Congratulations! If you survived the tornado without directly encountering one, you are already a winner. Most tornado watches are a bit boring, since the likelihood of being hit by a tornado is low compared to the area of the alert, but remember that you’re sheltering to keep yourself safe from an unpredictable and dangerous agent of chaos. Don’t get cocky!
If you were unlucky enough to directly encounter a tornado, but lucky enough to survive, you are a winner… but it may not feel like it.
In either case, stay sheltered until your tornado watch or warning is lifted. Do not go exploring if you think you heard a tornado come and go; there may be another tornado coming. When it’s safe, approach the exit with caution. Confirm your family members are okay. Go to your meeting place if you are unable to contact your family members.
Even if your house is unaffected, the hyperlocal nature of tornadoes means that your neighbors or nearby communities may not have been as lucky. Approach the world with caution after a tornado watch or warning.
- DO: Watch out for fallen power lines.
- DO: Stay tuned to the radio or NOAA for information.
- DO: In case of a power outage, use flashlights before using candles or matches.
- DO: Protect your mouth, nose, and eyes from the dust that may be left behind.
- DO: Wear long pants, long-sleeved clothes, gloves, and sturdy shoes while checking for household damage.
Clean up any spilled chemicalslike bleach, medicine, oils, etc. which can cause a fire hazard or slip-and-fall accidents.
- DO: Move away from the area, if you smell gasses/fumes or hear a hissing sound. Contact the fire department if you suspect a gas leak.
- DO NOT: Venture into any damaged area.
- DO NOT: Try to move severely injured people without proper guidance (unless there is a danger of further injury if they remain where they are).
If the tornado is gone and you’re alive, but buried, first try not to panic. If you can’t tell which direction is up, your spit will fall toward the ground. Crawl away from the ground if you can.
If you can’t free yourself, attract attention by banging on a wall or pipe, whistling, or shouting for help. Put your emergency kit’s whistle around your neck at the start of the tornado watch for best results.
How can you make your family feel safer?
- Check in on your loved ones to see how they are dealing with the situation.
- Inform others about your well-being or reach out for help, if needed.
- Keep your pets close and under your direct control. Their behavior may change if anything about their home or neighborhood is different.
- Help those who need additional assistance. This includes children, the elderly, and those with physical disabilities. Volunteering can help you and your family process the stress of the disaster, and make you feel better, while doing some good for others.
How can you return to your home safely?
- If you had to evacuate your home, return only when the authorities deem it safe.
- Do not enter damaged buildings.
- Stay cautious about broken glass and exposed nails.
- Inspect home structures and utility systems for any damages.
- Take pictures of all of the home damage for insurance purposes.
How can you repair your home?
- Contractors may be very busy during the days following a tornado; you may want to buy tarps or other protective barriers immediately after the storm to help enclose your house as soon as possible, if it has taken damage. If you’re unsure what to do and aren’t able to receive quick assistance from your insurance provider, call FEMA for advice.
- If you have to make big repairs due to tornado damage, consider building a safe room in your house while you’re at it.
- You may want to strengthen existing doors and windows to improve wind resistance for the next tornado.
In case of the worst…
You may have to abandon your home after the storm. Tornados can be brutal, completely destroying some homes, or making them absolutely uninhabitable.
Your insurance policy may provide assistance for emergency housing, but help can also come from the local government and FEMA.
- You might have the option of staying at a local community shelter, or with a family that has volunteered to help survivors of the tornado.
- Call your insurance agent immediately after the tornado to begin your claim as quickly as possible.
- Document everything with photos with timestamps, and have a damage assessment made as soon as you can.
- Work with your insurance company and FEMA in tandem. FEMA is able to provide some assistance for people who experience disasters. This may be important if your insurance is unable to cover the full cost of your repairs or replacements.
And of course, once it’s all said and done, you should refill your emergency kit in case there’s another tornado during the same season. Tornado season can be unrelenting, so be sure you’re ready for anything. Hug your family tight, stay prepared, and try to build up your luck, if you can. There are no guarantees with tornadoes.