SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WEHT) – Residents of Illinois know that they can be enjoying beautiful sunny skies then one moment later be experiencing thunderstorms and torrential downpour. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) encourage increased preparedness efforts with escalating weather hazards.

The NWS is the official agency for issuing severe weather watches, warnings and advisories to alert the public when dangerous weather conditions are expected. The IEMA and NWS have teamed up to publish a Severe Weather Preparedness Guide to help Illinoisans be better prepared when severe weather strikes.

“Sharing the dangers of weather hazards and a few preparedness tips are just the first steps. Applying safety actions in an emergency takes practice.  This week, our professionals at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency encourage all families, businesses, schools, and communities to plan ahead, build a kit, practice what to do, and be better prepared,” said IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau.

The NWS will be recognizing Severe Weather Preparedness Week during the week of Feb. 28 – March 4. Illinoisans are encouraged to:

• Update your family communications plan.
• Make a severe weather preparedness plan.
• Build an emergency preparedness kit.
• Identify your safe place to during a storm.
• Know the various weather watches/warnings/advisories.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of understanding the difference between a watch and a warning when tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and floods threaten your area,” said Warning Coordination Meteorologist Ed Shimon with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Illinois. “Studies show that people want to verify the threat to them is real before taking action. Seconds save lives when a tornado, significant damaging winds or flash floods are bearing down on your location.”

Thunderstorms can produce damaging winds, deadly lightning, large hail, flash flooding and tornadoes. Illinois averages about 64 tornadoes each year. Tornadoes that strike at night are even more dangerous like the 2021 Father’s Day EF-3 tornado that struck DuPage County.

The NWS and state and local emergency management officials strongly encourage people to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) All Hazards Weather Radio with battery backup. These radios can be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties to inform the public of approaching weather and post-event information for all types of hazards including natural (earthquakes), environmental (chemical spills) and public safety hazards (AMBER alerts). 

The device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the necessary information when an alert is issued for the programmed area. The information provided in these alerts will guide listeners through the appropriate protective measures.

“Watches mean that severe weather or flooding might develop near your area over the next several hours. Pay attention to the weather and be ready to act if storms approach. Warning means take action immediately,” said Warning Coordination Meteorologist Mike Bardou with NWS Chicago. “The storm either has a history of producing damage or flooding or is expected to do so in your area shortly.”

IEMA and the NWS says it is critical for people to have multiple ways to receive notifications and updated information about severe weather warnings. FEMA offers a free mobile app that provides fast and reliable weather alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS). 

The app is able to be customized to offer alerts for up to five different locations nationwide. The mobile app can also help locate open shelters and critical disaster resources in the event of an emergency. 

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) provide lifesaving information about approaching storms and emergencies in addition to NOAA weather radios. These alerts can be sent to mobile devices without the need to download an app or subscribe to a service. They can be extremely beneficial for those who travel as well as critical to surviving overnight storms.

Visit the following sites for more information about what to do before, during and after severe weather:

Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA): www.Ready.Illinois.gov

IEMA Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReadyIllinois

IEMA Facebook/Meta: https://www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois

IEMA Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/readyillinois/

NWS Chicago: https://www.weather.gov/lot/

NWS Quad Cities: https://www.weather.gov/dvn/

NWS Lincoln: https://www.weather.gov/ilx/

NWS Paducah: https://www.weather.gov/pah/

NWS St. Louis: https://www.weather.gov/lsx/