Tornado Preparedness Tips for Sheltering in Place

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Most communities that are subject to severe weather have contingency plans in place when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes. However, it is difficult to accurately predict how these plans will unfold once a tornado strikes. Every building, including hospitals and grocery stores, may be destroyed, hundreds of injured will need to be treated and people will need shelter. Emergency services may be unavailable or overwhelmed, and basic supplies may take days to arrive to affected areas. It is essential to be prepared to fend for yourself for a few days in order to avoid the potential chaos that can follow a devastating storm.



Stocking the Shelter

Everyone who lives in a tornado area should have access to a basement, cellar or storm shelter. The shelter should be stocked with minimal supplies that will sustain survivors for at least three days. This includes food, water, medicine, clothing, power for communications and other devices as well as a place to sleep.


Make sure to have at least two gallons of fresh and potable water per person per day for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Try to stock foods that require minimal water for cooking, and consider items that can be eaten straight from cans or jars. Make sure that your food items cover the nutritional spectrum and that they accommodate any special dietary requirements that you or other family members will have.


Shelters should also include items like batteries, flashlights, lanterns, fuel, a weather radio, medicine and basic hand tools. Remember that the shelter is intended to be a temporary refuge that can be used until permanent arrangements are made. Therefore, make sure that you have everything that you will need to get through the intervening hours following the disaster.



Learn Basic First Aid

Basic first aid skills will include treating wounds, immobilizing sprains and fractures, performing CPR, assisting with breathing and safely transporting the seriously injured to the nearest medical facility if necessary. Learning first aid is not difficult, and many techniques involve little more than common sense. However, skills should be practiced and developed before they are needed in the field, so becoming familiar with them ahead of time is critical. Also, make sure to keep a first aid book on hand in the shelter for easy reference.




Learn Basic Self-Defense

Civil unrest may become a reality during the aftermath of a catastrophic tornado, and it is essential that you are in a position to protect your family as well as your shelter. Try to have a gun or rifle handy as well as some other basic defensive weapons.   Take time to learn how to fight and defend yourself if a situation deteriorates and you don’t have access to a weapon as well. These resources and skills can be all that separates you from becoming a victim during a time when protection from civil authorities is not available.


Have a Communication and Exit Strategy

Tornadoes are unique in the sense that they can wipe entire communities off of the map in a matter of minutes. This includes destroying phone lines, cell towers and taking Internet service offline. Make sure that you have a strategy in place to contact loved ones and make arrangements to be resettled in adjacent neighborhoods or communities away from the disaster area. You want to have your shelter available, but you also want to have a place to go and a support system in place that you can rely on as quickly as possible as well.


These are just a few examples of how planning and preparation are essential when it comes to surviving the aftermath of a devastating tornado. However, it’s important that you examine your particular needs and circumstances as you devise your own strategy.   Knowing what to do or where to go immediately following the disaster is just as important as surviving the storm itself. The best solution is to get as far away from the chaos as possible until the dust settles and order is restored. However, it is also important to have plans in place that will sustain you if you are unable to relocate.




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