​​Navigate severe weather with a mapped-out emergency plan

April 8, 2024​Image of a tree in a storm that has fallen across the road.

Minnesota is a land of 10,000 lakes — and tornados, floods, wildfires, extreme heat and other severe weather threats. ​

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota. It's the perfect time to think about seasonal weather threats and how you can prepare now to keep your family safe.

“Making sure your family has a thought-out and rehearsed plan is an important step in helping keep them safe from severe weather threats," said Brian Olson, director of the Preparedness and Recovery Bureau for our Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division. “Proper preparation, including planning for your pets, not only keeps your families safer during the incident but also helps make for a more effective recovery."    

Severe weather planning is essential for protecting your family during some of the toughest weather conditions of the year. The time to plan is not after the fact but during those “blue sky days" or calm days. That way you can take a proactive approach to ensure you and your loved ones can stay safe.

One way to prepare is by taking part in Tornado Drill Day on Thursday.

The first drill occurs on Thursday, April 11 at 1:45 p.m., when jurisdictions across Minnesota sound their outdoor warning sirens. Schools, businesses and other facilities are encouraged to conduct a tornado drill at this time to practice their emergency tornado sheltering plans.

A second drill occurs on Thursday, April 11 at 6:45 p.m. This second drill allows second-shift workers, individuals and families the opportunity to practice their own emergency plans at home.

Counties and cities in Minnesota own, operate and maintain all local warning sirens, and set their own policies on how and when they are activated. Please check with your local public safety officials for details on when warning sirens are sounded in your community. There is no such thing as an all-clear siren. Learn more in this fact sheet.

Tips for your family emergency plan

Here are some tips from HSEM, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other expert sources on how to ensure your family has an effective plan: 

  • Get informed about hazards and emergencies that may affect you and your family.
    • Know the differences between alerts and alarms.
    • Research if you live in an area that is likely to flood or be in a wildfire.
  • Develop an emergency plan.
    • Consider specific household needs like medical equipment, family members' ages, pets and house location.
    • Create a family contact list for how to get in touch with each other before and after an emergency.
    • Safeguard documents like birth certificates, insurance cards and lists of valuable household items. 
  • Collect and assemble disaster supplies kit.
    • Make sure your kit includes items like food, water, a first aid kit, pet supplies, batteries and a radio.
  • Learn where to seek shelter from all types of hazards.
    • Know where your local mass care shelters are located.
    • Understand where in your house you should go for sheltering in place.  
  • Understand the required information from community and school emergency plans.
    • Talk with your children's schools to see their procedures for emergencies, including when you can pick up your children.
    • Know your community's designated evacuation routes.
  • Learn what to do for specific hazards.
    • Each type of hazard should have a slightly different response, and knowing the different required actions is an essential part of your family's overall plan. 

Remember, a plan is only as good as it is maintained and practiced, so take the time for your family and stay safe during this severe weather season.  

For more information on how to better prepare your family during severe weather, please visit HSEM's se​vere weather preparedness webpage