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Tornado safety
Tornado at a place

Tornado safety

Know what to do before, during and after a tornado. Know where to seek shelter and the weather terms for tornadoes/strong winds.

Before a tornado

  • Be prepared for severe weather before a storm watch or warning is issued. Meet with household members to develop a disaster plan to respond to all hazards, including tornadoes. Make a family communications plan. Conduct regular tornado drills.
  • If you or family members have special needs, register with your local emergency management agency, police and/or fire departments before any disaster occurs.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms, and listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or media newscasts for the latest weather information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

During a tornado

  • Seek shelter immediately. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, do not stop to take pictures or shoot video. Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or local media newscasts for up-to-date weather information.

After a tornado

  • Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Be careful of debris such as damaged structures, exposed nails and broken glass. Do not touch downed power lines.
  • Call 911 for emergency assistance.

Know where to go

When severe weather threatens, remember to DUCK!

D - Go Down to the lowest level.
U - Get Under something sturdy (like a basement staircase or heavy table or desk)
C - Cover your head
K - Keep in shelter until storm has passed

In Homes: Go to the lowest level, as close to the center as possible. A basement is best, or go to a windowless bathroom, closet or inside hallway. Specifically constructed safe rooms offer the best protection.

At Work or School: Follow safety officers or teachers’ instructions. Go to an inside wall on the lowest floor. Interior bathrooms and closets are good shelter area. Avoid large, open rooms like gymnasiums and auditoriums where roofs can collapse.

In Mobile Homes: Get out! Seek shelter in a designated storm shelter or lowest floor of a sturdy building nearby.

In Vehicles: Never try to outrun a tornado. If possible, seek shelter in a nearby sturdy building. If you cannot quickly get to a shelter, either stay in your car with the seatbelt on or exit the vehicle and get lower than the roadway, lying flat in a ditch and covering your head with your hands.

Know the terms

  • Tornado Watch: Issued by the NWS when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. Be prepared to move to a safe place if weather conditions worsen. Stay tuned to weather updates.
  • Particularly Dangerous Situation Watch: “PDS” is used in rare situations when long-lived, strong and violent tornadoes are possible. PDS watches are issued by the NWS when the likelihood of significant events is boosted by very volatile atmospheric conditions.
  • Tornado Warning: Issued by the NWS when a tornado is imminent or occurring. A warning may be issued when a tornado is indicated by Doppler radar or sighted by trained spotters. Seek safe shelter immediately.
  • Tornado Emergency: An exceedingly rare tornado warning or statement issued when there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from an imminent or ongoing tornado. Seek shelter immediately.

The National Weather Service issues storm watches or warnings as needed. Most Ohio communities have outdoor warning sirens that sound during storm warnings. Consider a smartphone app for weather alerts.

Know what to do

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can generate rotating wind speeds ranging from (Enhanced Fujita Scale) EF0: 65-85 mph to EF5: over 200 mph.

Tornadoes can occur day or night, during any time of the year. Ohio’s peak tornado season is April through July. On March 2, 2012, an outbreak of about 75 tornadoes swept across the Midwest and South. The National Weather Service confirmed that seven tornadoes touched down in Ohio, including an EF3 that formed in Kentucky and swept across Clermont and Brown counties in Ohio.

To protect yourself and others from the dangers of tornadoes and other severe weather events, ReadyOhio and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness suggest the following:

  • BE INFORMED – Know what to do before, during and after an emergency.
  • MAKE A PLAN – Develop a disaster plan to respond to all hazards, including tornadoes. – Practice the plan by conducting safety drills.
  • BUILD A KIT – Organize emergency supply kits for the home and vehicle to be prepared.

Be prepared

Recommended items to include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable food that requires no cooking
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio or commercial radio
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags for sanitation
  • First-aid supplies and extra medications
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Ensure that pets have plenty of water, food and supplies