Preparing Your Home for Extreme Weather: Tornadoes

In our Checklist for Preparing Your Home for Extreme Weather, we shared a list of things to keep on hand, packed up and ready at all times for any natural disaster situation. But certain types of storms may call for unique steps to protect your home and family.

Tornadoes are common in the Great Plains, the Midwest, the Mississippi Valley and the southern United States during the spring and summer. If you're in these areas, considering moving there or are seeing your first tornado watch on your weather forecast, here are some things you should know about tornadoes and how to prepare for them.

Prepare home for a tornado.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can be one of the scariest natural disasters because they are very unpredictable. They are powerful and able to lift homes and cars through the air, pull trees out of the ground, cause hail storms, and much more. A tornado can strike at any time with no warning at all. While tornadoes are most common in what they call tornado valley--the plains states, tornadoes have been reported in every state.

The conditions simply have to be right for a tornado to form. If you hear about a tornado watch on your weather forecast, this signifies that the conditions are right. When your town has a tornado watch, be alert and watch for a tornado warning. When a tornado warning is announced, a tornado has been seen touching the ground and you should seek shelter.

Prepare your home for a tornado

  • Install a safe room in your home. Basements or interior rooms provide the best protection. If you do not have a safe room, designate an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows and make sure your family knows where to go when the emergency arises.
  • Put a hand crank radio in your safe room so that you can monitor the weather forecast and know when it is safe to leave your safe shelter.
  • Install doors and a roof that can endure high winds.
  • Trim trees and bushes to prevent damage during high winds. Use mulch instead of gravel for landscaping.
  • Secure outdoor items such as plants, furniture, trash cans, grills, etc. that could become missiles.
  • Learn the signs of a tornado so that you can save your family. The sky will turn dark, often green, and there will be clouds of debris. You may see a funnel cloud (or you might not). Large hail is a common sign a tornado is coming and you might hear a very loud roar or rumble. Also note that before a tornado strikes, you may experience what they call "the calm before the storm" -- where the wind dies down and the air becomes very still. Get up to speed on your community’s tornado warning system and where the shelters are located.
  • Discuss an emergency plan with your family. Be sure to account the possibility that you may be separated-- Designate an emergency meeting place to meet up and an out of town family member for everyone to call to account for themselves.

During a tornado

  • Go to your safe room or seek shelter. In a house with no basement, a condo or apartment complex, or a public building: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. And do not stay in a mobile home. They are one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado.
  • Avoid windows in a tornado.
  • Be sure to keep all interior and exterior windows and doors closed.
  • Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands.

After a tornado

  • Make sure you get the all clear before coming out of your safe space. Use your radio to listen for the warning to be lifted and for the latest emergency information.
  • Check your family for injuries and use your emergency kit to give first aid. If someone is seriously injured, don't try to move them unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • If you weren’t home when the warning sounded, return home only when authorities say it is safe. Assess the space before venturing back into your house. Look for downed power lines and broken utilities. If you sense a gas leak, open windows and leave.
  • Use your phone only for emergency calls.
  • Don’t be afraid to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
  • Take pictures of any damages, both to the house and its contents, for insurance purposes.

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