One of nature's most powerful storms can also be one of the most devastating. Tornadoes can cause millions of dollars in damage in a matter of seconds, but this is nothing compared to the injuries and loss of life that can also occur. While there's nothing anyone can do to stop a tornado from occurring, you can take measures to reduce your risk of injury during a storm, as well as prepare for the immediate aftermath.
Designate a Safe Room
Much of the danger from tornadoes comes from high winds and flying debris. These storms have extremely strong winds that can reach 300 miles per hour, turning virtually anything in its path into a dangerous projectile. To safeguard yourself, you need a designated safe room that can afford you the most protection from winds and flying debris. The ideal place is a basement or storm cellar that is below ground and that will not collect large amounts of rainwater. If an underground shelter isn’t an option, choose an interior room with no windows that is on the first floor, such as a bathroom or closet.
Stock Your Safe Room
Once you’ve chosen the most protected area in your home, you need to stock it with emergency supplies that can be used during and after the storm. This includes flashlights, batteries, blankets, a local road map, bottled water, and non-perishable foods. Also include a first aid kit containing bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, latex gloves, hand sanitizer, ace bandages, and other medications.
Make sure your whole family knows what to do in the event of a tornado. In this type of emergency, there often is not a lot of time to prepare, so everyone should know their role if a storm is approaching. This may include assisting younger members of the family or pets into the safe room. Once everyone is in the safe room, practice crouching down and covering your head with your hands. In the event of a real storm, grab pillows, blankets, or even a mattress if there is time. Use these to cover yourselves to add further protection from flying debris.
Know the Signs
Knowing what to look for prior to a tornado can buy you precious time to prepare. Listen to weather reports about approaching storms to learn whether a tornadic activity is expected. You can also look for signs outdoors, including dark clouds that take on a greenish tint, wall clouds, large hail, clouds of debris, visible funnel clouds, or a roaring noise. Just before a tornado hits, the wind may abruptly die down and the air may become very still.