Mar 1, 2023

Severe Weather Preparedness Means Family Planning, Education

March marks the beginning of severe weather season in Tennessee and a plan to be prepared for disaster can make all the difference in the safety of your family. Explore helpful tips for a tornado or flood, and learn how to stay prepared.

March marks the beginning of severe weather season in Tennessee and a plan to be prepared for disaster can make all the difference in the safety of individuals, families, and pets.

Severe weather can encompass floods, heavy rains, tornadoes and high winds, thunderstorms, and lightning. And March is the official start of Severe Weather Preparedness season — as Middle Tennesseans have been reminded with catastrophic tornadoes and floods in recent years.

To help you prepare, Nashville VOAD — Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster — reminds you that severe weather can happen at any time and any place, and that preparedness should be a priority.

The collaborative, which includes dozens of community organizations including faith-based, nonprofit, volunteer, and government agencies, has put together a wealth of resources and tips on its website at

"Unfortunately, we cannot stop natural disasters. Therefore, it is crucial that families and businesses prepare for the unthinkable,” said DarKenya Waller, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, a Nashville VOAD member.

“Disaster preparedness ensures we have a plan to keep our families safe and can locate essential paperwork if a disaster occurs,” Walker continued. “Paperwork such as passports, driver's licenses, insurance policies, child custody paperwork, property records, and estate planning are often critical to disaster recovery.

“We highly encourage families and businesses to think beyond immediate safety planning. Having essential paperwork like a power or attorney or will, completed and securely stored, can help when deciding on behalf of a loved one if they cannot decide for themselves, or sadly, when a life is lost." 

The VOAD website offers a number of downloadable Emergency Guides that cover categories such as Severe Weather, Extreme Heat, Flood, Power Outage, Tornado, and Active Shooter.

Preparedness tips for a tornado include: 

  • Know the signs of a tornado, including a rotating funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar—similar to a freight train.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, become familiar with the warning tone.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.
  • Identify and practice going to a safe shelter for high winds, such as a safe room built using FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building on the lowest level.

FEMA guide for tornado preparedness

Preparedness tips for floods include:

  • If flash flooding is a risk in your location, monitor potential signs such as heavy rain.
  • Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response.
  • Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately or if services are cut off. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets.
  • Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
  • Obtain flood insurance. Homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding. Get flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Protect your property. Move valued items to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.

FEMA guide for flood preparedness

Additional Resources

Nashville VOAD Prepare page -

U.S. Government website -

The State of Tennessee TEMA site -

The National Weather Service -

About Nashville VOAD

Nashville Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is a group of Davidson County community organizations including faith-based, nonprofit, volunteer, and government agencies. Its goal is to provide knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle—preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery—and help disaster survivors in Davidson County communities.