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  • Smart Choices

Stay Safe During a Tornado Season

Image of a tornado in the distance from a highway

After the recent deadly devastation caused by a massive tornado in several parts of Iowa, it's wise to review your tornado preparedness plan.

From viewing funnel videos on the TV news and online, most of us recognize the types of cloud formations where tornadoes are most likely to form and the freight-train roar that accompanies them. Other clues to a possible tornado formation include a wall cloud, large hail and a dark, greenish sky.

If you are worried about the weather, you will likely switch on your TV news reports or local radio stations to find details and listen for tornado sirens. Editorial note: Turning on a battery-powered weather radio is another option, especially if there are no sirens in your immediate area. Be sure to keep yours charged and ready to grab if the weather warrants it.

Other pre-storm checks include having a first-aid kit and fire extinguishers at the ready and ensuring all family members know how to access the safest location in your home.

Find the safest location If you are in a building structure such as a home, school, office, hospital, or other public building

  • Head to the basement or storm cellar if available; otherwise, go to the lowest level into a windowless interior room or hallway.

  • Stay away from glass windows and doors.

  • Crouch down to make the smallest “target” possible.

  • If available, get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a bench, heavy table or desk.

  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck and cover up with pillows or blankets to protect yourself from flying glass or other debris.

If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home or are out in the open These areas are all very dangerous during a tornado. Protect yourself as much as you are able.

  • Don’t try to outrun the tornado. If you can, immediately head to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter.

  • Stay away from trees and power lines and watch for lightning if you are outdoors.

  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands; remain vigilant about the possibility of flooding.

  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge.

  • Watch for flying debris, as most tornado-related injuries and fatalities are caused by debris.

After a tornado

  • Continue monitoring the storm with a battery-powered radio or TV for emergency information.

  • Be wary of entering any structure that has been damaged.

  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas.

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.

  • Look out for exposed nails and broken glass.

  • Stay away from downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards.

  • Use battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to light homes without electrical power.

  • Never use generators or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, garage, basement, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. A buildup of carbon monoxide can be deadly.

  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials and volunteer to help others in your community if you can.

Prepare for the next storm well in advance

Especially if you live in a home, trailer, or apartment community without a basement, there are ways to increase your family’s safety:

  • Build a safe room, either an individual room for your family or a community safe room for your apartment or condo association. There are many approved types; start your research with FEMA.

  • Find out more about NOAA weather radios


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