ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Tuesday night’s weather has the potential to bring damaging winds and tornadoes to Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Travis Cooper, the deputy director of the Sebastian County Emergency Management, said tornado sirens go off in Sebastian County, but they’re mostly to alert people who are outside to get inside. Cooper said it’s important if the storms touch down overnight for people to be prepared.

When it comes to getting alerts while you’re sleeping, Cooper suggested purchasing a weather radio or downloading an app on your phone that has alerts for when there’s a tornado watch or tornado warning in the area.

Also, Cooper encourages packing a bag with items such as a flashlight, clothes, water, food and backup batteries in case you need to make a quick getaway to a storm shelter overnight. You should keep the bag next to your shoes and any items you need to quickly take with you.

A tornado watch and a tornado warning are two different things. A tornado warning signifies that a tornado has touched ground in the area and you need to seek shelter immediately.

“If you have to drive very far to get there [a tornado shelter], we encourage you to not drive during the tornado warning,” Cooper said. “Do that beforehand, during the watch phase, if at all possible. We have so many people oftentimes that will get stuck in bad weather with flying debris, even in straight line winds.”

Many people try to take videos of tornadoes, but Cooper said if there’s a tornado warning and it’s headed your way, you need to make sure you protect yourself from the storm and avoid stepping outside to watch the storm or take video.

According to Cooper, there are tornado shelters at every school district in Sebastian County. They’re available for the public when school is not in session. When the sirens start going off, they will be open.

If a tornado does touchdown Tuesday night, Cooper said the safest place is away from outer doors and windows. You should go to the innermost portion of the house– in a hallway, closet or bathroom. If you live in a mobile home, you should have a nearby place in mind to take shelter. If that’s not possible, Cooper said the same rules apply, and you should take shelter inside the home.

Electric providers are also on standby in case of an emergency. Both OG&E and Ozarks Electric Cooperative said they have crews ready in case winds cause any outages.

Ashley Harris with Ozarks Electric said winds start to become a concern at 45 to 50 miles per hour. That’s when tree limbs start coming down. 50 to 55 miles per hour winds cause structural damage and wind speeds higher than 50 to 60 miles per hour is when trees can become uprooted or power lines can go down.

“As far as the wait time for restoring any of those outages, it really depends on the type of damage that we have. If we are replacing poles or if we are just removing tree limbs from those existing poles, it can vary greatly,” Harris said.

Eddie Lee Herndon with OG&E said working as a lineman in high wind conditions can be dangerous, and encourages everyone to practice patience with electric crews if power starts going out.