Be safe during severe weather season


The Iowa State campus is no stranger to flooding. The last significant flooding event occurred in August 2010. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Thunderstorms, flooding, tornadoes. Iowa State's campus has experienced it all over the years. Will this spring's weather be calm or a calamity? It's best to be prepared.

Check out the Environmental Health and Safety website for lists of the university's weather coordinators, evacuation maps and weather radio locations. The site also offers numerous tips, detailed below, to stay safe when the storm clouds roll in.

Good ideas

  • Be aware of weather conditions at all times, especially if severe weather is predicted
  • Sign up for an email or severe weather text alert from local news organizations
  • Download a weather app for smartphones or mobile devices (many are free)
  • If you receive a severe weather alert, spread the word to your co-workers, especially those who work outside


Of all natural disasters, floods occur most frequently and are the most costly. They also are the leading cause of death among natural disasters.

  • Head to higher ground if a flash flood warning is issued for your area
  • Don't drive or walk through floodwaters
  • If you work in a flood-prone area, be prepared to evacuate quickly.


All thunderstorms produce lightning. Lightning is the second most common cause of natural disaster deaths.

  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to harm you
  • If you hear thunder -- even in the distance -- move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings are best. Sheds, picnic tables, tents and covered porches do not protect from lightning. If no safe buildings are nearby, get in a car (with a hard metal top) and close the windows. Stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
  • If you are planning outdoor activities, know where to go for safety and how long it will take to get there
  • Consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them inside if thunderstorms are predicted
  • Don't use a corded phone while there's thunder and lightning, unless it's an emergency. Cordless and cell phones are OK.
  • Avoid touching metal, such as tools
  • Avoid using plumbing fixtures since pipes conduct electricity
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls


Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms, reaching winds of up to 300 miles per hour.

  • If you hear a tornado siren while inside a building, go to a windowless interior room on the lowest level; bathrooms often are best.  Avoid buildings with large expansive roof structures, like the Armory. Many campus buildings have designated storm shelters.
  • If you are walking across campus and hear the tornado siren, get to the nearest building and follow the same procedures
  • If you are driving a car and debris begins flying around you, pull over and park. Your next two options are:
    • stay in the car, buckle your seatbelt and keep your head below the windows and cover it with your hands or a blanket
    • if you can safely get to a ditch or area lower than the road, exit the car, lie down and cover your head

Heat stress

Excessive heat exposure causes more deaths each year in the United States than hurricanes, lightning, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined. For yourself and your coworkers, know the signs of heat stress:

  • muscle spasms
  • heavy sweating
  • fainting, collapsing
  • blurred vision
  • weakness, fatigue
  • pale, clammy skin
  • dizziness
  • confusion, erratic behavior

To avoid heat stress, take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area and drink water. If symptoms appear serious, seek medical help.