See a tornado approaching? Hear or see the tornado warning? Do you know what to do?
When a tornado touches down, people face more than just high winds. Injury is likeliest to occur from flying and falling objects. More injuries occur in the aftermath; where hazards lie in the wreckage left behind. Until modern science can figure out a way to dissipate tornadoes, you'll need to know how to get ready for them.
Keep Your Frequency Clear
In tornado country, news outlets are very quick to let people know when a tornado watch or tornado warning is in effect. If you find yourself in severe thunderstorms, turn on the TV or flip on the radio. You won't be caught by surprise.
Local Warning Systems
Many counties and municipalities in tornado-prone regions have their own sirens to warn people. Learn which one means Tornado Watch, and which means Tornado Warning.
A Tornado Watch means that weather conditions are conducive for forming a tornado. For meteorologists and storm nuts like me, we call them "red boxes." If the conditions are especially likely to stir a major outbreak of twisters, or hailstorms or particularly high winds, news outlets will call it a Tornado Watch with a particularly dangerous situation (PDS). Keep the TV or radio on, or if possible invest in a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. The weather radio (especially new ones with S.A.N.E capability) provide 24 hour weather information specific for your locale, and help remove "false positives" from weather events areas as far away as 40 to 50 miles.
A Tornado Warning means that either a tornado has been seen in the area, or that doppler radar is picking up circular patterns in a thunderstorm more than likely to produce a tornado. Now, when this happens, don't worry about turning on the radio. You should IMMEDIATELY take shelter first!
For more information about tornadoes, read our tornado facts section.
Keep a close watch on thunderstorms, as these are the breeding grounds for tornadoes. Be smart and get familiar with the terminology as you monitor events on TV and radio. It's also wise to have a battery operated radio or TV and fresh batteries available, as power outages are likeliest when you need the news most!
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that intense thunderstorms are possible in your area.
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means that intense thunderstorms are occurring in your area.
Important Measures To Take
Take the time to develop a tornado emergency plan with your family so you know what to do if a tornado strikes. Make sure everyone knows the safest room to take shelter in, or if needed, at least two routes out of the home from any given room.
Make sure everyone knows the local siren warning system.
Make sure everyone knows where the fire extinguishers and first aid kits are and how to use them.
Make sure everyone knows how to turn off the water, gas and electricity if your family needs to quickly evacuate.
If you have children, be sure to listen to the news to be informed of any emergency school closures, and make sure they know how to take shelter.
Extra Measures for People with Special Needs
Write down your specific medications, capabilities, limitations and needs. Make copies of the list and keep them handy in separate places (home, car, work). Give another copy or two to neighbors whose help you might require in the event of a tornado.
Writing Down Important Information
It's also wise to make an emergency contact list. You'll need more than just police, fire, and paramedics. You'll also want to list contact information for your:
- Insurance agents, including policy types and numbers.
- Electric, gas, and water companies.
- Landlord or property manager.
- Important medical information
- Bank or credit union, including account numbers.
- Or alternatively you can use a service like Secure Wallet to track and manage this kind of information and have it available on demand.
Storing Important Documents
Store the following documents in a fire- and water-proof safe:
- Birth certificates
- Titles (autos, boats, property)
- Insurance policies
- Home inventory, with photographs or videotape of contents of every room
- Use a tracking system like Pameno Platinum Protection's Archive service to aid in keeping these kind of documents secure on our services in case a tornado strikes.