Lesson 2

Weather Safety


Lesson Goal:

To promote the use of safety rules among children during dangerous weather conditions.


Lesson Objectives:

1. Explain the warning signs of particular weather conditions.

2. Describe safety rules during various weather conditions.


Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

National Standards


Tornado Safety

A tornado is a funnel cloud. Its speed reaches up to 300 miles per hour. Some tornadoes have been known to move vehicles miles away from their original location. It is important for children to know safety precautions and measures that could help save their lives in case of a tornado.

Children need to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. When there are signs that a tornado could appear (but not necessarily will appear) a tornado watch may be issued. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted in the area.

The states that most commonly experience tornadoes are Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, upper Texas and Iowa. Parts of this region are referred to as Tornado Alley due to the volume and size of the tornadoes that hit. Tornadoes do happen in other states as well.


Important points to discuss include:

1. When a tornado watch is announced, stay tuned to local news to keep updated.

2. When a tornado warning is announced, it is important to get to safety immediately. Go to a basement if available. Otherwise, find a safe place with no windows: in a stairwell, under the stairs, in a closet or under a heavy piece of furniture.

3. Get on the floor and cover your head with your arms and hands.

4. If in a car, get out immediately. Go to the lowest spot possible or run into a nearby building.

5. If in a school, follow tornado drill instructions and pay attention to your teacher or other person in charge.

6. Disaster supply kits are important. These kits can include food, a first aid kit, water, a flashlight, tools, extra clothing, medications and anything else considered necessary.
7. The signs of a tornado approaching include a dark, greenish sky; large hail; presence of a wall cloud (a cloud that lowers from a strong thunderstorm and looks like a wall); and a loud roar, similar to a freight train.



Tornado, Hold the Mayo

Supplies needed: clear mayonnaise jar with lid, water, food coloring, measuring spoon, dishwashing liquid and vinegar.

1. Fill the jar about two-thirds full with water.

2. Add a few drops of desired food coloring to the water.

3. Add a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and a teaspoon of vinegar.

4. Screw the lid on tightly. Give the jar a good hard shake, then give it a twist to set the liquid inside spinning.

5. You'll see a tiny bottled cortex that looks like miniature tornado!


Guest Speaker

Ask a local meteorologist to come speak about tornadoes.


Let's Be Scientists

Invite each student to select a book about tornadoes from the school library. Ask them to share one thing they learned from the book with the group.


Role Play 

Use the following to illustrate how to respond safely during a tornado warning.

TV meteorologist: "Good evening. A tornado warning has been issued for this area."

(Family is watching TV.)

Dad: "Does everyone remember what we need to do during a tornado warning?"

Mom: "The disaster kit's ready! I'll take it to the basement."

Annie: "I'll grab some blankets and pillows to take to the basement."

Billie: "I'll take the battery-powered radio so we know when the tornado warning is cancelled and it's safe to leave the basement."

(A knock is heard at the door.)

Jake (a family friend): "Sorry to bother you, but I heard on my car radio there's a tornado warning. I got out of my car as fast as I could. Yours was the closest house. Could I stay with you 'til the tornado warning is cancelled?"

Billie: "Sure! Let's hurry and go to the basement."

(The family huddles together in the basement.)

Radio announcer: "The tornado warning has been cancelled for this area."

(The family gets up and leaves the basement.)


  • What actions did the family take to make sure they would be safe if the tornado struck the house? (They had a disaster supply kit prepared and went to the basement right away. Jake got out of his car right away and went to the nearest house. Billie brought a battery-powered radio so they could listen for weather updates.)
  • Was there anything more they could have done to be prepared?


Leader's Fast Facts:

1. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the biggest outbreak of tornadoes was April 3-4, 1974 and consisted of 148 tornadoes in 11 states.

2. Approximately 42 people are killed each year by tornadoes; many more people survive unharmed. 

3. There are approximately 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S. each year.


Hurricane Safety

Hurricanes are dangerous tropical storms that start in the ocean and move toward land. They can destroy anything in their path. The winds of hurricanes reach more than 74 miles per hour. Once hurricanes reach land they can cause huge waves to crash into buildings and houses.

Hurricanes have three parts: the eye, spiral rain bands and the rain shield. The eye is the calmest point of the hurricane, where it is very nice and sunny. The rain bands are the areas of rain and thunderstorms. The rain shield separates the eye from the rain bands. Rain near the shield can be very heavy.

