene.

Even if it seems unlikely to you that a hurricane will come inland, you should heed those warnings. We have countless examples of this occurring, such as flooding from Irene in Vermont last summer, and Hurricane Katrina.

With every disaster I’m amazed at how survivors and fellow Americans rise to the challenge of supporting the recovery process. One recent story stood out to me from Thurman, Iowa. They experienced an EF2 tornado with winds up to 125 mph. They were fortunate that there were no casualties, but the tornado left much destruction in its path. Within hours, the little town of 238 swelled to 900 with volunteers from neighboring towns and states to help with the clean-up effort. Being weather ready means being ready to help your neighbor as well.

Be a Force of Nature in your own communities. Just like in Thurman, your whole community needs you. Pledge to prepare at The Weather Channel Million Preparedness Pledge, and be an example to others.

Want to learn more? Here are some more of my picks for preparedness links:, and

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:27