Tornado Approaching

What Should I Do When a Tornado Approaches My Area?

If you live in the "Tornado Alley" region, you're used to hearing the sirens tested on the first Wednesday of every month. You understand that the sirens are designed to warn of potential tornado activity, but simply being aware of the potential for a tornado isn't sufficient. Unfortunately, many people don't develop the necessary safety precautions should the siren's call ever serve as more than a test.

Because tornadoes travel very quickly and can change direction at any time, following safety precautions after the siren sounds might be too late. Early preparation is essential. To raise awareness and help keep everyone safe in the event of a real, fast-approaching tornado, follow these common practices.

Watch or Warning?

For starters, everyone should understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch means no tornado has been sighted yet, but the conditions are right for a tornado to appear. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted and citizens need to get to safety.

Stay Informed

If a tornado watch has been issued, stay indoors and follow the weather through media channels. You can also look out the window. If the sky has turned dark and greenish in color and there are low-lying, dark clouds, strong winds, or large hail, then severe weather is coming to the area.

Get to Safety

Once a tornado warning has been confirmed, proper safety precautions depend on your location, but in general, move everyone in the family to a designated safe area.

  • People fortunate enough to be inside a sturdy building with structurally sound walls should head for the lowest room in the building. In many homes, this will be the cellar or basement.
  • In homes or buildings without a cellar or basement, head to the most centralized room available and avoid windows, doors, or any outside walls.
  • Once everyone has reached the safe place, get under something sturdy, like the base of a staircase, and cover up with a blanket.
  • Avoid sitting next to heavy things like pianos, refrigerators, or shelves that could topple over during the storm. Any areas directly beneath these objects on the floor below should be avoided as well, as these items may fall through the floor during the storm.
  • In a high-rise or corporate building lacking a basement, head for a stairwell or hallway without windows and crouch low to the ground.
  • People inside mobile homes should leave the unit if possible to find more secure shelter, as even the most interior of rooms in a mobile home will offer little protection. Many mobile-home communities have tornado shelters for these situations.
  • Those who find themselves outside with no shelter available should concentrate on getting as low as possible by lying face down and covering their head. Drainage ditches and low ground are ideal in these situations, but do not go beneath bridges or overpasses as they may be damaged or destroyed by the tornado. It is also important to avoid wooded areas as trees may be knocked over during the storm.

Under no circumstances should a person try to outrun a tornado on foot or by vehicle. The safest choice is always to abandon the vehicle and find shelter or low ground immediately.

To stay as safe as possible if a tornado does visit your area, we hope these best practices will protect you, your family, and the people around you.

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