What to do When a Tornado Strikes

On April 3, 2012 the Dallas / Fort Worth area was struck by more than a dozen tornados.  Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed in Arlington, Irving, Lancaster, Dallas, Mesquite, Balch Springs, Forney and Royce City.  I will never forget the images of semi-trailers being swirled around in the wind and thrown over 8 lanes of Interstate 20.  Thousands of lives were affected by the storm’s which left damages surpassing $1 billion.  The good news is no one was killed.

Tornado season in north Texas is primarily the months of April and May.  Since we’re in the middle of that, I think it’s a good time to revisit the tornado safety tips that FEMA publishes because one never knows when the next series of tornados will strike.

During a tornado

If you are in a structure such as a residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building you should;

  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • If available, put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect yourself from head injuries.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.

If you’re in a trailer or mobile home, you should;

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you are outside with no shelter, you should;

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a tornado

If you’re in a building that has been damaged by a tornado, here are a few suggestions from FEMA;

  • Check for injuries to those around you.
  • Do not attempt to move seriously injured individuals unless they are in immediate danger of further injury (you could hurt them worse).
  • Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound.
  • Have any puncture wound evaluated by a physician.
  • If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.
  • Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
  • Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and utility company.
  • Be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. If you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.

If you are a parent of young children, you should review with them where to go in the home if you’re separated and where to meet once the storm is over.

This is also a great time to review your home insurance, better now than after something’s happened.  There are two questions you need to answer.

  • Is my home properly insured, both the structure and your contents?  (Our Guide to Buying Home Insurance will provide some helpful information for you in this area)
  • What is my deductible?  If you don’t have an emergency fund, start working on one today.

Have a question or a suggestion?  Share them with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page.  I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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