Whether you call it a tornado, twister, cyclone or whirlwind, tornadoes are one of the most awesome displays of energy and one of the most recognizable and most destructive storms of all. While they can strike at any time, they are most likely to occur from mid-afternoon to early evening in April, May and June.
Tornadoes move and hit fast. Seconds can count when dealing with these storms, so it is much better to be prepared in advance. Please use these safety tips to ensure the safety of you and your family.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Ready.Gov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
- American Red Cross Disaster Services
Just a reminder: Don’t wait for a tornado to develop before you begin emergency preparations. You can take steps ahead of time to help reduce the risk of damage to your home and property.
- Preventive maintenance
Trim trees and shrubs. Cut branches and trees that could fall onto your home. Secure all outside furniture, grills and toys so they can not become airborne.
Check the end wall of all gable roofs to ensure they are braced properly against damaging wind. In fact, houses that have more than one story should be checked to ensure that the upper story wall framing is firmly connected to the lower framing.
If you are installing a new roof, always work with a qualified contractor who will take the appropriate steps to ensure the new roof covering and sheathing will be able to resist high wind damage.
Garage doors should be examined by a qualified inspector to help determine if they need to be replaced with a stronger type or have permanent wood or metal stiffeners installed
Make sure all entry door frames are firmly anchored to the wall framing. All entry doors should have at a minimum three hinges and a dead bolt (1 inch or longer)
Consider installing impact – resistant windows. Patio doors or sliding glass doors are extremely susceptible to damage from high winds. When replacing patio doors, or building new doors, consider using impact-resistant doors made of laminated glass, a combination of plastic and glass or plastic glazing.
Check with a registered design professional to make sure the walls are properly anchored to the foundation and if needed, work with a contractor to correct any potential problems that have been identified.
- Before the tornado
Select a shelter and make a plan
- With your family, select a shelter in advance and be sure that everyone is clear about its location and the best way to get there.
- If you live in a tornado-prone area, you may have a specially constructed storm cellar adjacent to your home. Otherwise, a corner or outside wall of your basement is the best location, under something sturdy like a workbench or stairway, but avoid areas with heavy appliances on the floor above.
- If you do not have a basement, find cover at the center of the house, on the lowest floor, in a closet or bathroom, or under a sturdy piece of furniture.
- Be sure that work and schools have emergency plans and if necessary, follow those.
- Keep emergency numbers by the phone including police, fire, ambulance and schools.
- Make copies of important documents such as; will, mortgage, insurance policies, insurance cards. Place them in a waterproof container so they can be accessible and easily transported should you need to leave your home.
Stock your shelter area with supplies
- Stock emergency supplies. You should have enough food and water for your family and pets for three or four days. Store water in clean plastic containers and avoid glass or empty bleach or detergent bottles. Keep in mind that adults need one quart of water per day to survive.
- When stocking food, plan to have a full week’s supply of canned food that requires little water and can be eaten with little or no preparation. Don’t forget the manual can opener! Remember that infants and those with illnesses will require special foods.
- Additional supplies to have handy would include a battery-powered radio and flashlights (with extra batteries for both), tools, blankets and clothing, a fire extinguisher, candles and matches, a pail with cover, boards, plastic sheeting and tape and all special medications like insulin and heart tablets.
- Be able to give first aid. Have a first-aid kit and handbook with your emergency supplies and consider enrolling in a course. Although first-aid procedures are not a substitute for qualified medical treatment, you will learn to do things that could make an important difference when help is not readily available.
- Look and Listen
- Keep your eye on the sky. If you notice an eerie light, sometimes described from yellowish to golden green, and an unnatural quiet free of all animal sounds, it could be nature serving its warning. Keep looking at the sky, particularly to the south and southwest, for heavy, dark clouds with thunder and lightning. Large hail, heavy rain with strong winds and a roaring sound like that of a plane or a train can be warning signs.
- Listen to a radio. If there is a tornado watch announced, keep tuned to the radio for more information. It means a tornado is expected to develop. If there is a tornado warning announced, it means a tornado has been sighted in your area – take shelter immediately.
- During the tornado
Seek shelter immediately
- If you are home, proceed to your designated and stocked area.
- If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and get out. Seek shelter away from your vehicle, and never use it to outrun a tornado.
- If you are away from home, follow the emergency procedures for the building. If you are in a high-rise building, move to the lowest floor but do not take the elevator, and find shelter in designated areas or in small interior spaces. Stay away from windows, outer walls and doorways.
- Outdoors, stay away from trees, power lines and utility poles, and lie flat in a ditch, culvert or excavation.
- Wherever you are, stay low to the ground, either in a flat or crouched position. Protect your head by getting under a table or bench and cover your head with a blanket or your clasped hands.
- After it's over
- Stay calm and don’t panic. Check to be sure all family members are safe and administer first aid if necessary. Locate all of your survival supplies.
- Stay at home unless ordered to evacuate the area, and listen to your battery-operated or car radio for emergency instructions.
- Check all utilities and turn them off if you suspect damage. Do not turn them back on yourself. Typically, you can turn your gas and water shut-offs with the same wrench. In case electric wires are shorting or if you suspect there is damaged or wet wiring, turn off the main switch.
- If you smell gas, open the windows, turn off the main valve and don’t use lights or appliances until the gas has dissipated. Call your gas company to restore service after the storm.
- Stay away from damaged or weakened walls and wear shoes around all debris.
- Keep all family members away from fallen power lines.