Tornado Preparation Tips

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What to do before tornadoes threaten:
  • Know the terms used to describe tornado threats:
    Tornado Watch
    Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Listen to your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio or local radio/television outlets for updated reports.
    Tornado Warning
    A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Ask your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter about the tornado threat in your area. Ask about community warning signals.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a battery backup and tone-alert feature that automatically alerts you when a Watch or Warning is issued (tone-alert not available in some areas).
  • Purchase a battery-powered commercial radio and extra batteries as well.
  • Know the county in which you live. Counties are used in Watches and Warnings to identify the location of tornadoes.
  • Determine places to seek shelter. Identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.
  • Know the location of designated shelters.
  • Make a record of your property. Take photographs or videotapes of your belongings. Store these documents in a safe place.
What to do during a tornado watch:
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Be alert for approaching storms. If you see any revolving funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by telephone to your local police department or sheriff's office.
  • Watch for tornado danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others.
  • Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
  • Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
  • A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, supermarkets or shopping malls.
  • Be prepared to take shelter immediately.
What to do during a tornado warning:
  • When a tornado has been sighted, take shelter immediately.
  • Go to an interior room on the lower level (closets, interior hallways). Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use arms to protect head and neck. Stay there until the danger has passed.
  • Get under a sturdy table and use arms to protect head and neck. Stay there until the danger has passed.
  • Do not open windows.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small, interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Get out of vehicles, trailers and mobile offices immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile offices, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • If caught outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of potential for flooding.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck; instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Tornadoes are erratic and move swiftly.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
What to do after a tornado:
  • Look out for broken glass and downed power lines.
  • Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.
  • If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the victim for artificial respiration.
  • Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated.
  • Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
  • Use caution when entering a damaged building. Be sure that walls, ceiling and roof are in place and that the structure rests firmly on the foundation. Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.