Storm safety: Don’t wait to prepare for tornadoes and wind storms
One of the deadliest characteristics of a tornado is the fact that they can touch down nearly anytime, anywhere, with little to no warning. In many cases, those in the tornado’s path may only have a handful of minutes to respond before the tornado is upon them. Please review the following tips to prepare for tornadoes and windstorms so that your tribe or tribal enterprise can be ready at a moment’s notice.
Early last December, a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the Midwest and Southeast, causing untold property losses, injuries and deaths. An entire town was almost completely leveled, displacing most of the populace overnight. This is yet another instance of the many severe weather events that are increasing in both frequency and intensity over the past several years, including wildfires, floods, earthquakes and more. This trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
Tornado quick facts
Tornadoes are fast, intense and unpredictable; all traits that when taken together, can form a deadly combination. They can last mere minutes or longer than an hour. They may travel in a straight line, or they can change direction erratically. They can occur in isolation or in concert with multiple tornadoes. And while many take the shape of a trademark funnel cloud, that clearly defined visual characteristic is not always a guarantee. Learn more about tornadoes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), an affiliate of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
How to prepare for tornadoes and windstorms
The sheer speed and unpredictability of a tornado makes thorough preparation a vital task for any organization. Even if tornadoes are not a common occurrence in your area, they can still form and touch down anywhere so long as the correct atmospheric conditions are prevailing. You may have only a matter of minutes, or perhaps even less, to get your staff and clients to a safe location. The moment a tornado warning comes through on the airwaves (if it comes at all) is most assuredly not the time to be deciding where you should go to take shelter, or which items should be included in your emergency kit.
While many of the items in this article may cross over into general disaster preparation, tornadoes are a unique phenomenon that come with their own specific behaviors, risks and recommendations. The following list was derived from the OSHA Tornado Preparedness page, which goes into greater detail on each of these items. Please refer to it for additional information on how to prepare for tornadoes and windstorms.
Identify Early Warning Systems
If your area has an early warning system for severe weather, natural disasters and other emergencies, ensure your executive team and additional designated personnel on your staff are signed up to receive alerts. These warning systems could be set up by your local government, nearby weather or emergency stations or NOAA. When dealing with something that can strike with little-to-no warning, establishing all available avenues to receive an alert can make all the difference.
Identify Shelter Locations
In times of crisis, most people instinctively congregate in large places of communal gathering, such as auditoriums or gymnasiums. While perhaps appropriate for other types of emergencies, large open buildings with flat roofs are not suitable shelters for tornados. An underground basement, storm cellar or other similar facility is the best place to designate.
If there is no time to reach the designated shelter, make sure your employees are educated to seek out an effective improvised shelter, whether they’re in a building with no basement, trapped in a car or worst of all, outside. Knowledge is key, as a person may only have a matter of seconds to decide a course of action that could save their life. More information on how to improvise shelter from a tornado is available in the various resources and links presented in this article.
Determine Accountability Procedures
When a tornado occurs, take steps to ensure everyone on your staff is alerted and accounted for. Have systems in place to prepare for tornadoes and windstorms. Quickly determine who’s present at your locations and how you’ll communicate quickly with your workforce. Ideally, an accurate roster would be available to executive staff once the shelter is reached. Members of your team should be designated in advance to help coordinate sheltering and communication efforts. These roles should have backups if those staff members are not present that day. If your business is required to have an Emergency Action Plan, make sure all your procedures are well documented and meet whatever legal requirements your tribe or tribal enterprise may be subject to.
Acquire and Maintain Emergency Equipment
Emergency supplies should be gathered in advance of a tornado, and stored within your shelter location. If that’s not possible, ensure your emergency procedures provide for collecting your emergency equipment as needed. Equipment should be regularly maintained and replaced as necessary. For more information on creating an emergency kit, please refer to Ready.gov.
Review and Practice Emergency Plan
An emergency plan cannot be effectively implemented if staff are not familiar with it. Regularly remind your employees of the actions they are to take. Conduct drills to ensure your plans are executed calmly and efficiently, should a crisis occur. Regular drills are also an excellent way to ensure new team members are educated on what’s expected of them. Lastly, putting a plan into practice is a great way to identify flaws and weaknesses, or areas which may need to be updated as time goes on.
Steps you take to prepare for tornadoes and windstorms is the best way to mitigate the property damages, injuries and loss of life from occurring at your tribe or tribal enterprise. Don’t be taken off guard in the new year by weather-related natural disasters – prepare today.
OSHA: Evacuation Plans and Procedures
NSSL: Severe Weather 101 – Tornadoes
NOAA: Tornado Safety
Ready.Gov: Build a Kit
American Red Cross: Tornado Safety
American Red Cross: Tornado Safety Checklist