Tornado Preparedness: Be Ready

Know what to do when a tornado strikes

Tornado Preparedness: Know what to do before one occurs

Most emergencies are not catastrophic, world-ending scenarios. According to List Dose (, Wind events (“Wind Storms-26.28%”) are the second most common natural disaster. This category includes hurricanes, and typhoons, which will be future topics. Today we are going to discuss “Tornado Preparedness”, and how to plan for them.


In order to prepare for weather related natural disasters especially a tornado, there are a couple of tracks one should follow. One track is to have a safe location in order to ride out the storm. The second track is to have enough supplies on hand for the storm’s duration and the aftermath.

Probably the most important item to have “on hand”, is a safe location. Normally, this would be a basement or other location underground. In the event this is not possible, or such a location in unavailable, seek a location on the lowest level in the building. This location should be in an area that is free of windows, and items that can become flying projectiles. This area should also contain some sturdy item to keep debris from on you (i.e. sturdy workbench, table, desk, etc.).

This location should be identified prior to the weather event occurring. Attempting to locate safe area when a weather event occurs is too late. When an event begins, there will be chaos and probably some degree of panic. This is not the time to be searching for a sheltered location. Additionally, this area needs to be identified prior to the event so your family and friends will know where they should go when a tornado strikes. In the event that something happens to you or you are not in the building (home, office, etc), they need to know where to go to get to safety.

The second track you need to follow in order to survive a tornadic event is to have food and water for at least a couple of weeks on hand. These items need to be stored in (preferred) or near your safe location. If not, you may not be able to reach them should your building be impacted by the tornado, or the items may be wiped out. Your preparations should also include flashlights along with extra batteries, and a battery-operated, or crank-powered radio.

[Note: While gas/oil lanterns are nice, they are not always the best choice after a weather/emergency event. If gas lines are present and are ruptured, there is a very serious risk of an explosion and fire. Additionally, should you become buried under rubble the burning gas/oil will reduce the amount of oxygen available to you. During and shortly after an emergency event such as a tornado, flashlights and battery-operated lanterns are your best chance for survival.]

Battery operated flashlights and radios, along with extra blankets, extra clothes, and a good first-aid kit, should be packed and ready prior to an event occurring. Although, the actual event is normally short-lived (in the case of a tornado), the aftermath of the event can last for some time, depending on how much damage occurs. If these items are prepared and ready prior to the event, the odds of surviving such an event are more in your favor.


Now that everything is ready for a tornadic event, our next step is to ensure we know when such an event might occur. To do this, attention should be given to the radio and/or television. In addition to paying attention to the news media, attention should be given to the skies as well.

Some indications of severe weather moving in includes:

Cumulonimbus (cauliflower-looking) clouds – these clouds look like a head of cauliflower. These clouds can also be “anvil-shaped”. The clouds rise up against the warmer air in the stratosphere and spread out, causing an anvil-shape to form at the top. These clouds form the upper portion of a thunderstorm. The sky usually turns dark as well, due to the sunlight is being blocked by the clouds. If the sky turns green this usually means that a tornado is very likely. Heavy rain and hail usually accompanies (usually preceding) a tornado. If the rain and hail suddenly stop and the air becomes eerily quiet, seek shelter immediately, this is indicative of an impending tornado. Swirling debris or dust (like a dust devil) also indicates a tornado is coming, or may already be there, again, seek shelter immediately. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are usually accompanied by lightning. Lightning is dangerous even if there is no tornado, you should seek shelter inside a building if at all possible. If it is not possible, seek the lowest point on the ground where you are.

If you were not previously paying attention to the weather conditions, and you notice any of these signs, you need to execute your readiness plan. Actions should also be initiated that would enable you to get into the safe location that was identified during the preparation phase.


As soon as an alert is issued, or at the first sign of an impending tornado, execute your tornado preparedness plan. Immediately seek your safe site. Once there, get under something strong and secure, such as a strong table, workbench, or desk. This is to help protect you from falling, and flying debris.

During an active tornado, it will be difficult to hear due to the roaring wind. Flying debris is also a danger; some of the debris can be rather large. Hail that often accompanies severe thunderstorms and tornados can be large, and dangerous.

Remain in your safe location until an “all-clear” is sounded, or you can no longer hear the roaring wind. After you can no longer hear the wind or believe it is safe, extreme caution should be exercised when leaving your safe site. The building may have been damaged and may now pose a hazard to your safety.


After leaving your safe site, your first action should be to check on the people around you. If you are in a group (e.g. family, etc.), get a headcount to ensure everyone is accounted for, and then check to ensure everyone is okay. If anyone in your group received an injury (no matter how minor), provide whatever first aid you are capable of providing. If someone is injured beyond your capabilities, seek immediate advanced medical attention.

Once everyone in your group has been checked out and/or treated, begin checking the people in your vicinity. Again, treat those you are able to treat, and seek advanced medical attention for those who require it.

After everyone has been accounted for, and have been given the necessary medical attention, begin work on removing debris, and preparing a safe place to stay. If your building (home), has been damaged, or destroyed, seek shelter where it is safe. The American Red Cross will normally provide sites where shelter can be obtained. You can also check with friends and relatives.

If you home has sustained damage, have the structure checked out by a structural engineer to ensure it is safe to remain inside it. If it is not – get some place safe and stay. Do not enter a structure that has been damaged and not inspected by a professional!


The time to “prepare” is before an event occurs. Create a plan, and practice your plan. If you have a plan, but never practice or no one knows the plan, then you do not have a “plan”. Be sure to have enough supplies on hand to get you through at least the first week, after an event. The first 72 hours are often times the hardest. Stores, gas stations, etc. may have also suffered damage and therefore food and water may not be available for a length of time. Being prepared prevents you from being a victim and provides you the opportunity to help your family, friends, and neighbors. Contact Great Living Sources to work with you so will be ready when a tornado strikes and know what to do.

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