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A tornado is a rotating vortex that violently destroys everything in its path including property and people. It’s important to plan ahead and prepare for a tornado so you can increase your chances of survival. Take the time to learn how you can keep your family safe.
- How To Prepare
- 8 Signs To Look For
- Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning
- What To Do During A Tornado?
- Video During A Tornado & The Aftermath
- Tornado Preparedness Checklist
The best protection from a tornado is to be in a building built to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) safe room or the International Code Council (ICC) 500 storm shelter standards. If this isn’t possible, proceed as follows.
Choose a room in your home where everyone should gather during a tornado. The room should be located on the lowest floor of your home, and you should avoid windows. This may include a basement, storm cellar or an interior room of your home. Places to consider include hallways, closets and bathrooms. If you are in a mobile home, try to seek safety in a designated shelter.
Place a first-aid kit in the room and make sure it is properly stocked. (See our checklist below.) Listen to your local radio or television broadcast for the most up-to-date information. You should also get to know your city’s siren system so you know when a tornado watch or warning is issued.
Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity to your home and make sure others are trained in this as well. Consider labeling where the switches or valves are, so there is no confusion.
- Rotating, funnel-shaped cloud
- Lightning and hail may be present
- Approaching cloud of debris
- Quiet, calm during a storm as well as a loud, train-like roar
- Debris falling from the sky
- An intense shift in wind direction
- Change in the color of the sky, it may be dark and have a greenish hue
- Green or blue flashes toward the ground indicate that a tornado may have taken out some power lines
While both a watch and a warning need to be taken seriously, it’s important to know the difference between the two so you know what type of situation you are dealing with.
What Is A Tornado Watch?
A tornado watch is when the National Weather Service (NWS) states that an area is at an increased risk for severe weather and has the conditions capable of producing a tornado.
5 Things To Do During A Tornado Watch
- Listen to local radio or television for weather updates
- Review where you will go for safety with those you are with (if you need to leave your current location to seek shelter nearby, do so)
- Gather last minute supplies and have them with you
- Notify anyone you think may not be up-to-date on the conditions and make sure they are informed
- Charge your cell phone, so it is ready for emergency use
What Is A Tornado Warning?
A tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when a tornado has been sighted or is shown on the weather radar. Tornado warnings are issued an average of 13 minutes before the event. However, do not count on these 13 minutes because tornadoes can change speeds and directions and detection can be delayed.
What Should I Do During A Tornado Warning?
It’s important to take cover immediately and monitor the situation. Check out our What To Do During A Tornado section below.
Know how to protect yourself and family during a tornado. The best protection is to be in a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter. If that is not possible, do the following.
If You Are Outside
- If you are driving, find a sturdy building to take cover, if time allows.
- DO NOT TRY TO OUTRUN A TORNADO IN A VEHICLE.
- Stay in your vehicle* and cover yourself with a coat or blanket to protect from possible broken glass or debris. Wear your seatbelt.
- Get out of your vehicle* and lie flat in a ditch. Cover yourself with a coat or blanket and try to hang onto something secure, if possible.
- DO NOT take cover under a bridge, overpass or trees.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
*In regards to whether to stay in or leave your vehicle, the right choice for you will depend on which of these options makes you the most comfortable in your scenario.
If You Are Inside
- Go to the lowest level of the building and find a safe room that has no windows (hallways, closets, bathrooms, etc. are possible locations).
- If you choose a bathroom, get in the tub and put a mattress over the top of it.
- Surround yourself with blankets, mattresses and other soft furniture.
- Place bike helmets on children and yourself.
- Wear sturdy shoes.
- Put infants in a car seat and have them near you to hold onto. Place a blanket over the car seat to protect them from debris.
- Bring your pets with you.
- Keep all doors and windows closed.
- Get low to the ground and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
Storm chasers took the video below. We DO NOT recommend chasing tornadoes if you are not trained to do so. We recommend seeking shelter immediately in this type of situation.
This video was taken in 2011 in Joplin, Missouri after an EF-5 tornado ransacked the city. An EF-5 tornado causes incredible damage and is the most dangerous on the Enhanced Fujita Scale with winds exceeding 200 mph.
We want to warn you that this is extremely difficult to see. The aftermath of this colossal tornado caused monumental damage to the city and its people. Many homes, businesses and public buildings were destroyed. More than 1,000 people were injured and 158 people lost their lives. Our hearts go out to all those affected.
You’ll notice many of the elements we have discussed in this article are shown in the video. The woman is wearing a helmet to keep herself protected. You can see blue flashes near the ground as power lines are being taken out by the tornado. You can also see debris swirling in the sky and the disaster left behind.
This is an idea of how bad it can get. This is why you must prepare yourself, so you can increase your chance of survival.
- Water (1 gallon per person/day, to last 3 days)
- Canned or dried food, emergency food kits can be convenient (3 day supply per person)
- Pet food and water
- Can opener (if needed)
- Formula (and water) and baby food
- Hand crank radio and charger
- Flashlight or battery-operated lantern
- Extra batteries for radio, flashlight and lantern
- First-aid kit
- Change of clothing (long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, etc.)
- Whistle or air horn to help draw attention if you’re trapped (air horn is better since it doesn’t require you to breathe in debris)
- Dust masks to keep you from inhaling debris
Some emergency preparedness kits contain a lot of the supplies listed above. Plus, they’re stored in compact carrying containers, so everything is kept in one place and easy to grab on the go. This would be a great way to make sure you are prepared, especially if you live in an area that is prone to tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, or other natural disasters.
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