A total of 1,072 tornadoes were reported in the U.S. in 2012, taking the lives of 68 people. These incredibly intense storms, which can wreak havoc on homes and other buildings, trees and power lines in a short amount of time, are violently rotating columns of air simultaneously in contact with the earth’s surface and a cloud. Most tornadoes feature winds of less than 110 miles per hour and are about 250 feet across, but some have packed 300 mph or greater wind speeds and have stretched out across two miles. My family here in Tennessee is well aware of the dangers of tornadoes.
Unlike preparing to defend yourself against an attacker, there is no defense against a tornado. The only thing you can do when one strikes is to try to put yourself in the best possible position to avoid it. But there are some steps you can take to protect yourself, before, during and after a tornado touches down.
As with any potential disaster, it’s wise to have an emergency response plan in place in case a tornado warning is issued. Everyone in your home or office should know exactly what to do and where to take shelter. Warning signs include rapidly darkening skies, clouds rotating in a circular pattern, a funnel cloud being spotted and sometimes a rushing or roaring noise being heard.
If a tornado watch is issued, that means conditions are right for a tornado to develop. But if a tornado warning is proclaimed, that means a tornado has been spotted in your area and you should seek shelter immediately. As soon as possible, tune into emergency radio communicated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their reports will always be slightly ahead of mainstream media reports.
Here are five steps to take during a tornado:
- If you’re indoors, get to a basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of a building. Stay away from windows, doors, corners of buildings and outside walls.
- If you’re indoors but can’t get to a lower level, find the smallest interior room or hallway as far from the exterior of the building as possible.
- If you’re driving, try to head to the closest structure where you can take shelter.
- If you’re driving but can’t get to a shelter, get out of the car and lie face down with your hands over your head in a ditch or other lower level near the roadway but away from vehicles.
- If you’re driving and you see a tornado, don’t try to outrun it. Pull over immediately and seek shelter. Avoid overpasses, bridges, tall buildings and flying debris.
And here’s an important tip many folks may not know: most of the people who suffer injuries after a tornado has passed get hurt while trying to clean up debris, including nails and glass. Also keep an eye out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines and damaged structures.