ellen_marguliesBy Ellen Margulies

It only takes one.

One storm, one flood, one disaster or one near-disaster, whether it happens to you or a loved one or just someone you know, is all it takes to remind you that when it comes to man vs. nature, it’s all too easy for nature to win.

As a child, I experienced a hurricane in coastal North Carolina, a tornado in Georgia and, soon after my family moved to Middle Tennessee, a flood. At the time, these incidents seemed a lot more like adventures to my siblings and me than events to be feared. We had the luxury of having two parents who did the worrying – and the preparing – for us.

Things aren’t quite as carefree these days.

As a grown-up, I’ve been through more tornadoes than I can count. The tornadoes that hit Nashville in 1998, in particular, had a profound effect on me. Our office building downtown was in the thick of things, and the storm passed close enough to see. We were all evacuated to the basement and no one was hurt, but the fear and apprehension I felt in those moments stayed with me for a long time. In a weird way, seeing the aftermath of the storm both near my office and in the East Nashville neighborhood where I volunteered for some clean-up later, only increased my anxiety. Every time a bad storm rolled in after that, I tensed up: Would I be next? Would I escape unscathed this time?

I started making little preparations. I would get a change of clothes ready by the bed every time the weather forecast called for tornadoes or severe thunderstorms. Who wants to end up in the middle of a pile of rubble in their nightgown and fuzzy slippers? I also had a pet evacuation plan, which required some training beforehand. Okay, a lot of training. These are cats we’re talking about here. And if things got really bad, I grabbed a flashlight, my phone, a blanket and something to drink, herded the cats and went to my interior hallway. I always felt a little safer, albeit a little foolish.

Still, isn’t it better to feel a little foolish while being a lot more prepared?

My preparations for bad storms are probably not what they need to be. I still tense up in bad weather, and I still sometimes make that trek to the hallway.

But this turns out to be a good month to up my game, preparation-wise, and you can, too. FEMA has a whole slew of resources on their website, and a simple Google search of “National Preparedness Month” – which this is, by the way – will give you plenty of ideas you can adapt for yourself and your family.

Tornadoes, floods and severe storms are frightening, and you can only be prepared for them up to a certain point. But don’t let that lull you into the false idea that you can’t be prepared at all.