One look at the current weather reports and you’ll see a common theme across the country: tornados, damaging winds, and flash flooding. At least 22 states, from California to Indiana, are under alert for heavy snow, dangerous ice, high winds, and flooding rain. Nearly 30 million people are under some sort of severe weather threat in the South, with the highest risk near the Gulf Coast.
It’s a scary to think about, but we have safety tips and guidelines to get you through it. Firstly, don’t wait around for a warning to be issued for your area. Have a safe shelter plan in place and an emergency supply kit. Additionally, you should develop an emergency plan for you and your family.
Maximize safety in your home
Your home is your safety, your secure place. Keep it safe by organizing your home to withstand a tornado or other storm, while keeping you safe in it.
Keep furniture such as beds, couches, and chairs away from glass that can shatter (windows, mirrors, and table tops). Secure large appliances and top-heavy furniture with straps, metal bands, cables or bolts to prevent them from toppling over. Install latches or sliding bolts on cabinet doors so dishes and other breakables can’t tumble out.
Finally, keep important documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, visas, insurance policies, and any legal papers in a waterproof and fireproof safe.
An action plan for every place
Tornados can strike without warning due to their unpredictable nature. Within minutes they can destroy neighborhoods, uproot trees, flip cars, and cause instant fatalities. Here are four safety tips to take no matter where you are during a tornado.
Inside your home
- Get to a windowless interior room on the lowest level of your house, such as a basement or storm cellar. If you don’t have one of those, go to a bathroom or closet without windows.
- Stay in the center of the room and away from corners which attract debris. If there’s a sturdy, glass-free piece of furniture in the room hide under it and hold on tight.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck from injury. If available, use a coat or blanket to cover your face to protect against debris.
- Stay inside until the storm has passed. However, if you are in a mobile home get out immediately and seek shelter elsewhere.
In a building
- If you are in a large store or mall, quickly move to an interior bathroom, storage room, or other small enclosed area away from glass or large items that can fall on you. Crouch facedown and protect your head and neck with your arms.
- If you are in a hospital, school or office building, find the lowest floor. Move to an inner room away from glass or large items that can fall on you. Crouch facedown and protect your head and neck with your arms.
- If you are in a church or theater, go under the pews or seats and crouch facedown. Protect your head and neck with your arms and close your eyes from flying debris.
- Stay away from elevators, which run on power and can be an electrical hazard.
Outside with no cover
- If there is a ditch or low-lying area near you, lie down in it. Be aware of the potential for flooding or lightning strikes.
- Crouch facedown and protect your head and neck with your arms and close your eyes from flying debris.
- Avoid areas with trees.
In a car
- Tornados can change direction quickly and erratically. If you can safely drive away, do so, but don’t try to outdrive a quickly approaching tornado.
- If you see a nearby building, evacuate your car and take shelter there.
- If there is no building nearby and you cannot drive away from the tornado, exit your vehicle and follow the directions above for “outside with no cover.”