TYLER, Texas — Knowing what to do when you see a tornado or when you hear a tornado warning can help protect you and your family.
During a tornado, people face hazards from extremely high winds and risk being struck by flying and falling objects.
After a tornado, the wreckage left behind poses additional injury risks. Although nothing can be done to prevent tornadoes, there are actions you can take for your health and safety.
To stay safe during a tornado, prepare a plan and an emergency kit, stay aware of weather conditions during thunderstorms, know the best places to shelter both indoors and outdoors, and always protect your head.
Tornadoes continue to impact locations across the country every year, bringing massive winds and destruction in their paths.
The 2016 tornado season claimed the lives of 18 individuals and injured another 325. Seventy-eight percent of those victims were in a mobile home or trailer park at the time of the tornado. These storms caused an estimated $183 million in property damage.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) there is no guaranteed safety during a tornado. Even the possibility of a tornado must be taken seriously. Although the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away almost any house and those within it, extremely violent EF5 tornadoes are very rare. Most tornadoes are much weaker. You can survive a tornado if you follow safety precautions.
Here are three important tips to help keep you safe.
TIP 1: BE PREPARED
The best way to stay safe during a tornado is to be prepared with:
- Fresh batteries and a battery-operated TV, radio, or internet-enabled device to listen to the latest emergency weather information
- A tornado emergency plan including access to a “safe shelter” for yourself and for people with special needs
- An emergency kit (including water, non-perishable food, and medication)
- A list of important information, including telephone numbers
Be sure your children know what a tornado is, what tornado watches and warnings are, what county or parish they live in (warnings are issued by county or parish), and what makes a location a “safe shelter,” whether at home or at school.
TIP 2: STAY AWARE OF WEATHER CONDITIONS
To protect yourself and your family from harm during a tornado, pay close attention to changing weather conditions in your area. If you know thunderstorms are expected, stay tuned to local radio and TV stations or an NOAA weather radio for further weather information. Some tornadoes strike rapidly without time for a tornado warning. The following weather signs may mean that a tornado is approaching:
- A dark or green-colored sky
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud
- Large hail
- A loud roar that sounds like a freight train
If you notice any of these conditions, take cover immediately, and keep tuned to local radio and TV stations or to a NOAA weather radio or check the internet.
TIP 3: KNOW WHERE TO SEEK SHELTER
Falling and flying debris cause most deaths and injuries during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.
- Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (bathroom, closet, center hallway)
- Avoid windows
- For added protection get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench).
- Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress
- Protect your head with anything available
- Do not stay in a mobile home
If you are outside or in a mobile home, find a nearby building preferably with a basement. If you are in a car, do not try to outrun a tornado but instead find the nearest sturdy building.
NOTE: You may need to change your plans and change locations when the tornado watch is issued.
No one can know a tornado’s strength before it touches down, so keep up with local weather information, especially when thunderstorms are forecast. Prepare your home and family for the possibility of a tornado. Moving to shelter quickly is easier when everyone knows where to go, whether in your home or outdoors. Following these tips will give you the best chance for staying safe in a tornado.
After a tornado occurs:
- STAY INFORMED: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are possible during severe weather outbreaks.
- CONTACT YOUR FAMILY AND LOVED ONES: Let your family and close friends know that you're okay so they can help spread the word. Text messages or social media are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.
- ASSESS THE DAMAGE: After the threat for tornadoes has ended, check to see if your property has been damaged. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.
- HELP YOUR NEIGHBOR: If you come across people that are injured and you are properly trained, provide first aid to victims if needed until emergency response teams arrive.
Learn more about how to stay safe during a tornado.