By Rob K12
A tornado, also known as a "twister" or a "cyclone," is a violent rotating column of air in the shape of a funnel that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. A tornado can reach speeds over 100 miles per hour and can destroy solid structures, sending debris through the air like missiles. As destructive as tornadoes can be, there are ways to prepare yourself to maximize your chances of surviving one.
Start your preparation long before tornado season arrives by building a home emergency kit and making a family communication plan. Your home emergency kit needs to cover the priorities of survival and include any specific personal and family needs. View our Tornado Checklist.
Even if a tornado does not strike your home, it can still knock out power in the entire area for an extended time. Food stored in refrigerators and freezers will soon spoil and become inedible. Stock up on nonperishable foods such as canned goods, dry foods, and emergency freeze-dried food rations.
Water is essential, and when tornadoes threaten you need fill your bathtubs and empty containers - and have a means to purify water that you collect from natural water sources. There are many ways to purify your water. Bringing a pot of water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes will kill all living waterborne pathogens and provide you with drinkable water.
Household bleach is another means for water purification. Add 2-4 drops of unscented bleach to a quart of water, shake it, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then loosen the cap and turn it upside down to let water trickle down and disinfect the threads of the cap. Then set it back upright and let it sit for about 30-45 minutes. The water should smell like bleach. If it doesn’t, then repeat the process.
Water purification tablets and a high-quality water filter are also important to have because you can take them with you in case you have to evacuate your home.
When tornadoes are imminent, protect your home by covering the windows with plywood, and secure anything outside that cannot be brought into the house. Any outside furniture, umbrellas, toys - anything that could potentially become a projectile in the winds of the tornado - need to be brought inside the house.
The ideal safe place to be during a tornado is underground. A storm cellar or basement stocked with emergency supplies is the best-case scenario. If those are not an option, then find a room on the lowest level of your house with no windows. If you are living in a mobile home or trailer, move to a secure structure. Many communities have established an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for an emergency crisis. Become familiar with your local EAP, communication plans, and storm shelter locations.
Stay Put Or Head Out?
In any emergency situation, your first option should be to stay home or “bug in.” However, you may be required to leave your house and “bug out.” If that is the case, then you need to have a portable bag ready to go. A “bug out bag” is pre-packed and pre-staged in the event you have to leave your house and move to a safer location. Your bug out bag will be a travel-ready version of your home emergency kit that provides you with emergency essentials.
After the tornado has passed, continue to monitor the emergency stations on your crank/battery operated radio. If there is significant damage to your home, shut off the main power and gas lines. If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, use flashlights and battery operated lanterns. Do not use candles or anything that makes a spark. Wear protective clothing, gloves, and sturdy shoes. Fifty percent of injuries happen after the tornado from stepping on nails and debris during rescue attempts and clean up activities.
Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions. He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.