"Of course, you can’t prevent tornadoes, but you can make sure your family and home are as prepared and ready as possible, especially if you live a tornado-prone region," said Christine Lentz, President, FirstService Residential, Missouri. "Even if a dangerous storm arises without warning, there are things you can do to minimize potential injury and damage and get through it as safely as possible."
So let's take a look at steps you can take to prepare for tornadoes and better weather the storm.
1. Make a plan.
In certain parts of North America, it’s not a question of whether a tornado will strike, but when. In other locations, tornadoes are less possible, but it’s wise to never say never. No matter where you live, it makes good sense to prepare in advance so you’re ready to react quickly if you ever need to. Start by identifying where to seek shelter if a twister should strike. Select an area without windows, and on the lowest floor possible – your basement or storm shelter is perfect, if you happen to have one. If not, choose a first-story room without windows, like a hallway, bathroom or even a closet. Mark the routes to this area, and practice tornado drills with your family. Make sure everyone knows how to shut off the power, water and gas – and just in case, knows the location of the family first aid kit. Keep fire extinguishers handy and teach everyone in your home how to use them. You’ll also want to have on hand fresh batteries and a battery-powered TV or radio since power is often interrupted during a severe storm.
2. Make a list.
Keep a log of important information close by, such as emergency contact numbers and the names and numbers of your close neighbors, insurance agent, property manager and/or landlord. In addition, compile your insurance policy numbers and important information about your family’s medical conditions and prescriptions, vehicles and bank account numbers, as well as how to access radio and TV stations that may broadcast important emergency storm information. You’ll also want to make sure important documents like birth certificates, social security cards, insurance policies, wills and documentation of your home’s contents (lists and photographs) are stored in a water- and fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box at your bank.
3. Know the lingo.
When tornadoes and other hazardous storms arise, it's important to understand standard weather terms used by governmental agencies and the media to describe their severity and probability. A “severe thunderstorm watch” means a severe thunderstorm is possible near your location, while a “severe thunderstorm warning” means that radar has indicated that a storm is producing (or will produce) dangerous winds and other conditions capable of causing significant damage – and that includes tornadoes. Similarly, a tornado watch means that conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, so stay tuned to emergency broadcasts and be ready to take shelter. A tornado warning is issued when a funnel cloud is sighted or indicated by radar – if so, take shelter immediately.
4. Look for signs.
A tornado can also form without thunderstorms. If you see dark or green-colored skies, a low-flying cloud that is large and dark, or big chunks of hail, it could mean a tornado is approaching – same goes for noises that sound like a rumbling freight train. If you see or hear any of these telltale tornado indicators, take shelter immediately. And if you see a funnel cloud, that’s an actual tornado, so get somewhere safe right away. If possible, take the opportunity to alert your local news room or broadcast stations – but only if time permits and doesn’t delay your move to safety.
5. Take shelter.
If you're at home during a tornado, seek shelter in your safe room – remember, it's the basement or storm cellar, or a windowless area in the lowest level of your house. You may also want to cover each family member's body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress to prevent injury from flying glass or debris. If there's a sturdy table in the room, everyone should get under it. If you live in a mobile home, leave and find a stable structure to shelter in instead. If you're in your car, don't try to outrun the tornado – you can't. Instead, pull over – preferably in an area that is lower than the road – and secure your safety belt, lower your head below window-level and cover your body with a blanket or jacket. Don't try to park beneath a bridge or overpass – they're actually not as safe as they may appear. If you're outdoors on foot, seek shelter immediately – even if it's inside a stationary vehicle. As a last resort, lie down in the lowest-lying area of ground you can find and cover your head with your hands.
These tips are a good start to help you prepare for the worst. For more valuable storm safety information and guidelines, check out the helpful government resources below:
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