How to prepare for and survive a tornado

Tornadoes can occur with little warning. Here are tips to help you prepare and survive in case disaster strikes.

Watch vs. warning:

  •  A tornado watch means that weather conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes to develop.
  • A tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. A warning is the more serious of the two; take shelter immediately.
  • Some signs that signal an approaching tornado include: a dark or greenish sky, large hailstones and a loud roar that sounds like a freight train.

Plan ahead:

  •  Secure furniture with brackets or eyebolts, arrange chairs and beds away from windows, and place large or heavy items on low shelves.
  •  Assemble a first-aid kit and emergency supplies, including water, non-perishable food, a flashlight with extra batteries and a portable radio.
  • Make copies of essential documents, such as IDs, insurance policies and financial records.
  • Know how to turn off the gas, water and electricity in your home.

During a tornado:

  • Find shelter, preferably a basement or other underground, windowless space. If a basement isn’t available, go to a room with no windows on the lowest level of the building.
  • Avoid windows.
  •  Use a heavy blanket or sleeping bag to protect your body and body from debris. Head injuries are a common cause of death during tornadoes; helmets can provide extra protection but are not an alternative to shelter.
  • If outdoors or in a moving vehicle, try to find shelter indoors or in a ditch. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. Lie flat and cover your head with your arms.

After a tornado:

  • Check for injuries and damage that require immediate attention.
  • Use your portable or car radio for additional information and safety advisories. Use the telephone for emergencies only.
  • Contact your insurance provider to report damage and begin the claims process.
  • Use caution during rescue attempts and cleanup. Wear sturdy shoes, and be aware of hazards such as exposed nails, broken glass, down power lines.
  • Anxiety and fear are common in the days, weeks and months following the tornado. Monitor yourself and others, especially children, and seek professional help if anxiety disrupts daily activities.

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