Tornado Safety in the Home

When it comes to natural disasters, tornadoes inspire feelings of both awe and fear. These powerful acts of nature are the product of thunderstorms and in some instances hurricanes. These vicious windstorms that take on a churning funnel shape have the ability to destroy most anything in their path. Despite the deadly effect of these storms and the damage that they leave behind, people are able to protect their families and avoid injury. People who are familiar with tornadoes understand the importance of tornado safety preparedness techniques that will help them when it comes to knowing how and when to act when faced with an impending threat. Knowledge and practice of tornado safety in the home, at work and everywhere in between makes all the difference in keeping one’s self and family safe.

Tornado Fact Sheet

The accuracy of one’s knowledge about tornadoes is one of the primary keys to tornado safety. This starts with properly understanding the terminology associated with tornadoes. Two of the most important phrases to understand are tornado watch and tornado warning. The difference between the two will dictate how quickly one should react and also warns of the imminence of the threat. When a tornado watch is issued, people are being warned that conditions are ideal or conducive to tornadoes. A tornado watch speaks to the threat of a tornado and urges the citizens of a given area to be aware. A tornado warning is more urgent. When a warning is sent out it means that there have been sightings of tornadoes either by people in the area or on radar. If a person hears a tornado warning he or she should seek shelter as quickly as possible. The ability to identify a tornado is also important. While the appearance of a funnel cloud is an obvious indicator, a tornado can also be identified by sound and the appearance of the sky. A person will want to seek safety if the sky takes on a dark and greenish cast. The presence of a wall-like cloud or a sudden hailstorm that releases large size hail is also a sign of danger. Audibly a person may hear a loud persistent sound like a train in the air. This roaring sound often heralds a tornado as well.

Tornadoes are classified in efforts to define their strength, which is measured by the speed of the wind. A devastating tornado is one that has winds that exceed 250 miles per hour. A tornado of this strength is classified as a F5 tornado and it has the ability to not only completely devastate and destroy property, it also has the strength to lift heavy objects such as cars, uproot trees, and hurtle dangerous projectiles through the air. Weak tornadoes with wind speeds of 73 to 112 miles per hour are classified as F1 tornadoes. Although they are the weakest they are still destructive enough to rip through a home and even cause death.

What to Do Before a Tornado

Before a tornado occurs it is important to establish a tornado safety preparedness plan. It is important that this plan is discussed with all members of the family so that everyone knows how to stay safe. This means understanding the warning signs and knowing what to do. Establishing shelter is one of the first parts of tornado safety preparedness. The shelter may be a storm cellar, basement, or a safe room in the home. Creating a tornado safety check list is also important. A tornado safety check list will ensure that everyone knows and remembers what needs to be done. It also ensures that disaster supplies are available when they are needed. Supplies include a battery-operated and portable radio, important medication, water, food, and first aid supplies. People should also ensure that they have extra cash stored for emergency purposes. Families should also discuss how to get in contact with one another if separated.

What to do During a Tornado

During a tornado the focus should be on tornado safety. In the home or at work, people must seek shelter immediately when a warning is issued. If there is no tornado safety preparedness plan in place, or if there are no basements, shelters, or cellars available, then people should seek shelter on the first floor of the home or building. The area should be away from windows and anything that could fall from walls or shelves. They will want to make certain that doors and windows are closed as they seek shelter in the center most part of the home. If possible, get beneath a sturdy surface and the back of the head and neck should be protected by one’s hands and arms.

If outdoors driving during a tornado, it is best to pull over in a safe location. If there is a building nearby, shelter should be taken within. If there are no nearby buildings a person should vacate the vehicle and lay flat on the ground to avoid flying debris. One’s arms and hands should be placed over the head and neck for protection. A person should not seek shelter beneath a bridge or overpass.

What to do After a Tornado

Once a tornado has passed, help should be given to anyone in need. This may be in the form of delivering first aid or contacting emergency responders if necessary. Even after a tornado, safety is still a priority as injury and even death are still real possibilities. Damage to homes and property may cause problems with the electricity or gas in one’s home so it is important to inspect the property carefully using a battery operated flashlight. At any indication of a gas leak, such as the smell of gas, the home or building must be evacuated. People should avoid power lines that have been downed and any areas of extreme damage. During this time it is also important to continue listening to one’s radio for further instructions or warnings that may be issued. For insurance purposes, people should also take extensive pictures of all the damage to their property.

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