How To Prepare for a Tornado (Free Downloadable Checklist)
It is time to take a look at your tornado preparedness as the month of May typically experience the most tornados in the United States. Tips taken from American Red Cross as well as FEMA are summarized below as well as a link to download a FREE printable tornado preparedness checklist. One of the first steps in preparing for tornado season is to determine your level of risk. All 50 states experience tornados but there are certainly states that experience a higher probability of tornados than others.
States located in ‘Tornado Alley’ (Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma) of course experience a high level of tornado frequency than most other states, but have you heard of ‘Dixie Alley?’ ‘Dixie Alley’ consists of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and other Southern states. Not only do these states experience a high level of tornado frequency but there is a higher population density compared to ‘Tornado Alley’ states and tornado path length is usually longer too! Below is a list of the top ten states with the most tornados:
- Texas – 151
- Kansas – 91
- Oklahoma – 68
- Florida – 60
- Nebraska – 55
- Illinois – 54
- Iowa – 52
- Alabama – 50
- Mississippi – 50
- Colorado – 49
Follow this link to assess your potential tornado risk: Tornado | National Risk Index (fema.gov)
Tornado Preparedness: Before a Tornado
Assemble Your Emergency Kit
After you assess your level of risk it’s time to take a few preparedness steps beforehand. As always, start with making sure your Emergency Kit is ready to go for each member of the household. It’s always a good idea to re-check your kits every 6 months to make sure food, water and medicines have not expired, and clothing still fits! The American Red Cross shares a great list of items to include your kit. It’s also essential to create a basic pet emergency kit for your furry friends!
Practice Going to Your Emergency Shelter
Once your emergency kit is taken care of, it’s time to make sure everyone in your family knows where to go if a tornado is predicted in your area. For children spending the day in school or a day care center, an emergency plan should be in place. Feel free to ask what their emergency plan is and how often they practice safety drills. You will also want to review your workplace emergency procedures.
At home, you will want to practice where to go in the case of a tornado. The Red Cross recommends, “moving to an underground shelter, basement, or safe room. If none is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative. Remember: no area of a mobile home is safe during a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go there immediately, using your seat belt if driving.” Find a local emergency shelter (if needed) and know more than one route to get there.
Next, plan for how you will stay informed during an emergency. Some communities still use a tornado siren to broadcast an imminent tornado. I recommend either purchasing a NOAA battery-powered weather alert radio, listening to your local emergency channel or downloading the Red Cross Emergency Alert App. NOAA also has a weather-related apps that you can download for your phone.
American Red Cross – Emergency Alert App for Apple iPhones
American Red Cross – Emergency Alert App for Android Phones
Protect Your Home
Anything outside your home can become damaged or destroyed if left outside during a tornado. Bring items such as grills and patio furniture inside your home or garage to keep them safe. Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.
Trim or cut down trees with loose or dead branches as strong winds will break any loose limbs and hurl them at great speeds. Consider yard debris and stacks of firewood outside your home. These items can also become missiles in strong winds if not secured.
If you live in an area with a high probability of tornados, it would be wise to strengthen your garage door. Often garage doors are easily damaged by flying debris. Strong winds entering your garage can then cause pressure to build upon your house which may cause the roof to lift off. Another option to better protect yourself and home is to install permanent shutters to protect your windows.
Note: Many homeowner insurance policies cover heavy wind and hail damage, fallen tree damage, and wind-driven rain damage, even caused by tornados. You may want to check that all of these are covered by your policy. If you live in a tornado-prone area and your local insurance companies do not cover tornado damage, you could consider these other options: 1) Get coverage through a non-admitted surplus carrier or 2) Get coverage through your state’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan.
Download a FREE Tornado
Tornado Preparedness: During a Tornado
In addition to staying tuned in to your local news or chosen method of emergency alert look for these tornado danger signs:
- rotating funnel,
- dark, greenish clouds,
- debris clouds,
- large hail, and
- loud roar that sounds like a freight train.
If you are outdoors, seek shelter immediately. Look for shelter in a basement or sturdy building. If you cannot walk to a shelter, then get to a vehicle and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Do not attempt to outdrive a tornado. Stay away from overpasses and bridges. Do not attempt to shelter under bridges and overpasses.
If strong winds with debris occur while you are driving. Stop driving, pull over, keep your seat belt on and cover your head.
If you are indoors and there is time, turn off utilities such as electricity, water, and gas. Then, take shelter immediately.
Tornado Preparedness: After a Tornado
Caring for Yourself and Loved-Ones
Check for injuries and provide first aid help if needed. Contact emergency help if needed. Help others that may need additional assistance such as those with children and the elderly. Keep animals safe and in your direct control.
Get In Touch With Loved-Ones
Let friends and family know you’re safe. A few tips for trying to reconnect with loved one: 1) Use text message or social media as phone systems are often down after an emergency event, 2) trying making phone calls during off-peak hours, 3) call a designated out-of-town contact person and 4) trying reaching loved ones through friends from organizations such as churches, school, club, etc.
If you have been evacuated, only return home after authorities say it is safe to do so. Continue listening your local news source or Emergency App of choice for updates and information.
Upon returning home, do not enter damaged structures. Report fallen power lines and broken water mains immediately. Take photos of outside and inside damage to report to your insurance agent.
Wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirt, closed-toe shoes, and gloves when cleaning and making repairs to your home
Ask a professional to:
- Look at common connections in wood frame buildings and add anchors, clips and straps to strengthen your home.
- Reinforce masonry walls that provide structural support to your home.
- Secure your chimney. Masonry chimneys that extend more than six feet above the roof or have a width of 40 inches or more should have continuous vertical reinforcing steel placed in the corners to provide greater resistance to wind loads.
- Permanently connect your manufactured home to its foundation.