is at its strongest in the spring months of March-June in the United States; however,
these damaging storms can occur during any time of the year. Though tornadoes
are most common in the central region of the country, there have been reports
of them in all 48 continental states.
According to the NOAA National Severe Storms
Laboratory, in an average year, 800 tornadoes get reported nationwide—including
those that accompany hurricanes and other tropical storms. They result in an
average of 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries per year. No matter where you live, you
need to be prepared in case a tornado comes to your area.
While some tornadoes can clearly be seen,
rainy conditions or low-hanging clouds can often obscure their view. Because
tornadoes can develop so abruptly, it’s important to note that often times
there may be little, if any, advanced warning from the skies. It’s
important to identify ahead of time the best locations in your home to shelter in place. When possible, avoid traveling or
going outside when a tornado watch or severe weather warning is in effect.
To make sure your family is ready for
tornadoes at any time, follow the steps below:
your emergency plans with your family at
least twice a year. Be sure to communicate your plan of action with children so
they understand exactly what to do. Family communication plans are especially
important due to the sudden nature of the storm, as family members are more
likely to be separated and need to communicate to each other that they are
safe. Also, familiarize yourself with the plans of your community, school,
workplace, etc. before disaster strikes.
an emergency kit for
The kit should include enough water and nonperishable food items to cover your
family for at least 72 hours, along with other basic needs such as flashlights
and blankets. In case your home incurs severe damage, be sure to also have a
kit prepared for your
up-to-date on changing weather conditions and listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest information. You can also
sign up to receive wireless emergency alerts, which will help keep
you and your family informed of inclement weather.
- Know the different terminology:
- A severe weather watch means that severe weather is expected or that settings are favorable for the development of severe weather.
- If/when that turns into a severe weather warning, it means severe weather is occurring or imminent. If you live in a warning area, take action immediately.
- A tornado watch means conditions are right for the formation of a tornado. Stay alert, and be prepared to take shelter.
- A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area. Take shelter immediately!
- If you’re away from home, your best bets for shelter are basements or interior corridors of office buildings, tunnels, underground parking lots or subways. Avoid auditoriums, upper stories of office buildings, trailers and parked vehicles. Always stay away from windows and close your blinds.
- If you’re out in the open, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area and protect your head—most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. Stay away from poles and overhead lines.
- If you’re driving, drive at right angles to the tornado’s path. If you can’t escape the path of the tornado, get out of the vehicle to avoid being overturned and crushed.
- If you’re at home, head for the basement and take cover under a heavy table or workbench. If you don’t have a basement, go into a windowless room in the center of the house. If that’s not possible, stay away from windows and cover yourself with a rug for protection against flying glass and debris. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
- Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
Use technology to your advantage—text,
email and update your social media channels letting everyone know that you’re
okay. Try not to make phone calls during this time, as lines need to be freed
for first responders in the area. If you are having trouble locating a loved
one, you can use the FEMA locator system.
Even after the tornado has passed through
your area, stay informed of weather changes and be cautious while investigating
the damages to avoid injury. Make sure your area has been declared safe before
you return to your
If you question the safety of your residence or are concerned for the safety of
your family, call on a qualified building inspector before entering. Keep their
number saved in your cell phone contacts.
Note that along with physical damages to
your home and/or vehicle, psychological pain can also be felt while coping with
the aftermath of a tornado—especially for children. Click here to view a coping guide that can help
the healing process.