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Essential Disaster Preparedness Tips from ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee

Photos: Courtesy of Heidi Gutman & ABC News

Ginger Zee — ABC News chief meteorologist, mom, and wife — knows the importance of keeping families and homes safe.

Now she’s encouraging everyone to prepare for severe weather.

“I have seen the power of water, fire, wind and you do not want to mess with it,” Zee said. “It never hurts to over prepare and then have less happen. Preparation is key to having some control in the panic of a natural disaster.”


Zee, who has forecasted and covered most of the major severe weather conditions including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires, is committed to connecting her passion for science with humanity and compassion.

This year, she expects the focus to be on wildfires.

“Wildfires have grown exponentially in the past few years in many states,” she said. “Let me be clear, wildfires are a natural part of our planet. The rate and spread of the wildfires today though are not normal.”

Several factors, including drought and increased heat, are going to bring similar fire conditions in the years to come. She calls the drought in the American west, such as Arizona, California and Oregon “stunning,” noting it’s causing water shortages and ecological disasters.

She’s also concerned about the “interface between humans and wildfires.” Over 80 percent of wildfires in the United States are started by humans, ranging from arson to accidents to faulty power lines and other reasons.

The certified broadcast meteorologist is also tracking hurricanes.

“2020 showed us unprecedented named storms, incredible numbers of landfalling storms, and the truth of our vulnerability to these storms,” Zee said, explaining this year’s hurricane season is again projected to be above average.

Three factors will drive hurricanes in 2021: Warmer than average sea surface temperatures; active West African monsoon where the storms start; and lack of wind shear that would break down hurricanes before they get to land.

Get ready

Zee encourages everyone to have an emergency kit, including important documents and keepsakes, medicine, items for pets, extra batteries, water, and snacks.

The kits may need to be different for each anticipated natural disaster. For tornadoes, keep your emergency kit in a safe space, like a basement or the lowest level away from windows. Pack a helmet since head injury is prevalent; sneakers for navigating dangerous debris fields after the storm; and a whistle so rescue teams can find you if you’re trapped in debris.

Have a plan for hurricanes too. For example, if you’re asked to evacuate, where will you go? Next, prepare to survive without power for days, if not weeks. Plan for food, water, and alternate energy sources.

Zee advises having two ways to get warnings, and recommends not relying on sirens. A NOAA weather radio, which is battery powered and will wake you from a deep sleep, is essential. You should also make sure you have EAS warnings enabled on your phone.

“Watch the updates and listen for impacts to your specific town so you can prepare,” she said. “If asked to evacuate, do it. No looting or ‘it wasn’t as bad as bad as they said’ scenarios are worth your life.”

Family preparedness

Zee said that parents need to think beyond traditional emergency essentials. That means figuring out how to sanitize so you can safely feed and care for a baby.

Zee, who’s married to Ben Aaron and the mother of their two boys, keeps her family prepared too. They practice for severe storms, the most likely in their area, by going to their safe space and putting on their helmets. They also talk about making a meet-up place like the corner of x and x street.

“Just like a fire drill at school, when you practice it in a calmer moment, it is embedded as habit and when adrenaline and fear rush in, you will know what to do,” she said.

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