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Back in 1997, I survived a relatively powerful tornado. Needless to say, it was a terrifying experience. If I didn’t have my underground bunker at the time, I wouldn’t be here today. Having gone through this experience, I can tell you firsthand that learning the following tornado safety tips is super-important. Even if your area doesn’t experience frequent tornadoes, I still recommend that you learn how to prepare for them. You never know when one will strike.
- 1 Tornado Safety Tips – General Overview
- 2 The Fujita Scale – Estimating a Tornado’s Strength
- 3 Before The Tornado
- 4 During The Tornado
- 5 After The Tornado
- 6 Worst Tornado in History?
- 7 Tornado Safety Tips – Bottom Line
Tornado Safety Tips – General Overview
By far the best thing you can do starting today is invest in a storm shelter. You can either build or buy one. In either case, they are highly recommended. Not only can they save your life, but you’ll also be able to live day-to-day with greater peace of mind. It’s also important to stay updated via in the internet, radio, and television. That way, you can get the biggest head start possible on the tornado. The following tornado safety tips will be divided into “before”, “after”, and “during”. Let’s get started.
TORNADO WATCH VS. TORNADO WARNING – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
There are a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the difference between a tornado “watch” and a tornado “warning”. Before showing you the tornado safety tips in this article, let’s take a look at the difference between the two:
- Tornado Watch: This means that tornadoes are a possible threat in your area. At this point, you should be discussing your emergency plan with your family, as well as checking the supplies in your safe room. Be ready to act at a moment’s notice.
- Tornado Warning: This means that one or more tornadoes have been sighted in the area. Once a tornado warning has been issued, it means you’re in imminent danger. Immediately go to your underground shelter or safe room and wait out the storm.
Here’s a handy video for all you “visual” learners:
The Fujita Scale – Estimating a Tornado’s Strength
I created a chart that you can use to estimate a tornado’s strength based on its placement on the Fujita Scale. Take a look:
Before The Tornado
First and foremost, build an emergency kit. Depending on the strength and duration of the tornado, you may not have access to modern amenities for up to 24 hours (sometimes longer). You can buy an emergency kit or build one yourself. If you choose the latter, make sure it contains the following:
- MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)
- Rain Gear
- Can Opener
- Water (1 Gallon Per Person/Day)
- Emergency Blankets
- Duct Tape
- Cell Phone w/ Charger
- Signal Flares
- Air Horn or Whistle (To Signal For Help)
- First Aid Equipment
- Cash and Credit Cards
For more information on how to build a quality emergency kit, check out my article, “How to Build the Best Bug Out Bag”. Once you’ve acquired a descent emergency kit, it’s time to develop an emergency communication plan. By this, I mean that you and your family should have a way to communicate with one another in case you are separated. Another one of the more important tornado safety tips to remember is to trim trees and shrubbery. After all, you don’t want weak or dead branches falling on your home.
Once you’ve completed that task, take inventory of all your possessions. Take photographs, record videos, or do a combination of both. Keep these records in a safe deposit box (or somewhere else safe away from your home). Why is this important? Well, you might need these later when filing insurance claims. The same tip applies for pretty much any natural disaster.
Preparing a Safe Room
Even if your home is built “to code”, this doesn’t mean that it can withstand the powerful winds associated with a tornado. The purpose of building a safe room is to provide you and your family with a safe place to hide when one hits. Unfortunately, building a storm shelter is beyond the scope of this article. To read more about it, here’s a useful article from FamilyHandyMan.com. Be sure to read it all the way through if you’re planning on building a safe room. If you have a home with a basement, you may not need to worry about this.
No guide on tornado safety tips would be complete without talking about home tornado drills. This tip is especially important if you have children, or if you live with the elderly. Basically, make sure that everyone in your household is familiar with what to do and where to go if a tornado hits. Practice your tornado drill a minimum of once per year. Again, this is mainly aimed at children, but adults should practice it too.
During The Tornado
By this point, you should already be in your safe room (preferably a basement or something similar). If for whatever reason you can’t get to a safe room, cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag and stay away from windows. Under no circumstance should you stay in a mobile home. People in mobile homes are 15x more likely to die compared to people in regular homes.
If you can’t find a regular building, find a ditch and lie down in it with your head covered. If you have a helmet, wear it. Believe it or not, a lot of people die from getting hit in the head with debris. Another one of the more important tornado safety tips to remember is to never try and outrun a tornado in a car.
Tornadoes have the ability to travel in excess of 70 MPH! For this reason, it’s a much better idea to get out of your car and find a sturdier shelter. Granted, there is one exception: if you see the tornado moving to one side or the other, it may be safe to drive in the opposite direction. But if it’s heading straight towards you, don’t try to outrun it.
After The Tornado
Once the tornado passes, you’ll still need to take a few precautions. Immediately check for gas leaks, downed power lines, or other structural damage. If you step on a loose power line then this could result in instant death. The same applies to a gas leak, which can lead to an explosion. This is one of those tornado safety tips that people tend to forget, and it ends up killing them. Also, this is the time to check for injuries. Don’t attempt to move someone who’s been seriously injured unless they’re in immediate danger. If you notice that someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR right away (the sooner you start, the higher the chances of them surviving). From here, it’s simply a matter of time before help begins to arrive.
Worst Tornado in History?
By far the most devastating tornado in history was the “Tri-State Tornado” that killed a whopping 695 people on March 18th, 1925. On top of that, 2,027 people were injured. The tornado traveled more than 300 miles through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, and was rated as an F5 on the Fujita scale (this means that the winds were in excess of 260+ MPH). This is a sad but perfect example about how deadly tornadoes can be. Here’s a quick clip about the tornado:
Tornado Safety Tips – Bottom Line
Hopefully you’ll take these tornado safety tips and apply them. Even though weather detection technology has become fairly advanced, it’s still possible to find yourself in a life-or-death situation with a tornado. If and when that time comes, make sure that you have a plan. Otherwise, you dramatically reduce your chances of survival.
NOTE: David originally posted this article on March 20, 2016.