Tornado season is upon us with all the anxiety and fear it brings. This year, with the horrible devastation that has hit our friends and neighbors in North Texas and in Oklahoma, it is easy to give in to those fears. How can we protect our children? How can we save our homes? What can we do when sudden devastation drops from the sky to take away everything we hold dear?
We cannot give into fear. We need to be prepared. Know the signs. Have a plan.
Before the storms even start it is important that you have a plan for your family’s safety.
You need to pick a safe room in your home where your family can gather. The safest place is a basement or storm cellar but these are pretty rare in North Texas so you need to pick an interior space in your house on the bottom floor like a closet, bathroom or hallway where there are no windows. You want to put as many walls between you and the storm. The biggest source of injury in a tornado occur from being struck with flying debris so if you can pull a mattress into your shelter space or cover with heavy blankets or sleeping bags you will increase your protection. Contrary to popular belief you do not have to pick an area in the southwest corner of your house. Just pick the safest area in your house. Also you do not have to open or crack windows to equalize the pressure in your house. You are just increasing your risk of getting hit by flying debris.
If you live in a mobile home get out! People are 15 times more likely to die in a mobile home than any other location. Try to take shelter in a permanent structure if you can. As a last resort if you cannot find a permanent structure for shelter then go to a low lying area like a ditch and cover your head.
If you are at work, take shelter in an interior room, stairwell, or bathroom on the first floor and away from windows. Your office should have an inclement weather plan and remind employees of it twice a year.
If your child is at school they will be instructed to follow the school’s tornado plan. Schools will go on lockdown mode and move the children to the safest area possible. Follow your school’s tornado and inclement weather plan. It is the best way to ensure your child’s safety as well as your own. As we watch the events unfold in Moore, Oklahoma it is terrifying to imagine what would happen if a tornado hits your child’s school. Your child has gone through numerous safety drills at school and knows to follow the schools plan. Reassure them that this is the safest thing to do. If they ask about the elementary schools in Moore, point out to them that all of the children at Briarwood Elementary were safe. Remind your children to follow what their teachers have taught them. The best way to reassure your child is to help them understand the importance of following the direction of the adults who are caring for them.
If you are outside, try to find shelter in a permanent location. If you cannot find structural shelter get in a low lying area and cover your head with your hands and arms. Try to pick a spot away from trees and other potential projectiles.
If you are in your car and cannot get to a structural shelter, the American Red Cross recommends staying in your car. They recommend pulling off the road. Leave your seat belt on and crouch down away from the windows. Try to cover your face and head with a coat or blanket is possible. They do not recommend trying to take shelter under an overpass or bridge. Do not try to flee a tornado that is moving toward you. They also note if your car is near a low-lying ditch or culvert it may be safer to leave your vehicle and get to the lowest point possible. Always remember to cover your head with your hands and arms.
It is important to know the difference between a TORNADO WATCH and a TORNADO WARNING.
This means that the conditions are present that make a tornado possible over the next several hours. This does not mean a tornado is about to occur. It is a caution to be vigilant as you go through your day.
This means an actual tornado has been spotted or that meteorologists have picked up rotation on their Doppler radar. Your city’s safety alert siren will sound if a tornado warning is occurring. This is a sign to go to your safe area.
I highly recommend you get the American Red Cross app for your phone. This is a free app that will alert you if a TORNADO WARNING is occurring in your area. It also has excellent tips about tornado preparedness and the ability to set up a blast message you can send to friends and family to let them know that you are safe. It will send the message via email, Message, Twitter, and Facebook.
It is a good idea to create an emergency- preparedness kit. The American Red Cross recommends you include the following basics:
- Water – at least a 3-day supply. One gallon per person per day.
- Food – at least a 3 day supply of nonperishable easy to prepare food
- Flashlight with Batteries
- Battery powered or hand crank radio
- First aid kit
- 7 day supply of all necessary medications
- Copies of personal documents
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra set of clothing and study shoes
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
You have a Plan.You know the signs. Be safe. Have Faith.
If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief which helps provide food, shelter and support to those affected by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas you can visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
Mobile phone users can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Sandra C. Peak MD
Sandra Peak, M.D., joined Cook Childrens Physician Network in Lewisville in 2004. Dr. Peak enjoys gardening, yoga, and boating and in her spare time can be found at the lake with her husband Jay, stepson Sage and the world’s most amazing Lab, Sugar Mae.