Severe weather watches and warnings should never be ignored. Those alerts tell you how strong a storm is and give you an idea how much time you have to prepare. 

It is no secret tornadoes, fierce thunderstorms and lightning, floods and other severe weather could be life threatening. According to www.ready.gov, preliminary data for 2012 reflects more than 450 weather related deaths and close to 2,600 injuries. 

Understanding the difference between a hazardous weather outlook and a tornado warning, for instance, could save your life. For the record, a hazardous weather outlook forecasts whether or not there will be severe weather, including severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, for up to a seven-day span, said Sutherland, Asst. Extension Specialist at Oklahoma Mesonet. On the other hand, severe thunderstorm and tornado watches are issued when current conditions are favorable for thunderstorms or tornadoes, along with hail and damaging winds.

Meanwhile, a severe thunderstorm warning means a storm with hail and/or damaging winds was seen on radar or identified by a storm spotter, and a tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted or radar activity indicates one could be forming. 

Severe thunderstorm warnings will tell you exactly what to expect in terms of wind speed and the size of possible hail. If you’re in an area where a tornado warning has been issued, seek shelter immediately and put your emergency plan into action.

Any emergency plan should incorporate designated meeting places both in and out of the neighborhood, as well as out of town. The plan also should document the location and contact information of places family members spend the most time, such as work or school. You can include vital information on each family member, too, including birth date, Social Security number and key medical details. Become familiar with the emergency plans at your work and your children’s schools in case you are separated or away from home when the storm hits. Besides developing an emergency plan, families should take some time to assemble or check over their emergency supply kit.

At a minimum, the kit should include items such as water and nonperishable food to last for at least three days, a weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit and a change of clothes appropriate for the time of year. Don’t forget to consider any unique needs of family members such as diapers and formula for a baby, extra hearing aid batteries or supplies

for your pets.

Tornadoes come without much of a warning, so it’s important that we are prepared for such an event. Take the time to pack an emergency kit. Let your family help. Remember to keep it in a place that is easily

accessible. Check batteries,

flashlights, chargers and food that has been packed in the kit, and replace as needed.

Don’t let an emergency catch you and your family off guard. Be prepared and plan ahead!