Many people live in the area known as Tornado Alley safely and happily, but if you are moving into Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Arkansas, then it would be wise to take extra precautions. Tornadoes can and do occur all over America but can be particularly fierce in the ‘Alley’ states. Here are some top tips to ensure you and your family know exactly what to do when faced with nature’s power.
#1 Learn the language
People who live in Tornado Alley will know what to listen for when following forecasts. A Tornado Watch is when conditions are right for possible tornado development, but nothing has been spotted yet. This means be prepared. A Tornado Warning means one has been detected so seek shelter immediately. A Tornado Emergency means a dangerous tornado is in full force, you are in the path and must seek shelter.
#2 Plan Shelter
The most important thing you need is shelter. A durable storm shelter built underground is the safest place to be to avoid the destruction of a tornado. If you’re moving to the area then try to find a more modern home that has a basement or cellar already as this provides perfect shelter. Sturdy, F5 certified shelters can be installed in your home or garage at any time and offer the best peace of mind.
#3 Plan communication methods
An iridium satellite phone will continue to work when mobile networks are down so you might consider owning one for use in your shelter. Having a hand-crank radio is also a good idea for finding out what’s going on, without worrying about batteries. Make sure you have mobile chargers and extra batteries in the shelter and make plans with neighbors and relatives about keeping up communication.
#4 Practice makes perfect
Run a practice drill every month so that you and your family can move quickly and expertly when the tornado warning comes. Everyone needs to know the route, especially children, as reacting quickly can be a life saver.
#5 Watch the Weather
Living in Tornado Alley means getting used to regularly watching the forecast local to your area, investing in a weather alert radio which can be set to alert for warnings and emergencies and downloading helpful apps such as the tornado app by the American Red Cross.
#6 Prepare an Emergency Bag
Having a bag on standby is a great idea so you know you have vital information and items at your disposal in an emergency. It could include things like medication, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, blankets, water, a whistle, spare clothes and anything you might need for children and pets. Other items you should consider placing in the shelter include important family documents, a recent utility bill, some cash, spare car keys and insurance details!
#7 Food & Water
The best advice is to have enough of a store of food and water to last for three days. This should include water bottles, canned goods, dry goods and pet food. Protein bars and dried fruit is beneficial as if you’re trapped for a while you need to keep up the nutritional value.
#8 What if you’re not at home?
Everyone should know what to do if they are at work, school or driving when a tornado strikes. Both workplaces and schools should have set procedures so make sure everyone knows what they are and where they need to go. If you’re somewhere you don’t know well then try to stay away from rooms with windows, find an interior corridor, hallway or isolated windowless room. If outside, try to shelter in a ravine or ditch. Bottom line: educate yourself on what to do, wherever you are.
Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle but drive at a 90-degree angle away from the funnel. If you need to abandon your vehicle then try to find a nearby building like a fast-food restaurant which will have a shelter. Don’t take shelter under a bridge or overpass as a tornado can create a dangerous wind tunnel effect.
#10 Debris Danger
One of the most dangerous aspects of a tornado is the threat of being hit by fast-flying debris. Many people choose to put on a bicycle or football helmet during a tornado emergency to protect themselves from serious injury. If you have a shelter that is a closet, make sure you reinforce it with concrete and a steel door. Concrete will protect from being hit by objects like wood which can be propelled at speeds of up to 200mph during a tornado.