Important points to discuss include:

1. Signs of a hurricane include strong wind, heavy rainfall and a storm surge (rise in water level).

2. Keep tuned to a TV and/or radio station for the latest weather updates.

3. Plan a meeting spot, in case family members become separated.
4. Prepare a disaster supply kit that includes food, water, a first aid kit, medicines, clothing, tools and other needs.
5. Be ready to help adults bring in things from outdoors or board up windows.
6. Be prepared to leave the area when a hurricane warning is issued, and do not return until authorities announce it is safe to do so.
Newscaster/Reporter Role Play 
1. Ask participants to pretend they are news reporters. How would they explain hurricanes to their viewers? What would they tell them to do in the event of a hurricane?
2. Have them prepare a script highlighting the important points they would like to report. They might also like to create a meteorologist's weather map.
3. If possible, record their "newscasts."
How a Hurricane Works 
1. Use a spinning toy top to illustrate the rotation of a hurricane and explain to the group that a hurricane is like a spinning top, spinning out of control.
2. The handle of the top resembles the eye of the hurricane, since it is the only calm place inside a hurricane.
3. The outside of the top resembles the fast-moving winds, which knock into objects in their path and cause destruction. 
Make Your Own Disaster Kit 
1. Supply the group with a variety of magazines, catalogs and newspapers.
2. Provide each child a poster board or sheet of paper.
3. The children can cut out and glue onto the board or paper supplies needed for a disaster kit in the event of a hurricane.
Hurricane Drill
1. If your school has a hurricane disaster plan, review the plan with the group.
2. Hold a hurricane drill.
Leader's Fast Facts:
1. Antarctica is the only continent that hurricanes do not affect.
2. The worst hurricane in U.S. history occurred in 1900 in Galveston, Texas.
3. The deadliest feature of hurricanes is flooding due to rain.  
Earthquake Safety
Earthquakes are caused by movements in the earth's interior which bring about destruction on the surface. Most earthquakes occur on fault lines, which are located all over the world. Earthquakes are hard to detect and can happen any time. They are measured on a specific type of scale called a Richter scale. Earthquakes can destroy buildings, bridges and other structures, damage things inside buildings, cause earth cave-ins and otherwise endanger lives. Earthquakes don't last long, but they can do a great deal of damage in a short amount of time.
Important points for discussion include:
1. Always be prepared with a safety kit on hand. The kit may include a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, water, food, medications, shoes, a battery-powered radio and anything else needed if the power goes out to an earthquake.
2. With your family, create a safety plan. Determine where to meet if family members become separated.
3. If an earthquake occurs, take cover. One place to take cover is under a sturdy table or bench. Hold on tight until the earthquake is over. Stay away from windows or anything not secured to a wall, as these items may fall or break and cause injury.

4. If in a moving vehicle when the earthquake occurs, pull over and stay in the car. Bridges are unsafe places during an earthquake.
5. If outdoors during an earthquake, get to an open area, away from falling objects.
6. Listen to the radio for updates on the earthquake.
7. Aftershocks, minor shocks, often occur after an earthquake. Be prepared to take cover again. 
First Aid Art
1. Discuss with students what their families would need in a first aid kit in the event of an earthquake.
2. Ask the children to draw a picture or write what could be included in the kit. Answers include: bandages and ointment, medications, canned food, can opener, water (3 gallons per person), clothing, bedding, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, extra batteries and other needed items. 
Earthquake Drill
1. If your school has an earthquake disaster plan, review the plan with the group.
2. Hold an earthquake drill.
Take Cover!
1. Make copies of the reproducible.
2. Ask the children to color all the things in the picture that could fall and possibly injure them in the event of an earthquake.
3. Ask them to circle all the places where they could safely take cover if there was an earthquake.
Earthquake Explorers
1. Have the students pretend they're explorers and discover one earthquake fact on their own.
2. Ask them to present their fact to the group.
3. Create a poster or decorate a bulletin board with the earthquake facts the students discovered.
Leader's Fast Facts:
1. In the United States, most earthquakes occur in the states of Alaska and California. 
2. Earthquakes occurring along the coastlines may cause tsunamis, large waves that can do damage to land.
3. "Moon quakes" are earthquakes that occur on the moon. Moon quakes do not happen as often as earthquakes.
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Extreme Weather:

Imagine snow piled so high it covers a front door. A blizzard is a severe storm characterized by extreme cold, strong winds and heavy snowfall.

