How to prepare for a tornado
A plan for family and friends will keep you safer during a tornado — and help you deal with the aftermath.
Late winter to early summer marks tornado season in the United States, which is home to more tornadoes than any other country in the world. If you live in Tornado Alley — a patch of Middle America that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and parts of Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota — or in Florida, you're likely to experience one of these cyclones firsthand, although technically tornadoes can happen anywhere. Here's what to do before, during and after a twister.
Making a plan
- An emergency kit is something everyone should have on hand, no matter your locale or the natural disasters your area is vulnerable to. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready.gov can help you build one — with food, water, and essential supplies for 72 hours — fairly easily, as well as teach you where to store it and how to update it. If the idea of making your own kit is too daunting, you can buy an emergency preparedness kit put together by the American Red Cross.
- Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes can strike quickly with little or no warning, so have a shelter plan in place. If you live in an area where tornado threats occur, make sure you have a safe area in your basement, garage or interior of the first floor that can withstand high winds and keep you safe in an emergency.
- Listen to the radio, particularly NOAA Weather Radio, or to TV newscasts for local threats.
- Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. "Watch" means that a tornado is possible and that you should stay alert, while "warning" indicates a more imminent danger, meaning you should find appropriate shelter immediately.
- At the very least, keep your eyes (and ears) on the sky. Ready.gov provides these tornado warning signs: a dark sky, low-lying dark clouds (not just the obvious funnel clouds), large hail and a train-like roar.
Weathering the storm
- Flying debris causes most of the injuries that occur during a tornado, so protect your head and aim to get inside a low, flat, sturdy shelter, like a safe room, basement or storm cellar. At the very least, find an interior room on the lowest floor. "Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside," says FEMA.
- If you're outside, try to get into a vehicle and put on a seat belt. If you can't drive to a safe shelter, at least stay away from overpasses and bridges, and stay in the car with your head down and covered.
Dealing with the aftermath
- Put on sturdy shoes and gloves before you inspect anything, and be wary of broken glass, exposed nails, and other potential hazards.
- A study cited on Ready.gov states that about half of tornado-related injuries happened after the storm, during rescue attempts and clean-up, or when people try to enter unsafe buildings. Keep that in mind as you get ready to survey any potential damage.
- Stay tuned in to local news by using a battery-powered radio or television.
- Inspect your home using a flashlight, not a candle, and take pictures of any damage for insurance purposes.
- Wait to drink tap water or use it for preparing food until you're sure it's not contaminated.
- FEMA warns never to use a generator indoors, because deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly in small spaces and remain dangerous for hours.
- If you're dealing with a major issue — if you're separated from your family or unable to go home, for example — contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
For more tips on tornado preparedness, visit Ready.gov.
Some things to consider:
1) The Moore, OK tornado was an F5. This is equivalent to the largest Hurricane, or the largest earthquake hitting your city -- what kind of devastation would happen to your city with the largest Hurricane or the largest earthquake? We only suffered 30 square miles of damage, which is a very small percentage of the overall metro area.
2) The majority of tornados are much smaller (F1 or F2) and do not cause much damage at all.
3) Despite what you may have heard, there was no basement at either elementary school in Moore, OK. We typically don't have basements in Oklahoma because the bedrock is so shallow. Yes, there are exceptions -- but that's just how houses are built in Oklahoma. (And no, we don't want to build our houses underground -- who would want to live in an underground house?!)
4) As horrible as this sounds, we only lost 24 people in this terrible disaster. If you stop and think about the amount of devastation, that is a very low number! We were prepared, and we did what we should have done. Some of us were just unlucky.
5) Oklahomans are a "pull yourself up by your bootstrap" kind of people -- we prefer to do things ourselves. We prefer to not ask for help. You don't hear us crying for FEMA, or money, or any other federal help. I have personally opened my home to anyone who lost theirs in the tornado (several at the office lost their homes) -- everyone has kindly declined, preferring to handle their issues themselves. That says a LOT about who we are!
6) Despite us being a very REPUBLICAN state, you don't hear us blaming this disaster (or the recovery efforts) on President Obama. Please keep the political debate out of this disaster.
7) Please be more respectful with your comments such as, "Why would anyone want to live there?" It is perfectly clear to us why we would want to live here -- you obviously don't understand, and we like the fact that you live somewhere else. :)
Posted from Moore, OK
I'm glad to see so many posts refuting the advice to "get in a car and put on your seatbelt". That threw me (no pun intended) for a minute. I have lived in Oklahoma, born and raised in Moore, all my life. I have ALWAYS heard the LAST place to be is in a car! Gary England has been telling me (and everyone else) for as long as I can remember - if you are in your car, stop and get out and lie down in a ditch. I find it hard to believe that Ready.gov is suggesting people GET IN a car with a tornado coming. I hope everyone will choose another avenue to educate themselves.
I survived Monday's tornado in an underground storm cellar my dad built almost 40 years ago. In the middle of the tornado, I honestly didn't know if the cellar was going to be enough. My prayers to all that lost everything, especially those that lost loved ones.
1. Do not live in "tornado alley" if you can find the means to live elsewhere.
2. See #1.
As a safety professional, I am always looking for new ways to prevent fatalities and mitigate injuries, both on and off the job. In industry, employees who work in hazardous environments are required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In sports, wearing protective athletic gear is mandatory for professional and amateur athletes. Over the years, personal protective equipment has prevented many fatalities and severe injuries.
Thinking along the same lines, I believe the risk of death or severe injuries from flying debris during natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, etc., can be reduced by encouraging people to don their recreational, athletic and/or industrial personal protective equipment at home when such storms are imminent. While this equipment will not protect the wearer against large objects, or debris travelling at high speed, it may mitigate injuries caused by smaller debris travelling at a lower speed.
Recreational and athletic equipment such as motorcycle helmets, riding leathers, gloves, football, hockey and bicycle helmets and pads, shin and elbow guards, and even padded (not inflatable) personal flotation devices ("life jackets") can all help reduce injuries. Industrial personal protective equipment like steel toed safety shoes and boots, safety glasses, hard hats, etc. should be worn if available. The list of equipment goes on and on, and all can afford some degree of additional protection from flying debris, reducing the severity of some injuries.
When not in use for regular activities, such equipment could be stored in the family's designated shelter ,area or "safe room" for ready access. Parents could also train their children to quickly, "suit up," just as astronauts, military pilots, soldiers, and their favorite sports heroes and action figures do. I cannot help but wonder how many victims of severe weather had such protective equipment already available to them at home, but didn't think to don it in the last crucial moments before they were injured or killed by flying debris.
My goal is to share this information with the public, especially persons living in "tornado alley." Please help spread the word. Even a single life spared or a severe injury prevented will be worth the effort. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
I am lucky I have not ever been in a tornado. Earthquakes yes.
I moved to Ohio and we have had a few tornado warnings and watches. But I am like everyone else on here about staying in your car for shelter, that to me is suicide. Evidently who ever wrote this article has never been in one or has no smarts about what to do. Where I lived in Ca. as a young kid in school we always had drills for earthquakes and tornados and fire, we were taught that during a earthquake we got under a desk or braced ourselves in the doorway, for tornados we were taught to get in a bathtub or in a room with no windows (like a stairway) or when we were outside to find a ditch to get in to, fires was always drop and roll.
My question is why would anyone say to get into a car for safety? Correct me if I am wrong, please. I am thinking of moving to Iowa or Ar. so I know what to do for my safety. Thank--you