Natural disasters like tornadoes don’t give you much time to plan and prepare. They come uninvited and leave causing massive destruction. Tornadoes occur with no or little warning and therefore, it can prove to be more fatal to human life.
Tornadoes are reported to occur in almost every state. However, there are some places where they occur very frequently. Whether you live in a tornado-prone area or not, it is better to stay prepared than to regret it later. If you want to save yourself and your loved ones from the wrath of nature, then you should prepare a disaster plan.
If you are looking for tips or guides to learn how to prepare for a tornado, then you have to the right place. Not many people know what to do when a tornado strikes. This is why we have prepared a guide that will help you prepare for the worst.
We have laid all the details that you should know about how to survive a tornado. Go through the information below and prepare a disaster plan for you and your family’s safety.
What is a tornado?
A tornado is a violent and dangerous windstorm that has the potential to cause a massive amount of damage. It is characterized by funnel-shaped and twisting clouds. It is produced when the cool air comes in contact with hot air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly
The damage caused by a tornado is the result of high wind velocity. Tornadoes take place almost everywhere in the world but some areas are more prone to it. It mostly occurs between the March and August period. However, it can occur at other times of the year as well.
Tornadoes mostly happen during the noon and evening time. Around 80% of them have been recorded to have taken place between the afternoon and midnight. Tornadoes can be a life-threatening event and therefore, individuals need to take care of their safety.
Although you are warned by the authorities as soon as the weather department notices the sign of a rising tornado, unless you stay prepared, you can get into trouble.
Like every other natural disaster, tornadoes cause heavy destruction too. It can damage your property, homes, infrastructure and everything else. It is even dangerous for your life.
Tornadoes vs Hurricanes
Tornadoes and hurricanes are both violent windstorms. But they are different in the following ways:
A tornado is a violent windstorm that results when cool air mixes with hot air. They often take the shape a funnel cloud. They mainly originate from storm clouds measures less than 5km wide, when the storm cloud is about 16km. On the other hand hurricanes, range between 160km and 1600km wide. They are much larger than tornadoes and also deadlier.
Tornadoes usually last for an hour, but a hurricane can continue as long as for three weeks. It forms oversea while a tornado takes place over land.
The conditions that result in a tornado or hurricane are the opposite. The storm clouds that produce a tornado requires strong horizontal temperature and strong vertical winds to survive and to change its form. Hurricanes are produced in the weak vertical wind where the change in temperature is not much. The strongest tornadoes are known to have wind speeds over 483 km/h. But hurricanes can produce wind speeds only up to 322 km/h.
In the case of hurricanes, people get the warning signals, several days in advance, while in the case of a tornado, you may get to know about it only 15 to 30 minutes before. Another interesting thing is that tornadoes can take place within a hurricane.
A tornado is a rapidly rotating storm that is characterized by strong winds, low-pressure centers, and thunderstorms with heavy rain. A hurricane, on the other hand, takes place in the north-eastern Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Well, that pretty much sums up the main differences between a tornado and hurricane. Both are dangerous natural disasters and can cause heavy damage to life and property.
Tornadoes can strike anytime, anywhere. This is why it is better to be prepared than to regret it later. You and your family should be tornado ready when it strikes. In other words, you need to be storm-aware.
By storm-aware, we mean that you and your family should be able to protect yourselves in the event of severe weather or tornado. It is advised you to prepare a Family Disaster Plan long before kit strikes. Waiting for it to strike and making a move to protect yourself and your family is the biggest mistake you can make. It can prove to be fatal for you and your family.
When a tornado is approaching, it doesn’t give you much time to prepare. This is why you need to have a disaster plan ready in place so that you can implement it when it happens. This is important for everyone to follow. Whether your state or region is prone to tornados or not, you should stay prepared. You never know when Mother Nature spew her anger on us.
To get you ready, we have laid down a complete guide on tornado preparation. Go through each of the pointers carefully and make sure that you follow all of them.
1. Create a written plan
It may be difficult for you to remember all the instructions at once. Therefore, you are advised to write it down. Once you have the plan ready, you should discuss it out with your family members. All the members of your family should be aware of this Family Disaster Plan. You need to make sure that everyone can understand the instructions and is also comfortable to follow them. You should even take your family’s opinion into account. If they have better suggestions to offer, then you can include them in the plan.
