March Injury Prevention
Tornado and severe weather preparedness
Springtime is coming soon, and this season will bring us the risk of severe weather, including strong winds, hail, lightening and tornadoes. Although tornadoes may occur in all 50 states and at any time of the year, the peak season for tornadoes in the southern plains, including northeast Oklahoma, is May into early June. Oklahoma is in an area referred to as “Tornado Alley.” This is the area of the United States that statistically tends to have the most tornadoes.
Being alert and prepared in advance is the best option for dealing with severe weather. When a tornado watch is issued, this issued this means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in a certain area during a certain time period. This does not mean a tornado has been spotted. The best preparation at this time is to be alert, listen to the radio or television and keep an eye on the sky. A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is detected by radar. Now is the time to take immediate action.
What do I do if a tornado warning is issued?
- In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.
- In a house with no basement or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down, and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof or ceiling fails.
- In a building: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Refrain from getting in or trying to use elevators.
- In a mobile home: Leave immediately. Even if your home is tied down, you are likely safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open.. If your community has a tornado shelter, utilize it immediately. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground (face down) away from your home, trees and vehicles, while protecting your head.
- In a car or truck: If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible and out of the traffic lanes. Seek shelter in a sturdy building. If you are in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars. Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges.
- If you are outside and no shelter is available: Lie face-down on low ground and protect the back of your head with your arms.
Additionally, consider creating a storm safety kit for your home. Flashlights with the correct sized batteries, candles with matches or lighters and a battery-operated radio are some of the basics to start building your kit.
Severe weather and Oklahoma seem to go together. Having a plan and knowing what to do in advance are the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.
St. John Trauma Services
information adapted from: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html