It's severe weather awareness week this week across Minnesota and there are statewide tornado drills set for today to practice at home and at work what you would do in the case of severe weather and no, running outside shouldn't be an option. Here's what you should do. 

The civil defense sirens will be sounding today at 1:45pm and again at 6:55pm. It's just a drill and it's meant to open up dialog in your workplace and at your home within your family as to what you would do if a tornado should strike.

First and foremost, have a plan. If you and the kids are playing a board game in the kitchen and Dad is outside having a beer in the garage and a tornado warning is issued, where do you go? Everyone should know to go to the most interior room or hallway on the lowest level of your home and stay away from windows. A closet under the stairs or a bathroom with no windows are both perfect places. Also have a blanket or some way to cover your body. Flying glass can do a lot of damage, so make sure your face and body are covered up.

If you live in a mobile home, abandon it immediately and head for the designated shelter. If you are away from home for some reason, say shopping at the mall, visiting a loved one at the hospital, on vacation at a hotel or camping, know where the designated shelter area is. The St. Cloud Hospital, the River’s Edge Convention Center and other large facilities recently underwent training for emergencies such as a tornado warning and the people of central Minnesota are in very good hands.

Invest in a programmable NOAA Weather Radio. In fact, it’s a good idea to invest in one that’s portable so you can take it with you in your storm shelter, or invest in two so you can keep them in different rooms or have one outside. You can also download the NOAA Weather Radio App. It’s $4.99 and available through the iTunes app store. You can program the radio for your area, so if severe weather strikes in the middle of the night, the radio will wake you up and alert you to the situation. Also have fresh batteries on hand in case you lose power, so you are still able to stay informed.

Finally, have a storm shelter survival kit tucked away that’s easily accessible just in case. And some of these items you may not have thought of off the top of your head. Besides an extra NOAA Weather Radio and fresh batteries, you should keep a battery operated cell phone charger, first aid kit and medications on hand. It’s also a good idea to have some food to eat in case you’re stuck for a while. Nothing fancy and nothing that requires refrigeration. Protein bars, crackers, and candy are in my stash. So is bottled water. If you have an infant, don’t forget the baby formula.

Keep a change of protective clothing including long pants, a long sleeved shirt, socks, tennis shoes (or work boots) and gloves because after a tornado, there will likely be glass and debris all over. If you have to dig your way out, your body, hands and feet will be protected.

Keep a copy of insurance papers, phone numbers, credit cards and personal identification cards for each member of your family. That way you can call your insurance agent and let them know what’s going on. You can also call and cancel cards in case they get blown away.

Be informed, be prepared, have a plan and we’ll all get through this severe weather season together.