2. Prepare a safe shelter
You need to designate a safe place where you will meet with your family members when the tornado warning is issued. It can be in your home or at any facility outside your home. The best option for tornado protection is the basement. If you have a basement, then you can use it as the safe zone during the tornado. In case, there is no basement, then you should choose a room that has no windows or opening. Any interior room or hallway on the lowest level of your home or building is considered to be a good option. At the same time, you should also discuss the quickest and safest exit points, in case the situation gets worse.
Your Family Disaster Plan should also include the plan to stay in touch with your family members who are not at home during the stormy event. Let’s say they are at work or somewhere outside when the tornado strikes. The best thing to do in this situation is to ask a friend or relative out-of-state to stay in contact with him/her. If not, then you can also establish an employee at the call center to help. You also need to make sure that all your family members have important contact numbers with them.
4. Safety steps
When the tornado strikes, you should know how to keep yourself safe. You need to know the right method of crouching and covering your head until the storm gets over. You are advised to stock your safe shelter with sturdy objects so that you can crouch to get extra protection. You can also get sleeping bags, mattresses and covers to protect yourself from the strong winds.
5. Keep your emergency kit ready
One of the most important things to do is to prepare an emergency tornado kit for all your family members. This tornado survival kit should include all tornado-specific supplies that you will need in case, you get trapped. You need to place the emergency kit in a place where it is accessible during the event. It is advised you to place your emergency kit on your way to the safety zone. You should also mark the location in case, anyone forgets the designated place for the kit. Before running to the safety zone, you need to pick up the emergency kit with you. Make sure that you pack all your supplies in an easy to carry bag.
Here is the list of items that you should include in your emergency kit:
- Water: You need to store one gallon of water per person, per day that should last up to 3 days.
- Canned and dried foods: You need to arrange for non-perishable foods for three days for every member of your family. If you have a baby, then also store infant food. Along with your canned foods, don’t forget to pack a can opener.
- Flashlight and extra batteries or better – solar-powered flashlight
- Emergency radio to get constant updates from NOAA Weather Radio.
- Family first aid kit
- Medications for everyone
- Multi-purpose tool
- Personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents including proof of address, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc. Make sure that you store all your documents in a waterproof and fireproof pack.
- Cell phone with solar-powered bank and chargers
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Maps of the area
6. Emergency weather alert apps
For those who do not know there is an emergency weather alert app that is designed to help you and your family in times of severe and bad weather. There are many such apps available for both ios and android platforms. You can download and keep them installed on your phone. Make sure that every person in your family has the app. Out of all the emergency alert apps, the one created by Red Cross is the most reliable. It is available for free and can download it from the app store of your phone.
These apps are designed to monitor conditions in your area. With the help of this app, you can let your loved ones know that you are safe. Similarly, even they can let you know if they are safe. This is a must-have app for everyone living in areas prone to severe weather. You never know what goes wrong. Therefore, it is better to stay prepared.
7. Practice the emergency plan
The disaster plan that you have created, you should practice it as many times as you can. This will get you and your family in the habit of preparation. In your tornado drill practice, this is what you have to do:
- Decide a time of the year or month to conduct the tornado drill practice.
- You need to pretend as if there is a real tornado and tornado warning signs have been issued. Use all the designated means to alert the participants to check whether it’s working properly. You need to notify everyone to escape to the safe zone.
- As a part of your plan, you need to pick up the emergency kit on your way to the emergency shelter.
- Once all of you have gathered in the safe zone, you can practice whatever safety measures you have included in your plan. This can include the right way to crouch and covering your head etc.
After the practice, you can assess how well it goes. Whether you could escape to the emergency shelter on time, the alert worked smoothly and everything else that is a part of your plan. This will help you decide whether you and your family are ready to face the real event or not. If you think, there was room for improvement, then you practice it again.
8. Protection for your pets
For those who have pets in their families, you cannot leave them unsafe in the house when the tornado strikes. You need to involve them in your emergency kit and also carry 3 days of food for them. Besides, you need to make an evacuation plan including them as well.
What to do right before a tornado?
When you have already got the news of the tornado arriving, you should be doing the following things to stay prepared.
- Listen to your local area radio or NOAA radio station to get the latest updates and information.
- Without wasting time you should move to your safety zone or designated emergency shelter. If you don’t have any such place planned for an emergency, then you should escape to an interior room with no windows. You can even go to the lowest level of your building or hallway.
- You should look for an emergency center nearby you and immediately move there along with your emergency kit.
- When getting the news, if you are outside or driving, then you should immediately move to a safe place. In case, you are driving, you should park your car and move to a sturdy building or emergency center.
What to do during a tornado?
