Preparing for Tornado Season
Prepare for tornado season by planning ways to protect yourself and your family.
March 9, 2023
Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhoods in seconds. Their whirling winds can reach up to 300 miles per hour.
To prepare for a tornado in your community, consider the following tips.
Before a Tornado
Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your home and family from tornadoes:
- Build an emergency kit and develop a family communication plan.
- Monitor your cellphone, the radio and the television for the latest information regarding local tornado risks.
- Always listen to the instructions given by local officials.
- Be alert for changing weather conditions and danger signs, such as a dark or greenish sky, large hail, rotating dark clouds or a roaring noise.
- If you see danger signs or an approaching storm, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
During a Tornado
When a tornado warning is issued, seek shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris.
If you are in a structure (e.g., a residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center or high-rise building), do the following:
- Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a room on the lowest level (e.g., closet, interior hallway), away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outdoors. Take shelter under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- Do not open windows.
If you are in a trailer or mobile home, do the following:
- Go to a storm shelter or other sturdy building if time permits. Trailers and mobile homes offer almost no protection during a tornado. Plan ahead so you know where to go.
If you are driving and there isn’t time to seek shelter, do the following:
- Lie flat in a ditch or other area significantly lower than the surrounding landscape. Protect your head and neck with your hands and arms.
- If you must stay in the vehicle, keep your seat belt fastened. Duck your head below window level and, if possible, cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or cushion.
- Do not shelter under an overpass or bridge. These structures create wind tunnels, and you are at even greater risk of being severely injured by flying debris.
After a Tornado
Injuries may result from the direct impact of a tornado, or they may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50% of tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. Nearly one-third of those injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines and electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires prompt treatment of any injuries suffered during the storm and the use of extreme care to avoid further hazards.
Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injuries. Instead, get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained. To stop a bleeding injury, apply direct pressure to the wound. Have puncture wounds evaluated by a physician.
General Safety Precautions
Avoid injuries after a tornado by following these safety precautions:
- Continue to monitor your cellphone, radio or television for emergency information.
- Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking near debris.
- Be aware of hazards from sharp objects, such as exposed nails and broken glass.
- Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with these lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
- To light homes without electrical power but that are otherwise deemed safe to inhabit, use battery-powered lanterns rather than candles, if possible. If you use candles, ensure they are in safe holders and kept away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
- Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline-, propane-, natural gas- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper—or even outside near an open window, door or vent. These devices can produce carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if it builds up inside your home. Seek prompt medical attention if you are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated and suspect CO poisoning.
Inspecting the Damage from a Tornado
After the tornado has passed, you may be tempted to inspect the damage it has caused. However, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information about structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you. Your insurance carrier or broker may also be able to offer suggestions.
- In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fires, electrocution or explosions.
- If it is dark when inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
- If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or the fire department and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Safety During Cleanup
Keep these points in mind when cleaning up after a tornado:
- Wear long sleeves, gloves, and sturdy shoes or boots.
- Learn proper safety procedures and read operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
- Hire qualified professionals to assist in cleaning up or fixing anything that requires expertise beyond your abilities or equipment that you aren’t experienced in using safely.
The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.