23 Tips to Help You Prepare for Tornado Season

If you’re living in, or moving to, tornado country, these tips will help you prepare for the inevitable.

1.       Buy a home with a storm cellar.  Reinforce it with steel doors.

2.       Make sure you have up-to-date homeowner’s insurance.

3.       Have a To Go Bag ready at all times.

4.       Check the FEMA website for helpful information regarding tornado preparedness.

5.       Have at least three days (72 hours) worth of food and water stored in a cellar, interior closet, or other safe place.

6.       Know where the nearest shelters are and make sure your kids know their locations, too.

7.       Stay tuned in to local news, either TV or radio.  After the storm passes, old fashioned rabbit-ears (TV antenna) might help you get local channels if your cable is down.

8.     Know all the safest or safe-ish locations to shelter, e.g. a bathtub or a closet.  You may be visiting friends, out shopping, or at the park when a tornado hits.  Know how to be as safe as possible wherever you are.

9.     Have flashlights, oil lamps, and other sources of light.  Extra batteries are a must.

10.   Have an emergency, hand-crank radio.

11.   Have a cell phone charger.  During tornado season, always have your phone charged.  An external battery pack, like a Jackery, would be a good idea.  Keep it fully charged in a To Go Bag.

12.   Some TV stations offer free weather warnings via text messages.  Check the websites of your local TV and news/talk radio stations to see if they are offering this service.  Police and fire departments may also offer this service.

13.   Have family drills so everyone knows what to do and where to go.  Have an occasional drill in the middle of the night.  Who says tornadoes only strike during the convenient daylight hours?

14.   Make a Grab-n-Go Binder and keep at least one copy with a trusted family member out of state.

15.   Put on sturdy shoes as soon as a siren goes off.  A tornado produces enormous amounts of debris, including broken glass, nails, metal, and wood.  The last thing you need is a foot injury that would keep you sidelined.

16.   Know how to safely shut off your electric service, gas line, and water.

17.   Keep a small refrigerator/freezer in the basement.

18.   Keep cash on hand.  You’ll probably have to pay for those Red Cross doughnuts!

19.   A local map will help you keep track of weather alerts.

20.   Talk with old-timers and find out how they have weathered past tornado seasons.

21.    If your kids have friends they spend a lot of time with, find out what those families have planned in case of a tornado, or any other emergency, for that matter.

22.   Keep the tank of your car filled with gas.  You may need to evacuate to a safer location.

23.   Stay calm.  A terrified parent is going to send the kids right over the edge.

Nighttime tornadoes

In addition to these 23 tips, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the possibility of tornadoes hitting in the middle of the night. They definitely do not observe “daylight hours only” policy!

According to Weather Underground, about 79 tornadoes touched across the U.S. during a set of storms at the end of April 2014. I went to bed one of those nights with my phone volume on its highest setting in case severe weather hit us. I started walking through in my head what I would do if the sirens went off and I realized that we are not as prepared as I thought. If we needed to take shelter during the day, we were all set – nighttime was a different story.

If a storm were to have hit that night and damaged our house while we were in the basement, none of us would have shoes on, my children would have been in pajamas (shorts and nightgowns), and I had none of their nighttime comforts (pacifiers, blankies, and stuffed animals).

So, this week, I’m putting some more items in the basement to prepare us for nighttime tornado sheltering. You may want to think about some of the following as well.

  • Shoes and socks
  • Pants (especially for those who sleep in shorts and nightgowns)
  • Sweatshirts or jackets
  • Children’s sleep time comfort items (pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals)
  • Bras for the women in the family who don’t sleep in them
  • An extra set of glasses for those who wear them
  • Essential medications

Or better yet, hold a tornado drill during the night with your family. Then look around and imagine being trapped in that spot for several hours or a day if your house is damaged. What would you want to have?

Remember, with tornadoes, sometimes you only have minutes to take shelter! I will always have a healthy fear of tornadoes, but now I finally feel my family is well prepared if one heads our way. (And, I hope one never does!)

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