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Before a tornado

Shelf clouds and tornado off in the distance

Tornadoes can strike quickly, with little warning. They can destroy entire neighborhoods within minutes and leave a path of devastation for miles. Even if certain parts of the country haven't been struck by a tornado recently, every state faces some tornado risk.

If a tornado warning alarm sounds, you may have only seconds to take cover. That's why it's important to know exactly what to do before severe weather threatens your home and family. Making the right moves can save your life and the lives of those you love.

Have a plan

The safety of your family should be your number one priority in the event of a tornado. Make sure you take the time to prepare a tornado plan before any storms threaten so all family members know where to go.

  • If you are in a site-built home, pick a safe place where family members can gather if a tornado warning is issued. It should be in your basement or an interior room on the lowest level as far from windows, corners, doors and exterior walls as possible. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a mobile home, make sure you identify a sturdy building nearby for you to take shelter. It is never safe to ride out a tornado in a mobile home. Mobile home parks may have a designated tornado shelter. Find it and have a plan to get there quickly.
  • If you are in an apartment, ask your landlord if there are any storm shelters or tornado plans for your complex. Otherwise, make sure you have a place to go on the lowest level of the building. If your apartment is on the first floor, a closet, bathroom or interior hallway with no windows is the safest. If you live in a high-rise, you may not have time to get the lowest level, so identify a hallway in the center of the building for you to take cover.

Create a disaster supplies kit

It's good to have a disaster supplies kit you can easily grab if a tornado threatens your home. If your tornado safe place is in your home, it's smart to keep your kit there. The kit should include:

  • A first aid kit and essential medications
  • Canned food and a can opener
  • At least three gallons of water per person
  • Protective clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries. A weather radio is good to have for weather alerts, but having a regular AM/FM radio will allow you to get updated news reports after the storm is over.
  • Instructions on how to turn off the electricity, gas, and water in your home if you are advised to do so.

Know the signs

Nobody likes to cancel a golf game or other outdoor activities, but when weather looks threatening, remember to put safety first.

  • Postpone outdoor activities if your area is under a watch. Listen to the radio, watch the TV or read the Internet for the latest information. You may also want to sign up for weather alerts on your cell phone, but understand that cell service may not be reliable during or after a storm.
  • Always follow the advice of your local enforcement agencies. Your protection and safety are their concern.
  • Watch for approaching storms and the following danger signs: a dark, greenish sky; large hail; a dark, low-lying cloud; or a loud, roaring “freight train” sound. Since tornadoes can develop rapidly, they can strike before warnings are issued.
  • If a tornado warning is issued, it means an actual tornado has been sighted by a trained spotter or indicated by weather radar.

If you see approaching storms or any of these danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

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