Tag Archives: Tornado

Disaster Planning for Emergencies: Tornadoes (First of a Series)

People are the most important part of any business. When preparing or reviewing your business plan regularly, make sure you have emergency plans also in place for you, your people and your business.

In the first part of our series, we will give you information on protecting yourself and others for different situations. Our first blog is a timely one for the Midwestern United States, tornadoes.

Severe Weather Awareness: Preparing for Tornadoes

Douglas and Sarpy County tornado sirens sounded on March 25 for a mock tornado drill, as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week (March 23-27). Awareness of severe weather, particularly tornadoes, is important, due to the potential loss of life and property. On June 16, 2014, twin tornadoes devastated the northeast Nebraska town of Pilger, killing one, injuring 15 and causing $2.6 million in damage, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star (http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/june-storms-caused-m-in-public-property-damage/article_e22085b1-3f7f-59e3-9fbb-c15467624dfe.html).

How Do Tornadoes Form?

Tornadoes often form in large, severe thunderstorms called supercells.When cold polar air means warm, moist tropical air, the hotter air rises, and as the hotter air rises, it begins to rotate. If the air rotates for long enough, tornadoes can form. However, tornadic winds do not need a thunderstorm to form and can spawn unexpectedly. The most common form of whirlwind not formed in a thunderstorm is the dust devil, which forms during sunny, fair weather conditions. Most dust devils are harmless, but the largest can cause damage and cost lives.

How Can I Prepare Beforehand?

Monitor weather conditions closely. As conditions worsen, listen to either your local news or to a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service) weather radio for more information. You can also receive weather information from commercial radio and television broadcasts from stations that are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Assemble an emergency kit. This kit should be kept in your designated safe room or shelter or kept near it so precious time is not lost. FEMA (http://www.ready.gov/kit), the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit) and others recommend different supplies to be put in your emergency kit, including:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (for both drinking and washing)
  • Food (non-perishable) for three days
  • Can opener for food
  • Mess kits (plates, cups and eating utensils)
  • Radio with extra batteries (or a hand-crank radio)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • First aid kit, including antiseptics, medicine and bandages
  • Prescription medicines
  • Whistle (to use if you are unable to call loud enough for help)
  • Matches, in a waterproof container
  • Blankets
  • Change of clothes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Bags, or other items, for makeshift toilets
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter or solar charger
  • Phone apps useful for emergencies, including weather alerts and social media to call for help
  • Phone numbers of friends and family on paper, in case your cell phone has no power
  • Phone numbers of the utilities and emergency assistance
  • A dust mask of at least rating N95 for each person, in case the air is too hard to breathe from dust or fire. You can find these at hardware or home improvement stores, as well as through online vendors.
  • Plastic sheeting to keep dry and make shelter
  • Duct tape to help make shelter with the plastic sheeting, if needed
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities or bang pipes for help
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Trash bags
  • Wipes
  • Extra cash

If you have children, include:

  • Infant formula and water for mix, if needed
  • Diapers, ointment and baby cleaning supplies
  • Water and food for children for at least three days
  • Books, games, amusements and toys that do not require electricity

If you have pets, include:

  • Pet food and water for at least three days
  • Pet carriers
  • Collars and leashes
  • Favorite toy
  • Litter box or newspapers

Putting your emergency supplies in backpacks or duffel bags is a good idea to keep them safe, easy to carry and close at hand. Most of these supplies work for other emergencies as well.

Note: The three-day supply is recommended for short-term survival conditions, if an evacuation is planned within 72 hours. If you anticipate longer emergency conditions, the American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable food and water.

Other ways to plan ahead

Designate a friend or family member who lives in another state or area as a point of contact in an emergency if you should become displaced.

  • Examine your house to decide which room would be the safest in the event of a tornado and make sure all members of your family know to go there in the event of a tornado. (You may wish to have your designated room reinforced; you can find information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at https://www.fema.gov/safe-room-resources.)
  • Conduct tornado drills to ensure everyone knows where to go in case of a tornado
  • Instruct everyone on where to meet if they should somehow get separated as a result of the storm.
  • Take CPR classes so you can assist an injured person if necessary.
  • Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to learn more.

More information is available in a downloadable PDF from the National Weather Service at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/severeweather/resources/ttl6-10.pdf

What is the Difference Between A Tornado Watch And A Tornado Warning?

Severe weather alerts are divided into two types: watches and warnings. A watch is issued when severe weather conditions are predicted to occur. A tornado watch means conditions are such that tornadoes can form, but have not yet been detected. Watches are typically issued for broad areas for long periods of time. During a watch, the sirens do not sound, but your local meteorologists will monitor conditions, and you can plan for what to do if those severe weather conditions do develop. You should already have a plan in place for alerting family and friends to the danger, if necessary, but the watch period gives you a chance to test that plan.

A warning is issued when severe weather is occurring or is imminent. A tornado warning means that tornadoes have been spotted either by direct observation or by radar. Warnings are typically issued for narrower areas where the storm is expected to pass through. Individual warnings are usually issued for shorter periods of time than watches, but additional warnings may be issued if the storm continues unabated into new areas. The original warning may be extended if the storm moves more slowly than expected or canceled early if the storm dissipates or moves through more quickly than expected.

What does the tornado warning siren sound like?

A tornado siren is one long, unwavering blast.

The sirens sound as soon as a warning is issued and continue to be sounded until the warning is lifted. Once the sirens sound, take action immediately to protect yourself.

Note: Not all jurisdictions sound the sirens in a continuous blast from the time the warning is sounded until it is lifted. Some may sound the initial blast for a period of 3 to 10 minutes, or possibly longer, and then repeat the sound for the same interval as necessary during the warning period. Do NOT assume that because the sirens have stopped sounding that the threat of tornadoes is over. Listen to your weather or commercial radio for notice that the warning has been lifted; there is NO all-clear siren sound for a tornado warning.

What Do I Do When the Sirens Sound?

The National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/during.shtml) recommends in a tornado warning, get to shelter immediately. How depends on where you are when the sirens sound:

If you are inside a building,

  • Do not open windows.
  • If you are inside a building with a foundation, go to the lowest level available, preferably a basement shelter if you have one. Choose a location well away from windows.
  • If you are in a mobile home, leave it and go to a building with a foundation and a shelter.

If you are caught outdoors near a building with a foundation, seek shelter within it.

If you are outside, away from a building with a foundation,

  • Seek shelter immediately
  • Find a ditch or other significant low area, lie in that low area, covering your head with your hands.

Tornadoes can strike suddenly and be deadly. While taking the above steps will not guarantee your survival, they will greatly improve your chances of living to tell about it later. As always, use your best judgment.

Resources and References:

Tornado formation

Windows to the Universe: http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Atmosphere/tornado/formation.html

Universe Today: http://www.universetoday.com/71983/how-are-tornadoes-formed/

Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/45546-how-do-tornadoes-form.html

Weather alerts

National Weather Service active weather alert map: http://www.weather.gov/

NASA Earth Observatory: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

Government disaster programs (FEMA)

State Directory of CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) Programs: http://www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState

Disaster Emergency Communications: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-emergency-communications

Equipment and training

The American Red Cross Store: http://www.redcrossstore.org/home

Finding Your Local American Red Cross Chapter: http://www.redcross.org/find-your-local-chapter

Pizza for Pilger

Kudos to local Nebraska restaurants for coming together to help tornado-devastated Pilger. Come out and support the fundraiser: #PizzaforPilger!


Restaurants include: