By Sharla Orren
Last night a tornado struck a town not far from mine. We went to help with the cleanup effort. It was amazing to see the amount of damage that a tornado can do in just a few minutes. The tornado hit shortly after 11 p.m., when most people are asleep. But even if a tornado strikes at night there is no reason for you to be unprepared. You need to have a plan in place in order to protect your family and in this article I will share with you how to prepare for a tornado.
How to Prepare for a Tornado
- Stay aware of your weather conditions. I check the weather every morning when I wake up. NOAA (http://www.noaa.gov/index.html ) is my favorite source. I check to see if there are any storms predicted for the week and I monitor the weather daily. If there are storms predicted for our area, I try to stay aware of the severity of the storms predicted and the timeline for when the storms might hit.
- Have a safe place to go. Find a safe room in your house where everyone, including pets, may gather during a tornado. This room should be a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor. If you live in a mobile home, find a storm shelter or someone you can stay with until the weather clears.
- Keep an emergency backpack in an easily accessible area. Make sure the backpack contains the following items:
- List of emergency numbers
- First aid kit with extra gloves
- Battery-powered flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Hand sanitizer
- Notepad and pens/pencils
- A whistle to signal for help in case of being trapped
- Disposable cups and bottled water
- Wet wipes
- Emergency survival blanket
- A map. It’s important to have a map of your area so that when a city is mentioned, you can see how near it is to where you are located. For more information and other items for your kit, go to http://www.ready.gov/kit.
- In the event of a tornado warning, it would be a good idea to take these items with you to your safe area:
- During a tornado warning, keep shoes on or at least keep them handy. They will be important if a tornado hits and you need to leave your home to get somewhere safe.
- Purse or wallet. In the event that you need to leave your home, it is wise to have your identification card or driver’s license, credit cards, and money.
- Cell phone and a charged portable battery charger.
- Have a way to get reliable weather information.
- A NOAA Weather Radio (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/) is good to have in order to get up-to-the-minute weather watches and warnings for your area. Make sure to tune it in for your area as soon as you buy it.
- A weather app for your mobile device is another good idea. Communities have started to use various apps to alert members of their community by texts, phone calls, and emails. Check now to see what type of alert system your area uses. Make sure whatever you use sounds an alarm loud enough to wake you in the event of hazardous weather.
- It’s important to understand that community sirens were made only to alert people who are outside. Do not rely on them if you are indoors.
- Prepare your children if they are afraid of storms.
- Practice Tornado Drills. If you practice with your children and they know what to expect, then they will be less likely to be scared during a storm.
- Take games, snacks, and sleeping bags into your safe area. My children like storms now because they get special snacks and we play fun games. These things help distract them from the storm.
- Let them sleep in the safe area. If it seems like it is going to be a particularly bad weather night, let them sleep in the safe area so that you won’t have to wake them unless you know a tornado is right upon you.
- Take a Storm Watchers class and invite your children along. I was scared to death of tornados until I learned more about them and became a storm reporter for my area. http://www.weather.gov/ilm/skywarn.
- Remember these terms.
- Tornado WATCH means that tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. You should stay especially alert to the weather at this time and be ready to act if a tornado warning is issued.
- Tornado WARNING means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. People in a warning area should go immediately to their safe room. If they are in a vehicle, they should get out of the vehicle and go to shelter in a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a low spot away from the vehicle.
- Helpful links.
- FEMA guide to How to Prepare for a Tornado (http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409003506195-52740fd2983079a211d041f7aea6b85d/how_to_prepare_tornado_033014_508.pdf)
- NOAA and The National Weather Service Guide to tornados (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/prepare.shtml)
Start preparing today so that a tornado will not catch your family unprepared.
Sharla Orren, aka Storm’N Orren, has been a Skywarn Storm Spotter for The National Weather Service for 6 years. She enjoys sharing her love of weather with her two boys and husband.