How to Prepare for a Tornado

For some parts of the country we have entered into what is called “Tornado Season.” This means the likely chance of a tornado happening is high and the outcome can be horrible as we’ve seen this past week, in which we had some very bad tornados come through our country. Some people lost their homes and everything in it. Some people lost even more – family members and friends. Our prayers definitely go out to those who have suffered in any way because of these storms.

Tornadoes are extremely dangerous as we have seen. Blocks and blocks of neighborhoods have been wiped out from tornadoes. The first thing to know about tornadoes is that they can happen anywhere and at any time of the day. No place is safe and with today’s weather pattern going haywire this definitely rings true.

With this tornado season upon us a lot of people have questions, such as:

  • How do you survive a tornado?
  • Where do you go?
  • What can we do to prepare ourselves?

Below is some information I hope will help you to prepare before, during, and after an event has occur. The majority of it was taken from

Before a Tornado Hits

1) The first thing you should do is make a family plan and build an emergency kit.
2) Practice your family plan.
3) Watch for changing weather conditions, looking for the following danger signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

4) If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
5) Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Understand tornado terminology.

  • Tornado
    • Watch: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
    • Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
  • Severe thunderstorm
    • Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
    • Warning: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
    • Tornadoes occasionally develop during a severe thunderstorm watch or warning.
    • Remain alert to signs of approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.


The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by NOAA Weather Radios sold in many stores. The average range is 40 miles, depending on topography. Your National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.

During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

    • If you are in a building:
      • 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.
      • Put on sturdy shoes.
      • Do not open windows.
    • If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home:
      • Get out immediately.
      • 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:
      • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
      • 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

Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. Nearly a third of the injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.


Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. 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.

General Safety Precautions

Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:

  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
  • Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • 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 the utility company.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
  • Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper – or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO) – an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it – from these sources can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
  • Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
  • Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.

Inspecting the Damage

  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
  • In general, 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, or State Fire Marshal’s office 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.

Safety During Clean Up

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
  • Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.

Pray, Pray, Pray

For me the first thing to do in any situation is to pray. I found prayer to be very effective. Therefore, pray for safety for you and your loved ones. Pray for your home to be spared and pray for your community to be protected.

I say don’t wait until a disaster strikes to pray. Pray now for your family, friends, and community. If you don’t know what to pray, Psalm 91 says it all to me.


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