How to Prepare For Tornado Season
While the official tornado season in the Oklahoma City area spans from late March through August, violent storms have been known to occur at any time of year in the twister-prone region known as “tornado alley.” In fact, Oklahoma City experiences more tornado strikes than any other city in the U.S., so it’s important to know what to do to protect yourself and your family from the ravages of a deadly storm.
Following are some safety tips for tornado preparation, some of which could save your life:
* Be aware of the weather – Listen to a local radio station or weather radio to stay up-to-date on conditions that can change abruptly.
* Understand the difference between “tornado watch” and “tornado warning” – While a “watch” indicates that a tornado is possible in the next several hours, a “warning” means that a tornado has been spotted in the area. When you hear “tornado warning,” you should move immediately to a safe location.
* Remain calm — The knowledge that you are well-prepared will help prevent panic and thus allow you to think clearly, improve your response time, and make the best decisions.
* Secure loose articles – If time permits, bring in your lawn furniture, toys, trash cans, and other unsecured items, which the strong winds of a tornado can transform into dangerous projectiles.
* Know the signs of a tornado – Dark, greenish-colored clouds, large hail, whirling debris under a cloud base, roaring noise, and of course, a funnel cloud, are all danger signals that you should heed.
* Choose a safe room in your home – Designate a room where everyone will gather in the event of a tornado warning. During a storm, the best place to be is in a basement. If your house doesn’t have an underground storm shelter, or you live in an apartment, select a small, centralized, windowless room, such as a bathroom or closet, on the lowest floor. Other good options are under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway. If you are in a mobile home, leave right away and seek shelter in a permanent structure. Do not leave your safe area until the danger has passed.
* Prepare a tornado kit – Keep the following supplies in an easily accessible location: battery-powered radio or television, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, study shoes, blankets, pillows, water, nonperishable food, cash, keys, and identification.
* If you are in a vehicle, pull over and park – Quickly assess whether shelter is available, or if you can get to a point that is lower than the level of the road. If not, remain inside the vehicle with your seatbelt fastened. Position your head below window level and cover it with your hands and a jacket or blanket, if you have one. Do not attempt to drive when a tornado is nearby.
* If shelter is unavailable, seek a low-lying area – If you are outside and unable to seek cover in a building, lie flat in a ditch or ravine and clasp your hands behind your head to protect yourself from flying debris.
* Wear a helmet – Head injuries are responsible for the majority of tornado deaths. Protect yourself from head injury by donning a helmet when you learn of a tornado warning. Any type of helmet will do, such as a motorcycle helmet, bicycle helmet, football helmet, baseball helmet, or even a construction hard hat.
* Avoid highway overpasses – Contrary to popular belief, highway overpasses offer no protection and are actually one of the worst places to seek shelter from a storm. The reason is that winds typically strengthen under a bridge, thus increasing the danger of being struck by flying debris or carried away by the powerful airflow.
* Have a plan for the aftermath – Designate a place for your family to meet in case you get separated during a tornado. Stay out of damaged buildings, and leave immediately if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
Tornadoes are one of nature’s most powerful and destructive forces. By following these guidelines, you can help prepare yourself and your family in the event you are caught in the unforgiving path of a twister.