It just takes seconds for a tornado to rip through your neighborhood, leaving nothing but piles of debris and trash in its wake. If you’re watching television or listening to a radio, you may get ample warning before it hits, but it is also possible that you will have little to no warning that a tornado may strike. If you are in an area and hear there is a “Tornado Watch”, it means the weather conditions are such that a tornado may develop in the watch area. A “Tornado Warning” means that a tornado has been sighted and is either occurring or is about to occur in the warning area.
Safety Tips to Help You Get Prepared for a Tornado
Perhaps one of the best safety tips for tornado risks is to be prepared. Before you get caught in a tornado, follow these preparation tips:
- Put together an emergency tornado kit that includes:
- Battery operated flashlights and radios with extra batteries
- An extra set of clothes, shoes included, for each member of the household.
- At least 72 hours worth of food and water for each member of the household.
- Emergency contact names and numbers
- Listen to the radio or watch television if it is safe, to find out what your local emergency officials are suggesting for the people in your area. If they say to evacuate, it’s best to follow their advice so you don’t put yourself, your loved ones or any emergency responders in danger
- Know the danger signs such as:
- Hail that is quite large
- A low-lying, rotating, dark cloud
- A growling noise that sounds like there is a train in your backyard
- A dark sky, which is also often green
What To Do When a Tornado Hits
If there is a tornado warning in your area, don’t take any chances. Take the proper steps to seek shelter as soon as you can.
If you’re in a building when a tornado hits:
- Go to a basement, storm cellar, or to the lowest level in the building. If you are unable to get into a basement, gather in an interior room on the lowest floor, away from windows and doors.
- Put on good shoes with a thick sole, long sleeve shirt and long pants.
- Do not open windows.
- Get underneath a table. Any table will do, but the sturdier, the better. Cover your head and neck with your arms.
If you’re outside when a tornado hits:
- If you are far enough from the storm, get in your vehicle and drive to the closest shelter or basement.
- Park the car if it is being hit by strong winds or debris.
- Keep your seat belt on and cover your head with your hands. If there is a blanket available, cover yourself with that.
- If you see a ditch that goes lower than ground level, lie in the ditch, protecting your head with your hands.
- Do not attempt to outrun the tornado. You will almost always get caught. Seek shelter immediately.
- Watch out for debris that could fly past you in the strong winds.
Additional Safety Tips for Tornados
- Stay away from large, spacious buildings. Churches, gymnasiums, and other similar buildings could have the roof ripped right off, sucking you outside into the storm.
- Do not try to relocate during the storm. If you are in a basement, don’t try to find your family at a shelter. Wait until the storm has passed.
- Listen on your battery operated radio for the safety signal letting you know that it is okay to leave the shelter.
For more information on what to do in a tornado and for additional safety tips for tornados, go to FEMA’s website at http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes/.