Disaster Preparedness: Tornado Safety

Photo of large, close up tornado

Unaltered photo. Paul McEnany, Flickr. CC License.

After the “Polar Vortex” this winter and recent mass flooding, many Michiganders have a new appreciation for disaster preparedness. Michigan’s most common potential disaster situations include thunderstorms, power outages, tornadoes and extreme winter temperatures. This special series will offer a few suggestions on how to make sure you and your family are ready.

Each year over 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States, causing about 60 deaths per year. It’s estimated that wind from tornadoes can reach up to 200 miles per hour, with most injuries and fatalities occurring from flying debris. A tornado can happen at any time, but most occur in spring and summer, often during the day between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Here is what you need to know to keep you and your family safe from tornadoes.

  • Sign up for weather text alerts to notify you if you are asleep or outdoors away from the TV and radio. I use the free American Red Cross tornado app .
  • “Tornado Watch” means that weather conditions are capable of producing a tornado.
  • “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted; this is time to take cover! The average warning time from until touchdown is 13 minutes, so move fast!
  • If you have a basement, gather the family there. If there’s not a basement, go to a first floor room away from windows, such a closet or bathroom.
  • Mobile homes don’t offer safe protection during a tornado. It’s important to seek alternative shelter early so you avoid driving when a tornado has been sighted.
  • If you’re in a car, seek shelter if possible or drive to avoid the tornado’s path.
  • When outdoors without shelter, lay flat in a ditch, cover your head and hang on to something sturdy if possible.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System

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