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Disaster Preparedness: Do You Have a Tornado Plan?

June 2, 2011

Tornado sirens blared the startling alarm again last week, sending us to seek shelter.  It reminded me once again that these vicious storms do not always strike somewhere else.  Having survived two devastating tornadoes does not make me an expert.  It does make me more cautious and perhaps a little more obedient to following the personal safety guidelines of a tornado warning.  I don’t need to stare out the plate glass window watching for funnel clouds.  I can watch incredible videos of it later on YouTube.

With so much loss of life and property in recent weeks, I thought it would be worth a nagging reminder. Do you have a tornado plan?  It’s not hard and this would be a good week to implement one if you don’t have one in place.


What You Can Do Ahead Of Time

1. Have a plan and make sure everyone in your house understands where to go.  If you have a basement, that is the ideal place. If not, choose an interior bathroom or closet on the lowest floor away from windows.  If you live in an apartment or mobile home park, see if they have a storm shelter or sturdy clubhouse. 

2. Keep a designated box of emergency supplies.  You may not have time to hunt down all the items you may need so have this box ready to go for emergencies.  You will need a good flashlight (don’t use candles for fear of a gas explosion), a box of fresh batteries, a weather radio, a portable radio, a change of clothes, medical supplies, a can opener, a pocket knife and sturdy shoes.  Remember that if a tornado does hit, broken glass will be everywhere and you may not have time to grab shoes.

3. Keep a supply of canned foods and water to last at least a  couple of days. 

What To Do When The Weather Looks Bad

Pay close to attention to your weather radio, the Weather Channel or local stations for storm watches and warnings.  Shut all windows.  Clouds often turn green before a tornado but not always.  Watch for large hail but remember that sometime tornadoes strike from a dead calm.  When a warning has been issued, seek shelter in your designated safe zone and stay put until the warning has lifted.  Keep your head protected.  Don’t rely on the tornado sirens but if you hear them, run for cover.

If you are in a car, get out!  Do not try to outrun or outsmart a tornado.  Cars are a deadly place to be in the event of a tornado strike.  Do not go to an underpass as these create severe wind tunnels.  Seek a sturdy shelter or if none is available, find a low lying area such as a ditch to take cover.  Shield the back of your head with your hands or a sturdy object.  Watch for flash flooding.

Extra Precautions

DuPont makes a storm shelter that you can add to your home which is made of Kevlar, the same stuff used to make bullet proof vests.  This shelter is credited for saving the life of Diana Svenson in Joplin, Missouri when the tornado struck her home.  These shelters start around $5000.  If you are planning to build a new home, insist on fortified construction which will anchor the roof to the home and the home to the foundation.  The cost of these upgrades adds an average of only $3000 to the pricetag of a new home.

Be prepared. Be safe!

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