Knowing what to do when you see a tornado, or when you hear a tornado warning, can help protect you and your family. During a tornado, people face hazards from extremely high winds and risk being struck by flying and falling objects. After a tornado, the wreckage left behind poses additional injury risks. Although nothing can be done to prevent tornadoes, there are actions you can take for your health and safety.
Preparing for a Tornado
Being Prepared – Part 1
Stay Tuned for Storm Watches and Warnings
When there are thunderstorms in your area, turn on your radio or TV to get the latest emergency information from local authorities. Listen for announcements of a tornado watch or tornado warning.
Local Warning System
Learn about the tornado warning system of your county or locality. Most tornado-prone areas have a siren system. Know how to distinguish between the siren’s warnings for a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, for example, during a severe thunderstorm.
During a tornado watch,
- Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations or a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for further weather information.
- Watch the weather and be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar.
You should take shelter immediately.
Because tornadoes often accompany thunderstorms, pay close attention to changing weather conditions when there is a severe thunderstorm watch or warning.
A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area.
Keep fresh batteries and a battery-powered radio or TV on hand. Electrical power is often interrupted during thunderstorms–just when information about weather warnings is most needed.
Important Measures To Take
- Take a few minutes with your family to develop a tornado emergency plan. Sketch a floor plan of where you live, or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
- Show a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
- Make sure everyone understands the siren warning system, if there’s such a system in your area.
- Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
- Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off–if time permits–in an emergency.
- Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
- Learn the emergency dismissal policy for your child’s school.
- Make sure your children know–
- What a tornado is
- What tornado watches and warnings are
- What county or parish they live in (warnings are issued by county or parish)
- How to take shelter, whether at home or at school.
Extra Measures for People with Special Needs
- Write down your specific needs, limitations, capabilities, and medications. Keep this list near you always–perhaps in your purse or wallet.
- Find someone nearby (a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker) who will agree to assist you in case of an emergency. Give him or her a copy of your list. You may also want to provide a spare key to your home, or directions to find a key.
- Keep aware of weather conditions through whatever means are accessible to you. Some options are closed captioning or scrolled warnings on TV, radio bulletins, or call-in weather information lines.
Practicing Your Emergency Plan
Conduct drills and ask questions to make sure your family remembers information on tornado safety, particularly how to recognize hazardous weather conditions and how to take shelter.
Writing Down Important Information
Make a list of important information. Include these on your list:
- Important telephone numbers, such as emergency (police and fire), paramedics, and medical centers.
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your insurance agents, including policy types and numbers.
- Telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies.
- Names and telephone numbers of neighbors.
- Name and telephone number of your landlord or property manager.
- Important medical information (for example, allergies, regular medications, and brief medical history).
- Year, model, license, and identification numbers of your vehicles (automobiles, boats, and RVs).
- Bank’s or credit union’s telephone number, and your account numbers.
- Radio and television broadcast stations to tune to for emergency broadcast information.