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How To Survive A Tornado
The U.S. has more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world (averaging
about 1,000 per year), with sightings in all 50 states. Canada is # 2 in
volume of tornadoes (averaging about 80 per year) with several high risk
areas mostly in central provinces.
Most injuries or deaths caused by tornadoes are from collapsing buildings, flying objects, or trying to outrun a twister in a vehicle. Tornadoes can also produce violent winds, hail, lightning, rain and flooding.
As of 2007, the National Weather Service uses a new scale called the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale that classifies tornadoes based on 28 Damage Indicators to more accurately estimate wind speeds.
Scale Wind Estimate Typical Damage (per NOAA and Wikipedia)
EF0 65-85 mph (105-137 km/h) -- Light: Peels off some roofs; some damage to
gutters or siding; broken branches, etc.
EF1 86-110 mph (138-177 km/h) -- Moderate: Strips surface off roofs; mobile homes overturned; broken windows, etc.
EF2 111-135 mph (178-217 km/h) -- Considerable: Roofs/mobile homes destroyed;
trees snap; light-object missiles generated, etc.
EF3 136-165 mph (218-266 km/h) -- Severe: Roofs/walls ripped off sturdy homes; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted & thrown, etc.
EF4 166-200 mph (267-322 km/h) -- Devastating: Well-constructed homes leveled;
cars thrown; small missiles generated, etc.
EF5 > 200 mph (> 322 km/h) -- Incredible: All homes leveled and swept away;
car-sized missiles fly thru air over 100 meters
(109 yards); structural damage to high-rises, etc.
BEFORE A TORNADO:
Prepare - WIND MITIGATION
Wind damage is the most common disaster-related expense and usually accounts for 70% or more of the insured losses reported worldwide. Many natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, microbursts or thunderstorms, and winter storms include damaging winds. And certain parts of the world experience high winds on a normal basis due to wind patterns.
Realize when extreme winds strike they are not constant - they rapidly increase and decrease. A home in the path of wind causes the wind to change direction. This change in wind direction increases pressure on parts of the house creating stress which causes the connections between building components to fail. For example, the roof or siding can be pulled off or the windows can be pushed in.
Strengthen weak spots on home
Experts believe there are four areas of your home that should be checked for weakness -- the roof, windows, doors and garage doors. Homeowners can take some steps to secure and strengthen these areas but some things should be done by an experienced builder or contractor.
- Truss bracing or gable end bracing (supports placed strategicall to strengthen the roof)
- Anchors, clips and straps can be installed (may want to call a professional since sometimes difficult to install)
- Storm shutters (for windows, French doors, sliding glass doors, and skylights) or keep plywood on hand
- Reinforced bolt kits for doors
- Certain parts of the country have building codes requiring garage doors to withstand high winds (check with local building officials)
- Some garage doors can be strengthened with retrofit kits (involves installing horizontal bracing onto each panel)
Make sure your trailer or mobile home is securely anchored. Consult the manufacturer for information on secure tiedown systems.
Secure or tie down loose stuff
Extreme winds can also cause damage from flying debris that can act like missiles and ram through walls, windows or the roof if the wind speeds are high enough. You should consider securing large or heavy equipment inside and out to reduce some of the flying debris like patio furniture, barbeque grills, water heaters, garbage cans, bookcases and shelving, etc.
Consider building a shelter or “safe room”
Shelters or “safe rooms” are designed to provide protection from the high winds expected during hurricanes, tornadoes and from flying debris. Shelters built below ground provide the best protection, but be aware they could be flooded during heavy rains. FEMA provides an excellent free booklet called “Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House” developed in association with the Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University. Learn more by visiting www.fema.gov [do a search on safe rooms]
Learn the buzzwords - Learn the terms / words used with tornado threats...
- Tornado watch - a tornado is possible - listen for updates
- Tornado warning - a tornado has been sighted so take
- shelter quickly and keep a radio with you for updates
Where am I? - Make sure your kids know what county or area you live in and listen for that name on radio or TV updates.
Get tuned in - Keep a battery-operated radio (with spare batteries) handy for weather forecasts and updates. (Environment Canada’s Weatheradio and NOAA’s Weather Radio have tone-alert features that alert you when a Watch or Warning has been issued.)
Be ready to evacuate - If officials say leave - DO it! (see EVACUATION)
Make a plan - Review Section 1 to develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit.
Learn to shut off - Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves -- ask local utilities for instructions.
Where do I go? - Know locations of shelters where you spend time (schools, nursing homes, office, etc.) The best place is underground (like a basement, a safe room, or storm cellar) or find a hallway, bathroom, or closet in middle of building on the lowest floor.
Do drills - Practice going to shelter with your family and “duck and cover” (use your hands and arms to protect head and stay down low).
Put it on film/chip/drive - Either videotape or take pictures of home and personal belongings and store them off-site with your important papers.
DURING A TORNADO WATCH OR WARNING:
Review above tips and...
Listen - Keep up with local news reports tracking the twister or conditions using a battery-operated radio.
Watch & listen - Some danger signs of a tornado include dark green-ish sky, clouds moving to form a funnel, large hail, or loud roar (like a train). Be ready to evacuate - Keep listening to authorities - if told to leave, DO it (esp if you live in a mobile home or trailer).
DURING A TORNADO:
Listen - Use a battery-operated radio to hear reports tracking the twister.
Take cover - If you hear or see a tornado coming take cover immediately!
IF IN A TRAILER OR MOBILE HOME – GET OUT!!!
- Get to a stronger shelter… or …
- Stay low to ground in a ditch and cover head with hands.
- If you hear or see water in the ditch, move quickly to a drier spot (in case lightning strikes nearby).
- In house or small building - Go to basement, storm cellar or middle of building on lowest floor (bathroom, closet or hallway). Get under something sturdy or put mattress or covers over you for protection & stay until danger passes.
- In a school, nursing home, factory or shopping center - Go to designated shelter areas (or interior hallways on lowest floor) -- stay away from open areas.
- In a high-rise building - Go to a small, interior room or hallway on lowest floor possible and avoid windows.
IF IN A VEHICLE - GET OUT and take shelter in a building or lie flat in a ditch with hands covering head (but be aware you’re a bigger target for lightning when lying flat & listen for flooding!) DO NOT try to out-drive a tornado! You never know which direction one will go & it moves too fast.
AFTER A TORNADO:
Listen - Use a battery-operated radio to hear reports in case there are more
Be aware - Watch for broken glass and downed power lines .. and avoid
damaged buildings or homes until authorities give the OK to enter.
Injured people - Do not try to move injured people unless they are in danger
and call for help immediately. (see TIPS ON BASIC FIRST AID)
What to wear - Use sturdy work boots and gloves.
Recovery tips - See TIPS ON RECOVERING FROM A DISASTER
www.itsadisaster.net or call 1-888-999-4325