Emergency Preparedness: Tornado Safety
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Powerful tornadoes can uproot trees and buildings, turning harmless objects into deadly missiles—and have the capacity to devastate a neighborhood in mere seconds.
Tornadoes appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this natural hazard.
Most tornadoes occur in April, May, and June. The greatest concentration of tornadoes takes place between 3 to 6 p.m. Since most parents and adults are at work or commuting during these hours, children should be drilled in advance about what to do inside the home as quickly and calmly as possible.
- Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Stay tuned to radio or television reports.
- Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted. Take shelter immediately.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
Most cities have several warning sirens located throughout the city and county. If you hear the sirens sounding during periods of bad weather, take cover immediately in an interior hallway, closet, or bathroom.
What to Do During a Tornado Watch
- Listen to radio or television newscasts for the latest weather report.
- 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.
- Be ready to take shelter.
What to Do During a Tornado
- When a tornado has been sighted, go to your shelter immediately. Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
- In a house or a small building, go to the basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to an interior room on the lower level (closets, interior hallways). Get under a sturdy table, hold on, and protect your head. Stay there until the danger has passed.
- In a manufactured mobile home, leave immediately. Move to a sturdy permanent shelter. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or depression in the ground.
- In a school, nursing home, hospital, factory, or shopping center, go directly to shelter areas. Interior hallways on lowest floors are usually the safest. Stay away from windows and open spaces.
- In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head.
- In a car, get out and take shelter in a nearby building. Tornadoes are erratic and move swiftly Do not attempt to drive out of the path of a tornado.
What to Do After a Tornado
- Look out for broken glass and power lines that are down.
- 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 an injured person is not breathing but has good pupil reflex, carefully position the person for artificial respiration, clear the airway, then commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the injured person does not become overheated.
- Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
- Use caution when entering a damaged building. Be sure the walls, ceiling, and roof are intact and the structure rests firmly on the foundation. Wear work boots and gloves.
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