Tornado Safety Tips
Taken from the Education and Information Section, North Carolina Emergency Management Division.
Severe weather season is fast approaching. The National Weather Service and Emergency Management Agencies throughout the United States want you to prepare for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Take some time and make a tornado plan for your family, friends and co-workers. Planning ahead for a tornado, as well as any other calamity, will lower the chance of injury or death should you become impacted by such an event.
Tornadoes can occur with little or no warning. You will have only minutes to make life saving decisions. It is important to know the basics of tornado safety.
Listen to the radio, local television, weather channel or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio for information. Don't wait until a warning is issued to begin planning how you will respond. Take responsibility for your safety and plan now!
Have a plan.
- Meet with household members to discuss how to respond to an approaching tornado.
- Hold tornado drills.
- Learn how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches.
The safest place to be during a tornado is underground in a basement or storm cellar. If you have no basement, go to an inner hallway or smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet. Go to the center of the room. Try to find something sturdy you can get under and hold onto to protect you from flying debris and/or a collapsed roof. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to damage from high winds. Residents, even those who live in mobile homes with tie-downs, should seek safe shelter when a tornado threatens. Go to a prearranged shelter when the weather turns bad. If you live in a mobile home park, talk to management about the availability of a nearby shelter. If no shelter is available, go outside and lie on the ground, if possible in a ditch or depression. Use your arms to protect your head and neck and wait for the storm to pass. While waiting, be alert for flash flooding that can accompany a tornado.
Never try to outrun a tornado in a car. A tornado can toss cars and trucks around like toys. If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued, get out of your vehicle and find safe shelter. If no shelter is available, lie down in a low area using your arms to cover the back of your head and neck. Again, be alert for flooding. Be alert to what is happening outside.
Here are some tornado danger signs: If there is a watch or warning posted, falling hail should be considered as a real danger sign. An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado, even if the funnel is not visable. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
We are in tornado season again, as evidenced recently by a number of incidents not only throughout the United States, but also here in North Carolina.
There are ways to help you and your family prepare for possible tornadoes in our area.
Before a storm
- Know the terms used:
- Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible, weather conditions exist that favor the formation of storms.
- Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted - take shelter immediately.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Severe thunderstorms are possible, (powerful thunderstorms spawn tornadoes).
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
- Know the county you live in and surrounding counties closest to you. They are used in warnings to identify the location of tornadoes.
- Determine places to seek shelter such as a storm cellar or basement. If an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor closest to the center of the building.
- Practice going to your shelter with family members.
- Know the locations of designated shelters in places where you and your family spend time, such as public buildings, nursing homes, and shopping centers.
- Have emergency supplies on hand. Refer to the 72 hours preparedness article or get a copy of Emergency Preparedness checklists from your local Emergency Management Office.
- Make an inventory of your possessions. Take photographs or video tape, then place that tape in a safe deposit box or other safe place away from the premises.
During a Tornado Watch
- Listen to your commercial radio / television newscasts or to a NOAA radio for the latest information.
- Be alert for approaching storms. If you see any revolving funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by phone to your local law enforcement.
- Be ready to take shelter.
During a Tornado
When a tornado has been sighted, go to your shelter immediately. Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
- In a house or small building, go to the basement or storm cellar. If neither of these exist, go to an interior room on the lowest level (closets, interior hallway).
- In a school, nursing home, hospital, factory, or shopping center, go to predesignated shelter areas. Stay away from windows and open spaces. Interiors hallways on the lowest floor are usually safest.
- In a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home, get out immediately and go to a more substantial structure.
- If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head.
- If in a car, get out and take shelter nearby. Do not attempt to out-drive a tornado. They are erratic and can move swiftly.
After a storm
- Look for broken glass and downed power lines.
- Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger.
- Use great caution when entering a damaged building. Be sure that walls, ceiling and roof are in place and the structure rests firmly on the foundation.
Preparedness is a year round program, make sure you and your family is taken care of as well as you possibly can.