Statistical Importance: moderate
26.2% of U.S citizens located in tornado danger zones do not have access to any sort of tornado warning system.(6)
The Warnings From the Sky
Look for the weather cues of an oncoming tornado which are outlined in the below tornado safety tips:
- A dark green-tinged sky;
- Heavy rain or large hail followed by dead calm or fierce wind;
- Intense and frequent lightening;
- A rapidly approaching or rotating dark low-lying cloud;
- Dark storm-clouds advancing from the horizon; or
- At night, blue-green or white flashes at ground level (an indication that a powerful wind is snapping power lines.
- You might not actually see a tornado; it might not be transparent until a funnel of cloud slithers down to earth, or until it solidifies by picking up debris and dirt.
Listen for danger warnings:
- Tune in to television weather newscasts, local radio stations, or the NOAA Weather Radio.
- In case of a Tornado Watch or a Tornado Warning, pay close attention and follow the instructions of the local emergency officials.
- Outside, listen for a load roaring (as if from a jet or a freight train).
- Your local community may warn you with a designated siren call.
Statistical Importance: high
94% of Tornado deaths occur after a tornado watch had been issued in that area.(8)
Recognize the Preconditions
Check your calendar. Tornados are most frequently reported in the spring (March, April, and May), although they may continue through early summer.
Where do you live? Tornados often strike east of the Rocky Mountains.
Know the difference:
- Tornado Watch: The event of a tornado is possible and likely. Remain alert and stay tuned to local weather forecast.
- Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted. Seek shelter immediately.
Prepare an Emergency Plan.
- Designate a “safety room” which would serve as the best shelter during a tornado. This shelter should be at the lowest level (like a basement or storm cellar).
- Ensure that everyone in the family is aware of the safety room and that it is easily accessible to all.
- Investing on an emergency preparedness training especially in a commercial environment can reduce the human risks and minimize the costs of damages that it may cause.
Statistical Importance: high
In the Oklahoma twister outbreak of 1999, out of a total of 40 deaths and 398 injuries, only a single injury was sustained by someone in a basement. A suprising 43% of U.S citizens in tornado zones do not have any sort of designated tornado shelter.
Choose Your Sanctuary Wisely
If you are in a solid building (home, workspace, skyscraper):
- If you’re at home, head to your pre-designated shelter.
- First option: lowest level of a building, at the center of an interior room.
- Second option: in a high-rise building, head to the hallway, a small interior room or closet in the lowest floor, or beneath a stairwell.
- Choose rooms on the east or north sides of the shelter if there is no interior room.
- Avoid rooms (such as the kitchen) with lots of potentially flying objects.
- Avoid large rooms with poorly supported roofs (auditoriums, gymnasiums, etc.).
Inside that room,
- Stay close to the innermost walls of the building.
- Crouch beneath a sturdy table or desk.
- Cover yourself with padding—blankets, mattress, a helmet.
- Adopt a protective crouch: low against the floor, face-down, covering your head with your hands.
- Avoid windows, doors, and corners.
- Don’t bother opening windows (to equalize air pressure); the wind will shatter them soon enough.
- Avoid glass.
- Avoid candles, gas lanterns, and other such flammable objects.
- Avoid elevators; you may be trapped if the power goes out.
- Avoid being beneath the part of the ceiling which supports a very heavy object (piano, fridge) on the above level.
If you are in a shopping mall or large store:
- Stay inside an interior bathroom, storage room, or any other windowless interior room.
- Do not evacuate the building to go outside or to your car!
If you are in a mobile home, trailer, or other automobile:
- Get out immediately and head to the nearest solid building.
- A tied-down mobile home or trailer will not offer protection—a mobile home can quickly morph into an airborne missile.
If you are in a car:
- Try to drive away: if the tornado is far and traffic is light, try to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado.
- Never try to outrun (or out-drive) a tornado in a congested urban area; you may be stuck in traffic in an exposed road.
- Seek shelter in a building or underground.
- If there is a ditch or area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, abandon your car and lie down in that area.
- If storm catches up, pull over (out of traffic lanes), buckle up, and crouch down (gathering as much padding on you as possible).
- Avoid bridges; they offer little protection from flying debris, and pose lethal traffic hazards.
- Avoid buses and vans; big flat-surfaced vehicles are most vulnerable to the storm (and heavy!).
If you are outside with no shelter to access:
- If you can’t get to a sturdy building, lie flat and face-down on low ground.
- Clasp the back of your head protectively with your hands.
- Avoid nearby trees and cars; they may be uprooted or dislocated, and could hit you.
Statistical Importance: low
6% of tornado deaths occur days after the tornado due to injuries, falls caused during cleanup, and collapsing homes.
Safety After the Tornado Strikes
Help or get help for those who are trapped or injured.
- Do not attempt to move seriously injured individuals; call for help.
Stay tuned to the local media for the latest emergency updates. They may have tornado safety tips that are uniquely relevent to your situation.
Evacuate or avoid damaged buildings, which may collapse.
Use your phone only for emergencies.
Leave a building immediately if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
Clean up spilled medicine, bleach, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately and if possible.
Beware of other fire hazards:
- Anything containing gas can potentially rupture and explode
- Beware severed electrical wires
- Ensure that appliances aren’t emitting sparks and smoke
For insurance, photograph the damage.
Statistical Importance: high
40% of U.S citizens are located in tornado danger zones that do not have a preparedness or response plan in place.(7)
In Your Emergency Kit or “Safe Room”
A stash of padding gear (blankets, a mattress, coats)
Sturdy shoes, to protect you from glass and debris
Portable, battery-powered TV or radio to stay updated
Flashlights and batteries, or unlit candles and matches
- Never strike a match until you’re sure you haven’t had a gas leak!
A first aid kit (include aspirin, prescription items, and antacids)
Any essential medication
Tools including a utility knife, can opener, and wrench
Canned food and other non-perishables
- Experts recommend having supplies for at least three days
Cash and credit cards, passport, social security cards, etc.
---- Tornado Safety Tips: Sources ----
- (1) 2011 Tornado Information by NOAA
- (2) Tornado section of Encyclopedia Britannica
- (3) Nature’s Most Violent Storms by NOAA
- (4) Tornado death toll in 2011 worst since 1953 by The Columbus Dispatch
- (5) Manufactured Homes a Big Factor in Rural Homeownership in U.S. by PRB
- (6) Tornado Preparedness and Tornado Warning Systems, page 32 by FEMA
- (7) Tornado Preparedness and Tornado Warning Systems, page 35 by FEMA
- (8) Annual U.S Killer Tornado Statistics by NOAA
- (9) Tornado-Related Fatalities -- Five States, Southeastern United States, April 25-28, 2011 by CDC
- (10) Tornado-Related Fatalities -- Five States, Southeastern United States, April 25-28, 2011 by CDC