The end of spring brings signs of hope and new life to the majority of Americans, but for some parts of the country it can be the most terrifying season of the year. Tornadoes are nature’s strongest muscle that can be flexed without warning and level entire neighborhoods in a matter of seconds as demonstrated recently in Oklahoma.
The funnel-shaped clouds are essentially a connection between a thunderstorm and the ground with winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Their damage path can range from minimal to one mile wide and 50 miles long. Their ability to form so quickly in some cases, makes it nearly impossible to give any advanced warning to the public. However, taking the proper precautions, like having a developed emergency plan, learning the warning signs, and monitoring tornado warnings, can help you stay safe in the event of a tornado in your area.
For businesses and individuals, it is vital to understand all hazards associated with your area and the possible aftermath that could ensue. It is a shared responsibility for all to take on and prepare for. After all, it could be the difference between life and death.
Before the storm
Developing a plan of action is a continuous process of planning, equipping, training, and exercising. Identifying a place for shelter is a number one priority for tornado preparedness. Everyone should know where to go in order to seek shelter in accordance with their location.
The value of your community’s warning system can not be overestimated. Monitoring local and national warning systems can be your only chance for a warning before a tornado touches down. For businesses, it is essential to establish procedures that account for and get individuals to a safe zone.
Emergency supply kits and a communication plan should also be identified in order to provide the best plan of action against a tornado.
Keeping the dust of your plan of action is just as important as the rest of your preparation. Workers, family, and anyone else you routinely engage with should be well trained and versed in your plan’s processes. In the time of panic, the more one is rehearsed the better the odds of a developed plan being successful and saving lives.
- Signs in the sky- Look for these danger signs that may be the sign of a tornado coming:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to freight train
Check out the official tornado app for your iPhone or Android device by the American Red Cross.
Riding the wave
Those that have been through a tornado first hand have described it as the most terrifying experience of their life. Your preparation and planning are extremely important to surviving a tornado, but when the time comes, the most important part is seeking shelter!
For advice on what to do in the event of a tornado, check out the FEMA page for tips and instructions depending on your location.
The aftermath- Response/Recovery
The end of the tornado does not necessarily mean the end of danger or potential hazards. Tornadoes often lead to downed power lines, broken gas lines or damaged electrical systems, thus the risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion are still a major threat to the search and rescue process. A case study by FEMA in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of tornado related injuries occurred during rescue attempts, cleanup, and other post-tornado activities.
OSHA provides a search and rescue guide that can assist with your efforts, but keep in mind this should be printed out and rehearsed ahead of time to be effective. Some general safety precautions to consider during the aftermath of a tornado are:
- Continue to monitor your battery powered radio or television for updates and the possibility of future storms.
- Use caution when entering any structure that has received damage.
- Wear proper clothing and shoes when walking around debris including boots and gloves.
- Use battery powered lanterns inside if possible rather than candles.
- Use caution when operating gas powered machinery and never use them inside.
- Cooperate with public safety officials.
The cruelty and randomness of tornadoes continues to puzzle researchers. The mysteries that surround natures most violent storms are driving research into solving these puzzles, but many questions remain unanswered. Why does one storm produce one and one doesn’t? How can one be so small and one be so large? Why this day and not that day? Why is one more powerful than another?
While answers to these questions continued to be researched, one thing for certain is tornadoes are inevitable. Every year a tornado touches down somewhere, causing some form of damage and or injuries. Taking the time to be prepared and knowing what to do when one touches down near you can be the difference in saving your life along with your loved ones.
Note- The peak of tornado season is March through May for southern states and late spring through early summer for northern states.