Learn important safety steps to take before, during, and after a tornado strikes

Informative websites can help keep you and your family safe during and after a tornado has occurred.

Tornadoes are violent, unpredictable storms that can cause incredible property damage, injuries and death. They can vary in size and intensity, at times striking so suddenly those in their path have little or no time to prepare. Other tornadoes develop more gradually allowing people to seek shelter.

One need not be a meteorologist to know that weather conditions can change rapidly. According to both FEMA’s Ready.gov and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), key danger signs that a tornado may be imminent include: large hail, dark or green-colored sky, a large, dark, low-lying cloud, and a loud roar that sounds like a freight train. 

They caution the importance of knowing the difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning. A “watch” indicates that weather conditions are such that a tornado may occur. A “warning” indicates a tornado has actually been sighted or strongly indicated by weather radar. It is advised you seek shelter immediately if a tornado warning is issued.

If weather conditions are such that a tornado may occur, officials suggest you keep apprised of weather conditions by visually scanning the sky for approaching storms as well as staying tuned to weather reports via radio or tv. NOAA weather radios are highly recommended by the CDC as the best way to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. If you live in a storm-prone area, it is suggested you consider purchasing a battery-operated NOAA weather radio in case storm activity causes a power outage.

The best options for taking shelter will depend on your location. Both Ready.gov and CDC offer the safest options for those who find themselves outside when a tornado is imminent, for those in mobile homes, and for those who may be in a building of some type whether it be a home, school, hospital, office building or shopping center.  

Certain types of buildings are more dangerous than others. Take time now to consult the Ready.gov and CDC websites to learn how to seek safe shelter in a variety of building types. No matter what type of structure in which you seek shelter, experts agree that you move as far away as possible from windows and glass doorways.

An important thing to consider is that individuals with special needs or mobility issues will likely need extra assistance to reach safe shelter. Advance planning by those who have special needs or those who care for individuals with special needs will be critical.

Studies indicate most tornado-related injuries and fatalities are caused by flying or falling debris. Consult these informative websites now to educate yourself on both facts and myths about tornadoes.

Once a tornado has passed, people are often injured while walking through debris-strewn areas or entering damaged homes and other buildings. There is a risk of fire, electrocution, or an explosion as power and gas lines may be damaged. Ready.gov reports that a study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed 50 of tornado-related injuries occurred during rescue attempts, clean-up and other post-tornado activities. Surprisingly, nearly a third of these injuries were caused by people stepping on nails! They offer sound post-tornado safety advice especially for individuals inspecting damage and doing clean-up.

Michigan State University Extension can offer further information about what food is safe to use after a tornado if power outages have occurred or non-refrigerated items have been exposed to rain water. Extension specialists can recommend how to repair storm-damaged ornamental plants and trees as well as steps for safely cleaning household items that may have been exposed to rain water or flooding during tornado-related storms.

Another excellent resource is Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). Visit their tornado homepage as well as their tornado resources page.

Even before tornado weather occurs, experts recommend you begin preparing by assembling an emergency kit and making a family communications plan. If you live in an especially tornado-prone area, consider constructing a safe room. FEMA offers a wealth of information about safe rooms whether for a home or for public and community sites.

Again, as is recommended in any severe weather or other emergency situation, if tornado weather is present, be alert and tune in to weather newscast via radio or tv for their regular updates. For the safety of yourself, your family and emergency responders make sure to follow instructions provided by local emergency officials.

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