Tornadoes are one of nature’s most terrifying spectacles. With wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour and funnels of destruction over 2.5 miles wide, twisters can level entire towns and leave nothing but rubble in their paths. The best strategy for keeping your family safe from tornadoes is to be prepared, and to know what to do during and after the storm. Know what to do with these tornado safety tips:
If you are under a tornado warning, your first priority is to seek shelter immediately. Look for a sturdy, permanent structure and head for the lowest floor. Ideally you want to be underground, in a basement or storm cellar. Steer clear of windows and exterior walls. Try to put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
Get under a sturdy table if possible, and stay low to the floor. Most injuries from tornadoes are caused by flying debris in high winds, so use your hands to protect your head and neck.
If you are driving when a tornado strikes, your best bet is to drive away from it. If you are in the direct path of the tornado, you may not be able to outrun it. If this is the case you should exit your vehicle and find an open space, away from buildings and vehicles. Look for an area such as a ditch or canal that is lower than the roadway. Lie down flat on the ground with your hands over your head, until the danger has passed.
Check yourself and others for injuries. If someone is seriously hurt, do not attempt to move them unless they are in immediate danger.
Keep monitoring your weather radio or television for updates from the authorities and other emergency information.
Be extra cautious around any downed power lines. Remember that electric current can shock you through water, so be careful around puddles. Report any dangerous conditions to the police or utility company.
Never use open flames anywhere where gas may be leaking. Battery-powered lanterns and flashlights are better than candles after a destructive storm. If you smell gas, move away and report it immediately.
Only use generators, camp stoves, and grills (charcoal or propane) outside, in well-ventilated areas. Deadly carbon monoxide can build up inside your home, and you may not notice until it’s too late.
You may have heard that tornadoes only occur on the open plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. But tornadoes have been recorded in all 50 states, and can be especially destructive in large urban areas. Cities such as St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, and even New York City have all been hit by twisters in the last 30 years.
Despite the rumors about equalizing the pressure in your home, you should not open your windows if a tornado is headed your way. This just makes it easier for debris carried in the howling winds to get into your house, and will not make you any safer.
Some people think that tornadoes are attracted to mobile home communities because they always seem to get the worst of a bad storm. The truth is that mobile homes are easier for twisters to damage than other types of houses. If you are in a mobile home during a tornado warning, you should seek a more permanent structure such as a dedicated storm shelter.
Another common tornado myth is that you should park under a bridge if you are driving during a tornado. In reality the opposite is true. Bridges can collapse above you and your car is more likely to become a deathtrap in a tornado than to save your life.