It’s essential that you have a disaster plan in place so you know how to respond to an emergency like a tornado. Planning ahead can save your life, so pay attention to these tornado safety tips:
Have a Disaster Kit
The cornerstone of any disaster plan is to have a disaster kit on hand. You’ll want to gather some items that can help you wait out a tornado or even survive if you’re trapped in a worst case scenario. In a plastic bin with a handle, put nonperishable food, bottles of water, blankets, pillows, several flashlights and/or lanterns, backup batteries and a first aid kit. You may also want to include pocket hand warmers.
Backup or Store Your Valuables
During a tornado, you shouldn’t waste time worrying about materials items. However, you probably have a few things you don’t want to lose. You can increase your chance of successfully saving your irreplaceable items by storing your photos (or a flash drive with backups of your photos), irreplaceable documents and valuables in a sturdy safe.
What to Do During a Tornado
When a tornado watch is effective in your area, you should spring into action and follow your disaster plan. First, know ahead of time if your apartment complex has a shared basement or someplace where residents can head during a tornado. If you have time and your complex offers such a place, grab your disaster kit and any pets (in cages, carriers or on a leash) and head for the shelter.
If you don’t have time, or your apartment doesn’t offer a shelter, grab your disaster kit and pets and head for a place in your apartment that’s away from windows and as close to the interior as possible, such as a closet or a bathroom. If you don’t live on the first floor, you may want to ask your downstairs neighbor if he or she’s willing to house you during a tornado, as it’s safer for you to be close to the ground.
Once in your shelter, follow your disaster plan and surround yourself and your pets with blankets and pillows. Curl into a ball with your head facing downward and use your hands to cover the back of your head. (Also have a pillow on top of your head.)
After It’s Over
Once your city has sounded the all clear, you’re safe to leave your shelter. However, if your apartment has been hit, leave the apartment complex as soon as you hear the all clear siren—or before, if you see fire. There may be loose electrical wires or plumbing, which can pose a fire hazard. Do not return to the apartment until the city’s authorities have deemed it safe—this may take a day or two, depending on the damage. In the meantime, head to a family member’s or friend’s house, or to a hotel.
If you think damage has occurred to your apartment that’s not overtly obvious, evacuate anyway to be on the safe side. Contact the authorities and your landlord to assess the safety of the apartment.
Remember that human lives and then pet lives are the most important things during a tornado, so plan accordingly. If you have a disaster plan in place, you may be able to save some of your irreplaceable items, but be sure to abandon them if necessary to keep yourself safe.