Tornadoes 201: Building a safe room
You can't outrun a tornado, but you can be prepared for one.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 11:27
CAN YOU SURVIVE THIS? Don't let storm season find you unprepared. (Photo: rbeard113/Flickr)
As we enter tornado season, it's time to get our gear ready and identify possible shelter locations in our homes, work or any place that people gather. Since a tornado often gives little notice that it will be dropping by for a visit, it's best to always be prepared.
Suggestions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency
In structures such as houses, schools, factories or stores: go to the lowest level (basement), or find an interior room away from windows, corners, doors and outside walls. According to FEMA, this could be a closet or even a hallway. Find something strong to put over your head, such as a table, and keep the windows closed.
In a trailer or vehicle: in this case it's better to abandon ship and run to the nearest building for shelter.
Outside with no structures: find a ditch or the lowest lying area away from potential debris. Be on the lookout for flash flooding, and cover your head with your hands. Avoid overpasses and bridges.
Once you've identified the safe room in your home or business, you need to build a tornado safety kit and have it stocked and ready for action. While you can purchase a premade kit, many people assemble theirs using a plastic tote or duffel bag — something that has some holding power, but can also be grabbed in a hurry and carried on the go if necessary.
While that will obviously vary from person to person, here's a starter list:
1. Medication, both personal and basic. A healthy first aid kit. Remember to check your expiration dates and keep the supplies both fresh and well stocked. In an emergency, you don't want to be stuck with four band-aids and some old peroxide.
2. A battery or crank-operated radio. Check to ensure it is in working order and put in some extra batteries.
3. A flashlight. Again, make sure it wasn't added to the storm kit because you don't want to store your good belongings. If you are stuck under a collapsed building in the dark, you'll definitely want a high quality working light with an extra stash of batteries.
4. Food. Canned items are best, since you won't be updating your kit on a regular basis. You'll have to put in a hand-operated can opener. Also keep in mind whether anyone will need something special. Are you diabetic? Do you have a baby? Pack items that will sustain you through disaster for at three days.
5. Gallons of water. A good suggestion is one gallon per person for three days.
6. Candles and matches. You'll want to save the flashlight as much as possible.
7. Good shoes and gloves, even some extra clothes. If you're in your pajamas when the funnel cloud races toward you, you won't take the time to change. Remember that you might survive utter devastation. You'll want to have strong-soled shoes to walk through debris and work gloves to move it.
8. An emergency contact list, including insurance information and your utility companies. Don't forget to include how to turn off your utilities, as well.
9. Money. Perhaps it's a coffee can of cash or an emergency-only credit card, but if your home is destroyed you'll need it for everything from food and lodging to emergency needs.
10. Communication devices. A cell phone or even a walkie-talkie set could be imperative if you are trapped and need assistance.
11. Pet food and supplies for three days, including extra water.
While this is by no means a complete list and must be tailored to your household needs, it is a strong beginning. A good suggestion is to also keep a stash of pillows and blankets, even a few toys or stuffed animals for small children waiting out the storm in the basement.
Be safe and get ready for the storm season!