The Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security (EMRS) encourages residents to be prepared for severe weather. In Cook County, the most common severe weather hazards residents may experience include thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, wind, flooding, and power outages. Regardless of the weather emergency, it’s always a great idea to prepare ahead of time. In order to make you, your family, and home safer during weather emergencies or any disaster, have plans and supplies in place to ensure safety and aid in recovery.
Receiving timely information of pending severe weather can make all the difference in seeking shelter and remaining safe. Visit www.ready.gov/alerts to better understand the reliable systems that public safety officials use for timely notification. Also, text “alertcook” to 888-777 to sign-up for emergency alerts that come directly from your Cook County public safety team.
Although weather forecasts can help us stay informed and take preparedness actions, severe weather can also strike without warning. In times like these, your family and loved ones may not be together. Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. A Family Communication Plan is a great place to start and help with creating one can be found at www.ready.gov/plan.
After a severe weather event, there may be power outages or impassable roads that prevent you from accessing stores or utilizing appliances to prepare meals. A disaster supply kit is a collection of basic items that your household needs to survive for at least 72 hours in the event of an emergency. Visit www.ready.gov/kit for more information on how to build a disaster supply kit.
To learn more about each severe weather hazard and increase your preparedness, please see the information in the tabbed content below.
To view current weather conditions and alerts, please visit the National Weather Service's website.
Prepare for a Hazard
Floods are one of the most common hazards in the U.S. Since 1981, 99 of the 102 counties in Illinois have been declared major disaster areas due to flooding. But not all floods are alike. Some develop slowly – often times over a period of days. Flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in a matter of minutes and without any visible signs of rain.
- Find out if you live in a flood-prone area by visiting https://www.floodsmart.gov/.
- Know if your property is above or below the flood stage water level and learn about the history of flooding for your region. Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance.
- Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
- Raise items in basements or at ground level to upper floors or higher off the ground to prevent damage if floodwater enters your home.
During a Flood
- Listen to local television, radio and the National Weather Service for updated information.
- If you are not evacuating, move essential items to an upper floor and stick to higher ground.
- If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is simple and safer before the flood waters rise. Don’t forget to consult your family emergency plans and take your Go Bags with you.
- Be aware of streams, dry riverbeds, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings like rain clouds or heavy rain.
- Never walk through moving water, as it is deceptively strong.
- Do not drive through flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon it and move to higher ground.
- Know that six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling. Most vehicles begin to float in just 12 inches of water and 24 inches of water will sweep most cars away, including SUVs and pick-ups.
After a Flood
- Stay out of flooded buildings. Use caution when entering damaged structures - their foundations may have been weakened.
- Stay away from downed electrical lines and weakened roads and bridges.
- Floodwaters, standing water and floodwater residue pose various risks including injuries, infectious diseases and chemical hazards. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can also be very slippery.
- Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in your home or in debris left on your property. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.
- Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet, as it may contain sewage or chemicals.
Thunderstorms can be destructive and extremely dangerous. They bring high winds, heavy rains and dangerous lightning, one of the leading causes of weather‐related deaths in the United States each year. Being prepared in advance – and ready to act quickly – will help ensure your safety.
Before Thunderstorms Strike
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter the windows and secure the doors.
- If a thunderstorm is likely in your area, postpone outdoor activities.
During a Thunderstorm
- Get inside a home, building or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
- Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated trees in an open area. If you're in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
- Avoid hilltops, small structures in open areas, open fields, the beach or boats on the water.
- In an open area, go to a low place like a ravine or valley, but watch for flooding. On open water, get to land and find shelter immediately.
- Avoid anything metal, such as tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts and bicycles.
- Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
- Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
- Listen for weather updates from local officials.
Tornadoes, nature’s most violent storms, can appear suddenly and without warning — even remaining invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. These violent storms can pack winds of up to 300 mph and leave damage trails up to 1 mile wide and 50 miles long. llinois ranks fifth in the nation for the most tornadoes per 10,000 square miles. Injuries or deaths from tornadoes most often are due to collapsed buildings, flying objects, or people caught trying to outrun the funnel cloud.
During a Tornado Watch
- Stay tuned to radio or TV for updates.
- Be prepared to take shelter at any time, since some tornadoes develop so quickly that advance warning is impossible.
- Watch the sky for funnel shaped clouds and pay attention to tornado danger signs – dark, greenish sky, large hail and a loud roar similar to a freight train.
- Stay out of large, flat buildings with wide open areas such as supermarkets or shopping malls.
- Stock your home shelter area with a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, water and a first aid kit.
During a Tornado Warning
- Seek shelter in the basement or an interior room of a nearby, sturdy building.
- In a high-rise, get to the lowest floor possible and go to an interior room.
- Tornado shelter areas are interior hallways, interior restrooms or rooms away from exterior walls and windows. Building diagrams should be posted in each room highlighting routes to safe areas.
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately and seek shelter.
- If you are caught outside, lie flat in a ditch and cover your head. Do not get under bridges or overpasses.
After a Tornado
- Assess any damage to your home or immediate surroundings.
- Be careful when entering a tornado–damaged structure. Make sure the walls and roof are in place and the foundation is safe.
- Be aware of any potential hazards such as ruptured gas lines, structural damage to your home, downed electrical lines and broken glass. Immediately report any injuries or hazards via 911.
- Call 911 to report injured or trapped persons.
A power outage (also called a power cut, a power blackout, power failure or a blackout) is a short- or long-term loss of the electric power to an area. There are many causes of power failures and there are many ways to keep safe during an incident.
If Your Power Goes Out at Home
- Check your fuse box or circuit breaker and contact neighbors to see if the outage is limited to your own home.
- Turn off computers, stereos, television and appliances you were using when the power went off. Leave one light turned on so you know when power is restored.
- Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. Food will remain fresh for up to four hours after the power goes off. If you know power outages may happen, freeze water in plastic bottles to keep food stay cool longer.
- Always keep your car’s fuel tank at least half full – gas stations use electricity to operate pumps.
- Know how to manually release your electric garage door.
- If the outage if expected to last for several days or more, consider relocating to a shelter or a friend’s home.
If Your Power Goes Out at Work
- If possible, call the utility company and advise them of your location and nature of the problem.
- Assist others in your immediate area who may be unfamiliar with the building.
- Turn off equipment such as computers and monitors to avoid potential damage once the power is restored.
- If you are in a dark area, proceed cautiously outside or to an area that has emergency light.
- If you are on an elevator, use the elevator emergency alarm button to alert help.
- Please remember to always remain calm and await further instructions.