The opposite type of weather is also dangerous. In hot conditions, heat exhaustion may occur. Heat exhaustion is when the body is unable to cool itself through sweating.

Very hot and very cold days are examples of extreme weather conditions. Both can be life-threatening if proper safety precautions are not taken. Certain parts of the country are more prone to extreme heat and cold, but it is important to people to know what to do in these weather conditions, no matter where they live.

Important points for discussion include:

Extremely Cold Weather

1. Keep tuned to local radio and/or TV stations for the latest updates, or ask your family/guardians about the weather. Stay indoors if a blizzard or dangerously cold weather is forecast.

2. If you'll be outdoors, dress in layers.

3. Be aware of the dangers of frostbite on the fingers, nose, toes and ears. Symptoms include tingling or numb body parts.

4. If you're in a car when a blizzard hits, stay in the car. Ask a responsible adult to place some brightly-colored material on the outside of the car in a visible area so emergency vehicles know you need help.

5. If outdoors when a blizzard hits, find shelter indoors quickly.
Extremely Hot Weather
1. Keep tuned to local radio and/or TV stations for the latest updates, or ask your family/guardians about the weather. If dangerously hot weather is forecast, stay inside. If you have to be outdoors, stay in the shade if possible.
2. In extremely hot weather, carry water with you to prevent dehydration.
3. Wear lots of sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
Guest Speaker
Ask a local meteorologist to come speak about blizzards or extreme heat.
News Making Weather
1. Show the group a weather map of the United States from a newspaper. Discuss the map's key. Point out places on the map that are experiencing extreme weather conditions. What should residents in these areas do to prepare for this weather?
2. Discuss warm fronts and cold fronts:
  • Cold fronts indicate a transition from a warm air mass to a cold air mass. Cold fronts usually move from northwest to southeast. 
  • Warm fronts indicate a transition from a cold air mass to a warm air mass. Warm fronts usually move from southwest to northeast.

3. Look at the rainfall and heat index on the weather map. Which areas of the country are receiving large amounts of rainfall?

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Thunderstorms, Lightning and Flood Conditions:

Thunderstorms are also included under the category of dangerous weather and are closely tied with flooding conditions. It is best to stay indoors during a thunderstorm. Lightning can cause fires and damage to trees, buildings, etc. If someone is outdoors during a thunderstorm and unable to find shelter, he or she should quickly get to the lowest place in the area to avoid being struck by lightning. Rain associated with thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, which is the No. 1 weather-related cause of fatalities, with about 140 deaths in the U.S. each year. Flooding can occur in any area - streams, creeks, low ground areas, etc. An area that doesn't appear flooded can become dangerous within minutes, so it's important to be cautious when traveling during a thunderstorm.​

Important points for discussion include:
1. When a flash flood watch is issued, it means flooding may occur. Stay tuned to your local radio or TV station for updates.
2. When a flash flood warning is issued, it means flooding is occurring in some areas and residents should prepare accordingly.
3. Never enter or attempt to cross floodwaters by foot or in a vehicle. Undertows can sweep you off your feet and carry you with the current. 
4. If flooding occurs when outdoors, get to the highest ground possible quickly.
Guest Speaker
Invite a local meteorologist to come speak with the class about thunderstorms and flooding.
Flood Presentation
1. Pair up students. Assign them a region of the United States to research. The regions may include the Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming); the Southwest (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico); the Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska and Oklahoma); the South (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina); and the Northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, etc.).
2. Ask students to report the amount of annual rainfall and recent weather-related natural disasters, including problems due to drought. 
Leader's Fast Facts:
1. Flooding may cause contamination due to water overflow from sewers, lakes, etc.
2. Just two feet of floodwater can easily carry most automobiles.
Additional Resources:
The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane. By Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. Scholastic Books, 1996.
Hurricanes. By Seymour Simon. HarperCollins Publishing, 2003.
Tornado. By Stephen Kramer. Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1992.
Eyewitness: Hurricane and Tornado (Eyewitness Books). By Jack Challoner. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2000.
Wild Weather: Hurricanes (Hello Reader! Series, Science Level 4). By Lorraine Jean Hopping, Judy Wheeler and Lorri H. Egan. Cartwheel Books, 1995.
Tornadoes and Other Dramatic Weather Systems. By Michael Allaby. Dorling Kindersley Books, 2001. 
The ReadyKids Web pages provide resources for kids on natural disasters and other emergencies.   
The American Red Cross website has lots of information about preparing for natural disasters.