Tornado Safety Tips

It’s been a year since tornados wreaked havoc on central and western Massachusetts. Last year’s tornados left behind a devastating path, taking family’s homes, belongings, and businesses with them. Unfortunately, the tornado also took the lives of three people and left over 200 injured. Although a year has passed, it is still fresh in the mind of those affected by it, especially with the recent tornado warnings.
While we cannot stop such natural disasters, now is a good time to talk about some of the things we can do before a tornado threat, during a tornado, and after a tornado. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recently came up with some tips that can help you feel a little bit more prepared in the event that a tornado takes place in your area.  If a tornado were to affect your community, as it did 19 communities from this occurrence last year, at least you will have a better idea of the precautions to take for you and your family.
Before a tornado threatens:

  • Know the terms used by meteorologists. Know what the different levels are and how much damage the various levels can cause. Also did you know a tornado watch just means they are possible, while a tornado warning means one has been spotted? It’s important to know there’s a difference there as well.
  • Ask your local Emergency Management Office about the tornado threat in your area, some locations for possible shelters, and what the community warning signals are.
  • Put together a disaster supply kit for your family. Also, make a record of your personal property, taking photos and videos of your belongings and keep this record in a safe place.
  • Determine a location to seek shelter in your home and also in places your family frequents such as the mall or the kids’ school. It’s important to also practice going to these shelters so that your first visit there isn’t during a real emergency.
  • Purchase a NOAA weather radio with a battery back-up and extra batteries, as well as a regular commercial radio with back-up batteries.

During a tornado watch:

  • Listen to your NOAA weather radio for updates (or a basic radio for updates from the media).
  • Stay away from places with wide-span roofs.
  • Be on the look-out for funnel-shaped clouds in the sky and other danger signs. Remember that sometimes tornados form so quickly there are no advanced warnings.
  • Be ready to take shelter, taking your family, pets, and a disaster kit with you.

During a tornado warning:

  • Go to a pre-designated area for shelter. If you do not have a basement or storm shelter find the room on the lower level that has the most walls between you and the outside. This could end up being a hallway or a closet.
  • Do not open windows and go to the center of the room.
  • If you are in a high-rise building go to the lowest level. If you are in a public building go to the designated area or interior hallways on the lowest floor.
  • If you are in the car or outdoors, try to find the nearest sturdy building to take shelter in (lowest floor). If you cannot find shelter, drop to the ground with your head covered. If you can find a ditch or depression that area is best. Always watch out for flying debris, the cause of most injuries during a tornado. And never go under bridges or overpasses; you’re safer in a flat location.

After a tornado:

  • Listen to media for the latest updates and emergency information.
  • Always watch out for broken glass and downed power lines. Only use the telephone in emergencies and leave an area if you smell gas or chemicals. It is also important to stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Try to help injured persons, but do not attempt to move people that are seriously injured. Remember to help your neighbors, especially those that need special assistance.
  • Take photos and videos of the damage for insurance purposes.

As we mentioned, you can never be fully prepared for a natural disaster like a tornado. Hopefully this information answers some of the questions you might have about what to do before, during, and after a tornado strikes, allowing you to feel a little more at ease.

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