Tornado Safety - Keeping Your Family and Home Safe from a Tornado
Each year the National Weather Service documents more than 1,000 tornadoes in the United States, and it’s estimated that an equivalent number go unreported. Long perceived as an isolated threat to the flat plains of the United States, they can actually strike anywhere with limited warning, even on bustling city streets. Tornadoes by the Numbers
- They are most likely to occur between 3 PM and 9 PM, but can occur at any time.
- They typically travel at a forward speed of 30 miles per hour, but can accelerate up to 70 miles per hour.
- Their wind speeds can exceed 300 miles per hour; a tornado with winds exceeding 318 miles per hour is referred to as an “inconceivable” tornado.
- They typically cause more than 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries on an annual basis.
- They have been reported in all 50 states but are most prevalent east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer.
The following tornado safety guidelines should help keep you and your family safe, as well as limit damage to your home and property.
Strengthen Your Home Now
There is often little time to act when a tornado warning is issued. Planning and preparation are essential, especially if you live in an area prone to tornadoes.
- Entry doors: The wind generated by a tornado can throw your entry doors open and cause significant damage to the interior of your home. Therefore, all entry doors should have three hinges and a two-inch deadbolt lock. Ensure that the hinges have screws long enough to secure the door and frame to the wall framing.
- Garage doors: Due to their size, garage doors make your home more vulnerable to tornadoes. For doors more than eight feet wide, consider installing wood or metal stiffeners to add strength. Manufacturers produce stiffeners that can be attached permanently and others that can be attached temporarily during severe weather warnings.
- Windows: Consider installing storm shutters or impact-resistant windows. Wind-driven glass shards from shattered windows can cause serious injury.
- Roof structures: The roof sheathing and covering installed on your home should be rated to resist high winds. Anytime your roof is replaced, have the old roofing material removed first; secure all roof framing to the walls; repair any damage to the roof structure; fasten roof sheathing in accordance with building codes in high-wind areas; and brace any gable end-walls with the gable roof.
- Framing clips: Anchor the roof structure to the wall framing with hurricane clips, and ensure that the wall framing is properly secured to the foundation.
- Important documents and valuables: Store your important papers and valuable possessions in a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box to ensure you will be able to access them after a tornado.
- Prepare your home shelter: In advance of the tornado season, prepare your shelter location by stocking it with essential items such as a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, spare batteries, water, and snack food (energy bars).
Where and When to Take Shelter
When a tornado warning is issued, you and your family should immediately take shelter in a safe location. The following tips will ensure that you are prepared:
- Shelter locations: Have a sheltering plan; be sure all your family members know what to do and where to go.
- Homes with basements: Go to your basement to a location away from exterior walls and windows.
- Homes on a slab: Go to the lowest and most central part of your home, away from exterior walls and windows. Frequently, this area will be an interior bathroom, storage closet, or under a stairway.
- Outdoors or in a car: Never try to outrun a tornado; they move quickly and in no predictable direction. Find a low lying area away from trees, buildings, and other structures. Lie flat on the ground and cover your head.
- Visit FEMA to learn about building a safe room in your home.
- Stay tuned: You won’t know when to take shelter if you are unaware of a warning. Purchase a radio that automatically transmits weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Act immediately: When an alert is broadcast, immediately follow your sheltering plan. Do not rely solely on local tornado sirens as they can be disabled during a storm.
- Cell phone: Always take your cell phone with you to your shelter so you have a means of communication when the land phone and power lines have been cut.
After the Storm
Knowing when to leave your shelter and what to do when you come out is also important to your safety.
- When to leave your shelter: Your shelter location will likely limit your ability to know when the storm has passed. Stay put until you hear the all-clear signal on your weather radio. If you don’t have one, listen for local authorities passing through your neighborhood. Tornado sirens will also cease, but beware that they may have stopped because the storm has disabled them and not because the storm has passed.
- After you leave your shelter: Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for potential dangers such as:
- Downed power lines
- Broken gas lines
- Unstable structures
- Assess your situation: Look for any damage to your home and property. Work with local authorities to gain safe entry to your home and begin the process of assessing your losses.
- Notify family members: Often, after a disaster such as a tornado, phone service is either down or overwhelmed with call volume. Have a plan in place for notifying friends and relatives of your well being.
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