During the tornado, you need to be very swift with whatever you do. You don’t have time to waste and therefore act quickly. If you have a disaster plan, follow it without any delay. Here are some quick tips you can follow during the tornado.
- You and your family should immediately seek shelter in a safe place or the designated emergency shelter, without wasting any time.
- If you cannot walk to a shelter, then get into your car and try to drive to a nearby sturdy shelter. Make sure that you don’t forget to put on your seat belts.
- You should completely avoid and stay away from highways and bridge overpasses.
- If flying debris or strong winds occurs while driving to the shelter, park your car somewhere safe and keep your engine running. Put your head down and covering it with your hands or a blanket.
- Listen to an NOAA Weather Radio station using a battery-powered radio to get updated information. Even if there is no electricity, a battery-powered radio will continue to work.
- If you are inside your house, office or any other building, then get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a heavy table, workbench and hold on to it. This will keep you protected from falling debris. If the winds enter the room, hold onto the object with one hand and move with it to keep yourself protected.
- Use your hand to protect your neck and hand from flying objects. Use a blanket, if you can.
- You should stay away from windows, especially the ones that are made of glass. Violent winds can break the window and shatter the glasses. This can be extremely dangerous for anyone standing close to it.
- If you are outside or in a car, then go to a nearby building immediately. Sturdy buildings are considered to be safe during tornadoes. In case, there is no building near you, lie flat in a low spot and use your hands to keep your head protected. Tornadoes result from thunderstorms and thus, it produces a lot of rain. If you see rising water you should immediately move to another spot.
- You should avoid going to places with wide-span roofs. For example auditoriums, hallways, or shopping malls. They are easily damaged by the strong tornado winds. If you get hit by them, it will cause you a lot of damage.
What to do after the tornado?
Now that the disaster is over, you need to get back to your home. After surviving a tornado, you need to do the following:
- The very first thing you need to do is let your loved ones know that you are safe. They must be worried about your safety therefore, as soon as the storm gets over, you should alert them or give them a call.
- In case of evacuation, you should get back to your home only when it is declared safe by the authorities.
- You have the radio with you. You should listen to the NOAA Weather Radio station or local news to get continuous updates about the conditions outside. You should also pay close attention to the instructions given by them.
- Check whether you or any of your family members have incurred any injury. In case, you are trained, then you can provide first aid to them till help arrives.
- Surviving a tornado is not an easy thing. People who are weak at heart may be in great stress. Therefore, you should keep a check on your loved ones whether they are experiencing any stress.
- If you have your pets with you, then you should also pay attention to them and see whether they are doing fine or not. Also, keep them fully under your control until everything gets fine.
- Check up on people who may need your help. This includes your neighbors, elderly people, infants, people without transportation and others. During these times you need to help and support each other. Check if there are people with disabilities or anyone who needs emergency care.
Other important things you need to do:
Return Home Safely
- After the tornado, you should stay away from damaged buildings.
- You should also watch out for broken gas lines or fallen power lines. In case, you spot any, report them immediately to the utility company.
- You should also inspect the condition of your home and how much damage it has incurred after a tornado.
- For insurance reasons, you should take pictures of your damaged home, and its contents.
Cleaning and Repairing Your Home
- While cleaning your home, you should wear protective clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. At the same time, you also need to stay cautious.
- You also need to learn to handle fire hazards such as electricity, gas, and chemicals.
- This time you when repairing your home, you should also make it tornado-resistant to protect it against future damages. Along with that also strengthen your garage doors to improve resistance against winds. This is particularly more important for double-wide garage doors.
- If your home has incurred a significant amount of damages, then you should consider building all the parts. Along with it also build a safe room for future needs.
Tornadoes can strike anytime with no or very little warning. Therefore, you need to stay prepared for all types of situations. Having a family disaster plan in place can save you from the severe consequences of the event. It can keep yourself and your loved ones protected. This is especially, important for people who live in tornado-prone areas. You should always listen to news and weather forecast to get updated on signs of a tornado. In case, there is a warning issued, you need to be prepared to face it. Hopefully, this guide can help you prepare for a tornado. You can look up for more information on the web.
- Jared Guyer. The 2018 Tornado Season: Record Low Tornado Fatalities. 2018
- Tyler Fricker. Evaluating tornado casualty rates in the United States. 2019 Sep
- Tornado. Wikipedia.
- Tropical Cyclone. Wikipedia.
- Tyler Fricker, James B. Elsner. Unusually Devastating Tornadoes in the United States: 1995–2016. 2019 Sep
- Tornadoes. Ready.gov.