tornado2When we think of spring, we usually think of growing things and new beginnings.  However, April showers don’t just bring May flowers.  They can also bring tornadoes our way.  

Do you know what to do if a tornado strikes in your area?

It is important to have an emergency plan of action if a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area.  In this article, we will go through the basic steps of preparing for severe weather.  These tips will help you know what to do and where to go if a tornado heads your way.

Get the Info

First, make sure you sign up for UTC Alerts.  A UTC Alert is only issued if there is an emergency affecting our campus.  Regarding weather, that means you will only receive an alert only when a severe weather warning has been issued for our specific campus area.  Once an alert is issued, another will be sent out to give an all clear when the danger has passed.

Free apps and a weather radio will also warn you of approaching danger.  Weather radios can be purchased and programmed so that you will only get notifications issued by the National Weather Service for specific counties.  Smart phone apps use your GPS location to notify you of watches and warnings in a similar way.  The American Red Cross has free apps for tornadoes and other severe weather.  Go to the American Red Cross web site for more information, or search your app store for these valuable tools.

Make a Plan

Once you have one or more of these early warning systems in place, make a plan.  Learn what you need to pack in your disaster kit, establish a plan for your family, and stay aware of your weather conditions.  Listen to your local news so you will know what is happening in your area.  Don’t head out for a fun day on the river, only to discover you are heading toward disaster!

Watches and Warnings – What’s the Difference?

The National Weather Service monitors the weather 24/7/365.  They will inform you as severe weather approaches your area by issuing either a watch or a warning.  What’s the difference, and what action do you need to take if one is issued?

A watch is issued when the potential exists for the development of severe weather, and will clearly state the type of weather that is of concern.  In the case of a tornado watch, this means that conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado, but no tornado has actually been sited or reported.  No immediate action is needed when a watch is issued.  Just make sure you have your disaster kit handy, remain aware by continuing to monitor your local news and weather radio, and be ready to shelter if the watch is upgraded.

A warning is only issued when immediate action is needed.  Never ignore a warning.  Take immediate action.  Grab your disaster kit and GO!  Seek shelter and continue to monitor your radio and local news.  Do NOT leave your shelter until the all-clear has been sounded, or the warning has expired.

Still confused?  Click here for a video that explains the difference very well.

Know Where To Go

Where will you go for shelter if you are at home?  What if you are in class or at work?  Knowing where to go before a tornado hits will greatly increase your chances of getting to a safe location before the storm hits.  Many public buildings have a designated shelter area.  You should look for evacuation signs in your building and make sure you understand where to go.  If you don’t see any signs, don’t shrug it off.  Ask your work supervisor or instructor for more information.

For residences or buildings with no clearly-marked shelter, use these basic tips to figure out where to safely shelter:

  • Move to the lowest level of the building.  Levels that are underground, like a basement, are best.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room on the lowest floor and stay away from windows.
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture and cover yourself with a coat or blanket to help protect yourself from flying debris.
  • Do not worry about gathering up your belongings.  If you have your kit nearby, grab it and go.  Don’t try to gather items when a warning is issued.  It’s too late.  Get to shelter immediately!
  • If you are in a mobile home, DO NOT STAY INSIDE.  Immediately move to a nearby and substantial building.
  • If you are outside and don’t have a safe building nearby, AS A LAST RESORT,
    • Get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to a sturdy shelter.
    • If your vehicle is hit by flying debris, pull over and park.
    • Stay in the car with the seat belt on.  Put your head down below window level and cover your head.
    • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the road, leave your car and lie in that area.
    • This is a last resort.  Neither a car or a low-lying area are safe options.  The BEST option is to get into a sturdy shelter.

Tornado and severe weather watches and warnings are your first indicator for potential danger.  Don’t ignore these early warning notifications, and you will be able to enjoy those May flowers after the storm has passed!

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