Safety in the Storm – The Four Steps to Keeping Your Family Safe in a Tornado
Four things must happen for you to stay safe in the event of a tornado. First, the National Weather Service must issue a good warning, which most often is the case. Second, word has to get out that a tornado is on the way. To do this, the warnings are sent to commercial radio and television stations, which then broadcast the severe weather messages. The warnings also are broadcast over the Weather Service’s own weather radio network. After the word is out, those hearing the warning need to act upon it immediately and put their emergency plan into action. Inaction can be a huge mistake. Finally, there has to be a safe place for everyone to go.
Here are some simple things you can do make sure all the steps to safety are taken in your home. First, when severe weather is expected, make sure you stay near a source of weather information. Keep a radio or television within earshot to hear warnings. Some television stations even offer services that will send warnings via e-mail or text messages to your phone or computer. Also, all homes should have a NOAA weather radio that receives these watches and warnings directly from the National Weather Service. These come with a feature that will automatically turn the radio on with a loud tone to alert you of approaching danger as soon as a warning is issued for your county. This is especially helpful during nighttime tornadoes, which are common in the southeastern U.S. Weather radios, also called All Hazards Radios, can be found in most electronics stores and on the Internet. Look for a model with the Specific Area Message Encoding, or SAME, feature. This allows you to program the radio to only alarm for warnings for you specific county. Once you hear the warning, don’t ignore it and go immediately to your safe place. Underground in a storm cellar is best. If you don’t have one, next would be a basement away from windows and garage doors. Make sure you get under something sturdy, such as a workbench. If you don’t have a basement, then go to the lowest floor of your home and into an interior room such as a closet or bathroom, away from windows. Closets and bathrooms are good because they are smaller rooms with shorter walls that often stand up better in the high winds of a tornado. Inside the bathroom, the pipes also provide additional strength to the walls. You can lie down in the bathtub and cover your head. The sides of the tub provide extra protection from flying debris, which is responsible for many injuries during these storms. Better than closets or bathrooms are tornado safe rooms. These are most often built with steel reinforced concrete walls or come in the form of a huge steel box. Placed in a home or even in a garage, these specially designed structures are specifically built to withstand the high winds of a tornado. They can be built in the home during construction or can be retrofitted into existing homes. Next to being underground, these rooms generally provide a very good level of safety.