What you need to know about preparing for severe weather and staying safe

From our 9 On Your Side Severe Weather special, in the video player above are stories about preparing for severe weather, and staying safe when storms come.

The tips can help make a difference the next time a storm hits, and can help save your life in any event of severe weather.

Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) want people in all geographic areas to understand the importance of knowing what to do.

"Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.  "It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan."

FEMA breaks storm preparedness into three main parts.

Know Your Risk: Understand the type of weather heading your way, and how it might affect your home and work. FEMA suggests signing up for weather alerts and checking the local forecast often.

Take Action: Make sure you and your family are ready, and plan to contact one another before severe weather arrives. Have an emergency kit handy, and store away all papers and valuables in a secure spot.

An ideal kit contains food, water, batteries, flashlights and medications. FEMA also recommends including a first aid kit, a manual can opener, a cellphone with chargers and a whistle to signal for help.

You'll also want to have a weather radio handy.

Be an Example: Share your action plan with friends, colleagues and other families, including weather preparedness tools from social media.

MORE: Sign up for severe weather alerts from WCPO

WCPO Meteorologist Sarah Walters says it's smart for families to think about how you will communicate in different situations, such as where to meet if you get separated. It's also a good idea to choose a friend of a relative who lives out of state for everyone to notify they are safe.

Once you have an emergency plan in place, Walters says it should include a safe place to go during a storm:

  • During a Tornado Warning, the best place is underground in a basement or cellar.
  • If you don't have a basement, a small room or closet in the middle of the house on the bottom floor is best.
  • If you're in a mobile home, leave immediately and find a sturdy shelter.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado while in a vehicle … seek shelter or lie down in a low area and cover your head.
  • If you're at work or school, be aware of emergency shelter plans.
  • Go to a designated shelter or move to the center of the lowest level of a building if you are in a store or shopping mall.
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