Tornado Preparedness: The Six Keys to Safety

Spring is right around the corner, and one of the things that means is “tornado season!”

We’re going to cover the six main areas of tornado preparedness that will help you before, during, and after a tornado or heavy storm strikes.  Appropriately, we’ll use the acronym S.T.O.R.M.S.:

Shelter – Strengthen your home and know where to find expedient shelter.

Time – Increase your chances of getting the early warning.

Others – Safety and protection involves the whole family and communicating with others.

Resources – You’ll need everything from immediate supply to good insurance.

Medical – Help yourself now to save the injured later.

Sweeping Up – Tips and tricks for dealing with the aftermath.



Severe storms with driving rain, possible hail, and projectiles hurled by strong winds offer extreme dangers from which we need to protect ourselves.  The best protection would be a steel-reinforced concrete safe room located in your basement.  Lacking that, let’s look at a few options:

  1. Reinforce your house.  Ask your local home-supply store about angle brackets, strapping, and techniques to install them to make your roof, walls, doors, and connection to the foundation stronger.  Do an internet search for “hurricane retrofit” (including quotes) to find additional instruction.  One such source is
  2. Create a safe room or area within your home.  The general rule is to pick an area near the center of your house and below ground if possible.  Consider these points:
  • Turn your walk-in closet into a safe area.  Remove the sheetrock from walls and ceiling, add extra wall studs held in place with screws, strapping, and angle brackets, and then replace the sheetrock with one or two layers of ¾” marine plywood held in place with structural adhesive and screws.
  • For some online sources of “safe-room construction” do an internet search or see:
  • If you live in a mobile home, your best bet for safety would be a storm cellar.  One simple and relatively inexpensive source is to have a septic tank company install a clean new unit in your yard.
  1. Learn the “safe points.”  When a tornado strikes you might be at home, but it’s more likely you’ll be at work, out running errands, or on a trip.  Learn to recognize the locations that will provide protection.    Does the building have a basement?  Are you on the road?  How far are you from a known safe building, or from a deep ditch?


In emergencies, our most important asset is time.  The two best ways to gain extra time in weather emergencies are to prepare now, and to get as early a warning as possible that severe weather is heading your way.

  1. Buy an NOAA Weather Alert Radio.
  2. Sign up for an alternate alert service such as the Weather Channel’s at, or the Emergency Email & Wireless Network at
  3. Network with others and make a “phone tree.”  Sometimes friends and coworkers are our best early warning system.


“Others” is a reminder to communicate.  Talk to your family now and be ready to talk to emergency responders after an incident.  Consider:

  1. Tornado drills.  Emergency reactions are worth practicing.  Have your family practice getting into the safe room and into a safe position (“duck and cover”) within 30 seconds or less.
  2. Protect your pets.  On warning of severe weather, round up your pets, put them on leads or in carriers, and take them to your safe area.
  3. Communication may be vitally important if your home is damaged or someone sustains injury during a tornado.  For example, though everyone might be uninjured, you may be trapped in your damaged home and need someone to dig you out.  In addition to your house phone and cell phone, have backup options like a hand-held two-way radio, and something that can make a loud noise such as an air-horn or whistle.


In a disaster, you’ll need goods, gear, or services to help you deal with the event and then recover afterward.  Make sure you have adequately covered each of the following areas:

  1. Make sure your insurance policy covers all types of natural disaster including water damage from rain or flood since many policies have strict exclusions.  Also, make sure your policy will provide for the costs of temporary lodging and the full replacement value for your property and possessions.
  2. Document all your possessions by taking photos and videos, list everything you own, and keep important receipts in your safe deposit box.
  3. Make a list of services you might need after a tornado, such as cleanup and repair services or temporary lodging.  Keep their contact info in your emergency kit.


Hopefully the advice above has kept you safe in the event of a tornado.  Cover the following, just in case:

  1. First aid training is important for every family regardless of the threat, so learn the basics of general first aid and CPR.
  2. First aid kits are a must and families should have several and not just one.  The main kit should be kept in the home, but smaller kits should be kept in each automobile and at your workplace.
  3. Copies of medical information should be kept at home.  Keep a list of ailments, conditions, special medical needs, and current medications of each family member (including pets).

Sweeping Up

All destructive events have at least one thing in common; they’re going to create quite a mess.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Though you think the power is completely out, stay away from downed power lines.
  2. Stay alert to the hissing sound of a broken gas line or the smell of gas.
  3. Dress for the weather, but still dress to protect.  Wear sturdy shoes or boots, a hat and sunscreen, insect repellant, and heavy work gloves.
  4. Physical labor after a stressful event can be quite taxing.  Drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly, and take periodic breaks.
  5. Here is where you’d need your list of professional cleanup services.  Call as soon as possible.
  6. It’s possible your possessions might be strewn about the neighborhood.  It’ll be easier to have things returned if your name is written or engraved on them.  Hint:  Never use your Social Security Number or other sensitive info.


About the author:  Paul Purcell is a security analyst and preparedness consultant with over 20 years risk management experience.  He is also the author of "Disaster Prep 101," and a partner / adviser to 1-800-Prepare.

(Copyright, Paul Purcell.  Permission granted to share this article provided all portions remain intact.)