Several tornadoes touched down in Illinois this evening. One struck Fairfield, Illinois, killing one person and leaving an enormous amount of physical damage. Let’s use the occasion to think about how to prepare for a tornado.
First, pay attention to the difference between a watch and a warning.
A tornado watch means that weather conditions are such that tornadoes are possible in the area. If you hear that there is a tornado watch, act fast to prepare. Bring in or tie down outdoor furniture, trash cans or other heavy objects. Watch the sky for threatening clouds, and continue to listen to the radio for weather updates.
Many communities have a tornado siren to alert you when a tornado has been sighted. Find out in advance whether your community has a siren or any other tornado alert system and listen for it.
Find your whistle. If the tornado does hit your location and you are buried under rubble, your whistle can save your life. The sound of a whistle can carry farther than your voice can and you will be able to blow a whistle longer than you will be able to call out.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted. If you hear the tornado siren or hear on the radio that there is a tornado warning, there is no more time to prepare. Go immediately to your safe room or other secure structure. If you don’t have a safe room, choose a basement or other underground space, or an interior closet, bathroom or hallway located on a low floor. This room shouldn’t have windows.
Do not stay in a mobile home. A tornado can pick up a mobile home and carry it away, taking you with it. Leave it and go find a secure structure.
If you are walking or driving when a tornado touches down, go quickly to a secure structure. If you cannot reach a secure structure before you are overtaken by a tornado, try to find a ditch or other area lower than the road and lie face down in it. This, of course, is a last resort. A secure structure is a far safer alternative.
When the danger is over, be cautious as you inspect your property. Look for damage to your home, examining your foundation, porches and your indoor and outdoor stairs. Take pictures before you start to clean up or repair anything; you’ll need them for your insurance claims. If you need to clean up debris or rubble, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy, closed shoes and gloves.
Downed power lines and broken gas lines are big dangers that can result from a tornado. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open all the windows, leave the house and call the fire department. If you need light, use a flashlight, not candles.
Lastly, if your home is damaged and you need to repair or rebuild it, consult a professional for advice about reinforcements or other improvements that should be made. Masonry walls and tall or wide chimneys may need to be strengthened. Take the precautions that the professionals advise to be sure your home stays safe in the event of another tornado.
Have you ever lived through a tornado? Or do you have more advice about preparing for one? Let us know your story in the comments below.
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