When a tornado touches down and the damage begins, there is one primary danger you have to avoid: flying debris. The overwhelming majority of tornado injuries and deaths happen when debris crashes into victims. In the worst cases, jagged pieces of debris can even impale victims due to the overwhelming speeds at which they travel.
This stands to reason, given that a powerful tornado will tear homes, buildings and trees apart. In the process, bricks, wood, metal and tree bark turn into projectiles with lethal capabilities. The following tips will increase your survival odds no matter where you find yourself when a tornado strikes. If you are in your home, you have a serious safety advantage if you prepared properly.
If you have a basement, that is going to be your room that you take cover in for shelter. Damage to a basement is highly uncommon compared to the upper levels in a building. However, if you don’t have a basement, more often than not you will want to find a bathroom located in the interior of your home.
If your bathrooms are near windows, then find an interior hallway or closet that has no windows on the lowest floor in the home.
The reason for this strategy is that you want to put as many walls between you and the storm as possible. By combining these walls with extra padding in your shelter room of choice, you will give yourself the best possible home safety defense.
One key thing to note if you live in a multi-leveled home is to remember what is located on the floor above you.
If there is a heavy object like a refrigerator or bed in the room directly above your shelter location, you stand the risk of having it crash down on you if the home’s structure fails. While you are taking cover in the home, be sure to make use of the extra padding you purchased when preparing for a tornado. If you do not own any, be sure to cover yourself with something soft, thick and covering, if possible.
Mattresses, blankets or large coats can be a helpful way to shield yourself further. If those are unavailable, crawl under a table or desk to protect yourself from any flying debris. This tactic is similar to the one that most schoolchildren are familiar with from school tornado drills.
If you own a helmet, whether that is a football helmet or bicycle helmet, consider wearing that to shield your head. If you have no extra padding, then curl into a ball while you cover your head with your arms. This way, if flying debris strikes you, it is far better to have it hit your arms than endure a lethal strike to your head. While the former advice is essential, there are many myths that are perpetuated regarding tornado safety that ought to be debunked. One of those myths is that the southwest corner of a basement is the safest place to be.
Ignore this, as the winds of a tornado can and likely will hit your house in all directions. Since tornados generally come from the southwest, the thought was that debris would blow to the northeast, but this is not true. As such, simply find the safest part of your shelter room for your needs.
The second common myth involves opening windows. Some believe that opening windows will equalize the pressure with the low-pressure eye of the storm, preventing the house from exploding. Not only is this patently untrue, it is also exceedingly dangerous to move around during a tornado trying to open a window.
This is an easy way to get killed unnecessarily, so stay put and ride out the tornado in relative safety. If you are working at your office when the twister hits, find shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor of the office. Preferably, you can find a bathroom. At the very least, find an interior room that is far from the windows, and once there, crouch while you cover your head with hands and arms as usual. For office buildings, a first level stairwell very well might be your best bet for shelter, and never take your office elevators during a storm. The electricity is likely to go out, meaning you could get trapped in the elevator.
If you are in a mobile home, evacuate it immediately. People are more than 15 times more likely to die from a tornado if they are in a mobile home when compared with any other location. While you might think a tie-down system makes your mobile home stronger, this is still not strong enough to contend with the mighty force of a tornado. As such, evacuate and take shelter in a permanent building if one is nearby. Otherwise, lie face down in a ditch and be sure to cover your head with your arms and heads, just like homeowners that do not have any additional protection.
Speaking of buildings that are not your home, you might find yourself in a very large and very long building when a tornado hits. Gyms, theaters, department stores and malls are prominent examples of these building types. These can be terrible places to be during a tornado, given that the roof of many of these structures is not supported well.
As such, these are building that are prone to complete collapse during a strong tornado. Due to this, these buildings will often have dedicated storm shelters to keep employees and customers safe. If they do not have one, make the best of a dicey situation by going to the lowest level.
Once there, look for a bathroom towards the center of the store. If one is unavailable, try to find any room towards the center of the structure that will provide shelter. If you cannot find even that, then try to crouch underneath something sturdy, covering your face with your arms and hands in order to prevent injury from falling debris. Finally, if you are outside and shelter is unavailable, lie flat in a low area of ground.
Preferably, you will find a ditch where you can crouch and cover your head in the usual method. If possible, ensure that your spot is not located near trees that can quickly turn into deadly projectile missiles. If you are outside driving in your car, know that a vehicle is second only to mobile homes in danger. Either drive to a building with shelter quickly, or evacuate the building and locate a ditch where you can take cover. Lastly, never stop under a bridge!
These can turn into a wind tunnel that is a perfect target for flying debris. Worse, the tornado winds could lead the structure to collapsing entirely. As you can see, your choices will be dictated to some degree by your circumstances. As a result, your choices should take those circumstances into account at all times.
This guide should have you prepared for what needs to be done to keep you safe in just about any conceivable tornado circumstance you might find yourself in, so keep these tips in mind and stay safe! If your home has been hit by a tornado, you are going to want to find new shelters and tornado relief.