With spring just around the corner, it is a good time to review and prepare for the upcoming storm season. Tornadoes threaten most of the Midwest, even those outside of “Tornado Alley.” Tornadoes can be sudden and there is no guaranteed safety if you are in one’s path. Practicing tornado safety even before one hits is the best method. Follow this guide to prepare yourself and your family in the event of a tornado.  

Tornado Safety Preparation

A good way to stay calm in the event of a tornado is to be prepared. It is a good idea to have a plan in place with your family or roommates. Know where you can take shelter quickly and practice a tornado safety drill with children. Flying debris is the greatest danger during a tornado, so store protective coverings (like a mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc.) close to your designated shelter space. It is also a good idea to have a portable weather radio in the safe space. Now is a good time to change the batteries to ensure it will work if needed when the power goes out. When a tornado watch is issued keep your TV or radio on so you can hear any updates or warnings.

If you don’t feel you have adequate shelter during a storm, look for “storm shelter” signs on buildings and storefronts that you can get to quickly in case of severe weather.

Tornado Warning Signs to Watch For

Waiting to see a funnel cloud may not leave you enough time to find shelter, but there are other early warning signs that indicate severe weather may be on the horizon, such as:

  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a group of clouds – sometimes tornadoes won’t have a visible funnel.
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either fast, intense wind or dead calm.
  • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade like thunder.Some people who have been in a tornado say it sounds like a large train speeding past.
  • At night, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground-level are power lines being snapped by very strong wind or a tornado.
  • If the sky turns green, that indicates the storm clouds are extremely tall and could be a warning sign for severe weather like large hail or tornadoes with the storm cloud.

You should also familiarize yourself with these severe weather watches and warning signs  – they are crucial when it comes to tornado safety.

What to Do When a Tornado Hits

Mark the safest places to go when a tornado hits. Avoid windows. Get to the lowest, center room in your home. Bathrooms, closets or under a stairwell are all good options. Crouch as low as possible facing down and cover your head with your hands. If you are in a bathroom, a tub or shower may offer some added protection. Keep a weather radio or TV on so you can hear any updates.

Both mobile homes and vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. You should get out of either and find safer tornado shelter options, such as in a sturdy building. If you know you are going to be driving during potentially bad weather, map out storm shelter buildings in advance. If you are in a vehicle and you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, like into a ditch, leave your car and lie in that area, making sure to cover your head with your hands. Avoid going under bridges, they don’t offer very much protection against flying debris and can create a traffic hazard.  Stay where you are until the radio or TV have announced the danger has passed or until emergency personnel give you instructions.

Safety Precautions to Take After a Tornado

Stay calm and alert, keeping your family together. Carefully render aid to those who are injured, but avoid moving anyone with a neck injury. Wait for emergency personnel to arrive to give more direction. Stay away from power lines and any puddles with wires in them as they could still be carrying electricity. Stay out of heavily damaged homes or buildings as they could collapse. Avoid matches or lighters in case of a natural gas leak.

Although tornadoes can be rare and you may feel like they will never pop up in your area, it is a good idea to practice tornado safety drills. These will help you be as prepared as possible to stay calm and ready in the event of an emergency. You should also contact your Farm Bureau agent to make sure you have the right amount of coverage and protection in case of a tornado.