Nature's wrath can be both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Tornadoes are one of the few natural phenomena that embody this duality. These violent whirlwinds can suddenly appear without warning. They leave a trail of devastation, sweeping substantial areas with tremendous force.
In the vast expanse of North America, there is a region that stands out for highly concentrated encounters with tornadoes. Known as 'Tornado Alley', this geographical area spans central Canada and the United States such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and reaches up into the American states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Recently, scientists have discovered that this unique region has shifted eastward a bit, impacting new regions including Ontario and Quebec. The investigation as to why and its future impact is still ongoing.
In this article, we are going to share with you essential information regarding what to know and how to prepare to ensure the safety of your property and everyone involved.
Short Anatomy of a Tornado
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that connects a thunderstorm cloud to the Earth's surface. They typically form within severe thunderstorms, where powerful updrafts and wind shear create the ideal conditions for their birth. As the rotating column of air descends, it often takes the shape of a funnel cloud, extending from the base of the storm cloud to the ground below. Tornadoes come in various sizes and intensities, ranging from weak EF0 tornadoes (The Enhanced Fujita Scale, as known as EF Scale) to the most devastating EF5 tornadoes, capable of leveling entire communities.
Signs that a tornado may be approaching include the following:
Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning
An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds
A rumbling sound or a whistling sound.
A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
BEFORE A TORNADO
Create a tornado emergency plan
Just like any weather-related emergency, having a comprehensive emergency plan can make a difference between life and death. It takes less than an hour to develop a tornado emergency plan.
Identify a safe place in your property for people to gather during a tornado.
Have your property's floor plan sketched. Walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
For shelters, identify a second way to exit.
Clearly mark where your first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and special equipment such as a rope ladder, are located.
Identify where the utility switches and valves are located. They should be turned off during an emergency.
Create an emergency supply kit
Stock up on emergency supplies that can be easily accessed and used after a tornado. These supplies should include a first aid kit and emergency supply kits for the property and automobile, including emergency water and food. Store enough supplies to last at least 3 days.
Store important information in a secure location
Make a list of highly important information. This will greatly help you mitigate the damage. Store them in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
Emergency Telephone numbers such as police, fire, paramedics, and medical centres
Your insurance information including policy types and numbers
Contact information of the electric, gas, and water companies
Contact information of your landlord/property manager
Owner certificates of your vehicles and their year, model, license plate, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
Telephone number of your bank/credit union, and your account numbers
Inspect your property for possible hazards
Unfortunately, there isn't a property that can be considered completely safe during a tornado. However, by paying close attention to the construction details you can dramatically reduce damage and enhance the safety of individuals on the premises. Consult professionals to attain information about structural safety. Consider the following questions:
Have the walls been securely fastened to the foundation?
Have wall studs been connected to the roof rafters using metal hurricane clips instead of nails?
Have large furniture been positioned away from windows?
Are there any large objects that are not properly secured and could potentially topple or fall?
Are poisons, solvents, or other toxic materials stored in a secure and safe manner?
Learn how to shut off utilities
Make sure you know the locations and procedures for shutting off utilities such as gas, electricity, and water. It is important to know how to access the main switches or valves for these services. Contact your local utility companies for guidance.
DURING A TORNADO
If you are in a house
Seek shelter in a basement if available. If this is not possible, go into a small interior ground-floor room such as a bathroom, closet, or hallway. Protect yourself by taking cover under a sturdy table or desk.
Regardless of the shelter option, always stay away from windows, outside walls, and doors.
If you are in an office or apartment building
Seek shelter in an inner hallway or room. It is best if this room is located on the ground floor or in the basement.
Do not use the elevator.
Stay away from windows at all times.
If you are in a gymnasium, church, or auditorium
Wide-span roof structures in large buildings are at a higher risk of collapse when impacted by a tornado. Therefore, it is highly advisable to seek shelter in another building that offers a safer environment.
If this is not possible, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk. This can help shield you from falling debris and increase your chances of remaining safe until the tornado passes.
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable during tornadoes. A significant portion of tornado-related fatalities occur in these structures. Seek refuge in a building with a strong foundation, as it offers more protection against the powerful forces of a tornado.
If no shelter is available, lie down in a ditch away from the car or mobile home. Be cautious of potential flooding from heavy rain and be prepared to relocate if necessary.
If you are driving
If you spot a tornado in the distance, immediately head to the nearest solid shelter. Seek out a sturdy building or structure.
if the tornado is already near your location, exit your car and seek cover in a low-lying area.
In all cases
It is crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself. Get as close to the ground as possible, ideally in a low-lying area like a ditch or depression. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a sturdy object.
Never chase tornadoes. Tornadoes are unpredictable and can change direction abruptly.
A tornado can give a deceptive appearance of standing still, while actually advancing toward your location. Always maintain a cautious and vigilant approach to ensure your safety and the safety of others around you.