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Preparing for tornadoes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Will Twaddell
  • 375th Civil Engineer Squadron
Preparation is at the core of everything that we do. Whether it's preparing for a job interview, the big game or a retirement, preparation is a necessary skill that we use throughout the duration of our lives.

Disaster preparation should be no exception. When it comes to the safety and security of yourself and your family, you should have a plan in place to counter anything Mother Nature can throw your way. Fires, snow storms, earthquakes and floods can all throw a potential life changing wrench in our plans, so being prepared and knowing how to overcome these obstacles will make these types of events much easier to overcome.

There are several of these disasters that are fairly common in this area of the country; however, there is one in particular that is arguably the most feared and destructive ... tornadoes. Tornado season runs from March through June (although tornadoes have been spotted during all months of the year), so with that in mind, let's cover a few tips that will keep you and your family as safe and secure as possible.

Tornadoes can cause all kinds of damage, both directly and indirectly. Your house or place of business could be directly in the path of a tornado, or you could be on the receiving end of an extended power outage. For both of these situations you need to have an emergency supply kit. This kit can consist of any number of things, but some highly recommended things are: water, non-perishable foods, change of clothes/shoes, blankets, flashlights with batteries, first aid kit, and toiletries.

Also consider some special items such as: infant formula, medications, cash or traveler's checks and don't forget about your furry friends! Ensure you have plenty of food, water and a leash/collar for your pets. Lastly, it is highly recommended that you purchase a small generator to keep in your house. This will ensure that you can keep all of the food in your refrigerator fresh should you lose power for a long time.

Generators typically run anywhere from $50 to $100 and can be purchased at any local hardware store.

So now that we've covered personal preparation, let's talk about the warning signs of a tornado. The first thing you should do if you suspect the weather might take a turn for the worse is turn on your local news station. They will undoubtedly have information on the current conditions. If you are away from your TV or you don't have one, it would be wise to purchase a small portable weather radio or download a weather app to your smart phone. Next, it is important to know what the different types of watches and warnings mean. A tornado watch means that conditions outside are favorable for a tornado. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted.

It doesn't mean that there is one on the ground, but that the meteorologists have spotted a rotation in the clouds. Some physical meteorological traits to look out for are a dark greenish colored sky, large hail, if it becomes very calm outside, a load roar (similar to a train) and obviously an actual visual funnel cloud. All of these present possible tornado conditions.

So what do you do if you are in the path of a spotted tornado? The first (and best) option would be to try and get to a basement. Find a room that contains no windows, preferably in the southwest corner of your basement, and wait it out. If you have some extra overhead cover (desk, table, etc.) try and get underneath that. If you don't have a basement, try and find a room on the first floor of your house that doesn't have any windows (bathroom, closet, etc.). Wait in your room until the tornado warning has passed. If you cannot access the television or a radio have your phone readily available. Ensure you have the Weather Channel or a similar app downloaded.

If for some reason you get caught out on the road and you need somewhere to take shelter, you can also use your cell phone to text the word "Shelter", as well as your zip code to 43362. This is a number to the Federal Emergency Management Association and they will reply back with the closest shelter to your location. A more expedient option would be to get out of your vehicle and find a low lying area, such as a ditch.

The real key to staying safe during a tornado or any other natural disaster is using your head and having a plan. We all react differently during stressful situations, so having a laid-out plan will help alleviate a large portion of that stress. For more information contact the Scott AFB Readiness and Emergency Management Flight at 256-4831.