April 03, 2019
The United States is the most tornado-prone country on the planet. Due to a mixture of land features like strategically-placed plains and mountains, proximity to a warm and moist Gulf of Mexico, and a position halfway between the warm equator and the cold North Pole, the US is a veritable battle zone of dangerous weather: blizzards, flash floods, ice storms, hurricanes, droughts, and the dreaded tornado. How do you survive a tornado? What tornado safety tips will actually keep you and your family safe?
Image by Jason Weingart
On March 3, 2019 a violent tornado almost a mile-wide, with winds approaching 170 miles an hour, tracked across southeastern Alabama, killing 23 and ranking as the deadliest U.S. tornado in the last five years. Entire swaths of forest were blown down and homes were completely demolished. But most people in the twister’s path survived.
Here’s how you can survive a twister with 5 simple tornado survival tips.
Everyone in your family should know how to react when a warning is issued, including where to seek shelter. Children should be taught at school and at home how to seek shelter, and where. They should know how to do this regardless of whether their parents are home at the time.
During the May 3, 1999 tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma there were no fatalities under the age of 18, even though the twisters struck at a time when kids were home from school but before parents hadn’t gotten home from work. Why? The kids knew what to do when a tornado warning was issued, and they took shelter…immediately.
Your best bet is a certified storm shelter, either an above-ground steel or concrete structure (easier for the elderly to get into and out of), or a below-ground shelter. Even in a violent tornado, survival can be certain if you’re in an approved shelter.
No storm shelter? Your safest bet is to get down low, away from windows, and in a place that puts multiple walls between you and the tornado: interior rooms, closets, or baths. Wherever your shelter, protect your head. Many tornado fatalities are due to head or neck trauma, so when you take shelter, put on a bicycle helmet or cover yourself with a mattress or tub.
An emergency kit is not just a safety tip for tornadoes, but all severe weather really. It should include some water and food, but also first aid essentials, because you may need to take care of yourself or your neighbors. In the aftermath of the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado it took first responders almost an hour to make their way into the center of the tornado’s path, due to the overwhelming number of injuries.
Will you be able to stop bleeding and stabilize an injury until first responders arrive? Be ready. Have a first aid kit, a flashlight, a wrench to turn off the gas, an extra pair of shoes, and some work gloves. If your home is damaged, you’ll be on your own until help arrives.