Tornado season necessities
If you live in an area that experiences tornadoes, such as the midwest or south, you know how important it is to be ready. In addition to preparing your home for sheltering in place, you may need some essential supplies to stay safe.
To be as prepared as possible for tornado season, shop for essentials before it begins. This tornado season checklist is guided by FEMA’s Ready Campaign to get you started.
Design a tornado safety plan
The most important aspects of a tornado safety plan are staying safe and staying connected.
According to Ready.gov, tornadoes can happen anytime and anywhere. They bring intense winds that may be over 200 miles per hour. Damage may be minimal or extensive, but it’s always important to be prepared.
Tornado warnings should always be taken seriously. You’ll need to react quickly when you hear one, which is why it’s critical to develop a safety plan.
This involves establishing communication lines, designating safe rooms, identifying emergency sites and determining items you may need.
How to prepare for tornado season
Here are three things you should focus on in preparation for tornado season in your area:
- Preparing your home
- Assembling an emergency essentials kit
- Preparing household members and pets
Note that some emergency items are for households sheltering in place. Others may adjust their lists if their safety plan involves traveling to safer structures or emergency sites.
It’s important to note that there’s often little time to prepare for tornadoes. Many recommendations are intended for pre-season preparation and should not be initiated when you hear a tornado warning.
Prepare your home
FEMA recommends constructing a safe room that meets their standards or ICC 500 standards. More information on the safe room specifications can be found here.
If your dwelling doesn’t have a safe room, determine the safest room in your home. Designate it as the go-to location when tornado warnings are issued. This may include basements, storm cellars or hallways and closets in the lowest level of a sturdy building.
Secure or remove outdoor items
Prior to tornado season, secure or remove outdoor items that can be picked up by winds. If possible, bring them indoors. Patio furniture, for example, may be thrown against your home and cause damage.
Reinforce your home
You may want to hire a professional to assess ways to structurally reinforce or stabilize your home.
This may include using steel to reinforce chimneys, installing deadbolt locks on entry doors or bracing garage doors. Some people install impact-resistant windows or wind-resistant roofs.
Some people in tornado zones move valuables and irreplaceable items, like photos and documentation, to safe rooms during tornado season. If it’s not possible to store them securely, place all items in a single case and keep them inside your coat while you shelter.
Purchase cleanup gear
It’s common to sustain damage to your dwelling due to a tornado. You may need to do repairs or clean up indoor and outdoor spaces.
- Insect repellent and sunscreen provide protection outdoors.
- Masks and goggles are a good idea if you’re cleaning areas with dust, mold or other pollutants.
- Rugged footwear and durable gloves keep you safe while traversing cleanup areas.
Assemble an emergency essentials kit
Tornadoes may last a few seconds to several minutes, though you might need to shelter in place longer than that. Have a few days’ worth of food for each member of the family in your safe room.
- Non-perishable foods like packaged snacks, canned food or meal bars are ideal.
- Emergency food supply kits take up little space in safe rooms.
- Have a manual can opener and paper goods like plates, napkins and utensils on hand.
Access to public or well water may be impacted by tornado-related damage. Make sure you have one gallon of water per day, per person, for several days.
- Pick up packages of bottled water or gallon water jugs.
- Opt for an advanced water filtration system or water purification tablets.
Like other important items, there may be logistical issues involved with obtaining medical supplies.
As you approach tornado season, make sure you have at least a week’s worth of prescriptions on hand. Some people recommend having a 90-day supply of medication if long-term displacement is a concern.
- Keep a first aid kit and over-the-counter medications and treatments in your safe room.
- Use coolers and cold packs to store refrigerated medication like insulin or breast milk.
Tornado-related damage may impact your accessibility to stores for hygiene items. Make sure you have enough on hand.
Sewer and septic systems may be damaged after a tornado. As a result, you may need to utilize a makeshift toilet system.
- A simple bucket and sanitation liners is an affordable option. For hygiene and safety reasons, tie off each bag with duct tape for disposal.
Communication is of the utmost importance during tornado season. Certain electronics and devices can help you stay connected, many of which should be kept in your safe room.
- An emergency radio, ideally an NOAA radio, is important to keep track of tornado warnings and weather alerts.
- Power bricks, spare chargers and batteries are helpful to charge phones or two-way radios.
Prepare household members and pets
If you’re sheltering in place, especially in a cold underground space, dress in layers to stay warm.
- Wear warm clothing as well as footwear, hats and gloves.
- Coats with many pockets and compartments are convenient to hold valuables and necessities. Unfortunately, anything not on your person may be displaced.
If you’re traveling to a shelter or emergency site, travel light with a “go bag” that only includes the basics, such as a couple pairs of clean underwear and socks.
Blankets are invaluable in tornado preparation kits. In addition to keeping you warm, they can cover your head to shield you from falling debris.
- Leave a few blankets in your safe room or your vehicle.
- If you’re short on space in either of these places, purchase emergency blankets.
Put together a “go bag” with baby supplies that include necessities if you’re sheltering in place or heading to a shelter or emergency site.
- Basic baby supplies include diapers, baby wipes, formula and baby food.
- If applicable, bring your breast pump and milk storage bags.
- Other things such as a portable crib and baby blankets are beneficial.
Keep staple pet supplies in your safe room. If you need to go to a shelter or emergency site, keep the supplies in your vehicle.
- Include a few days’ worth of dry or canned pet food.
- Pack collars, leashes, pet carriers and travel food and water bowls in a “go bag” for pets.
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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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