As the United States heads into the peak of tornado season, Keith Tidball, an expert in emergency response, leader of the Nature and Human Security Program at Cornell University, and a veteran of tornado recovery efforts in Joplin, Mo., and elsewhere, urges every family to begin planning now – before a natural disaster strikes.
“Planning ahead is key for tornadoes or any disasters. If you have the luxury of time, you can improve the odds of your home surviving high winds. But, no matter what improvements you make, you won’t make your home tornado-proof. The most effective protection from injury and death is still a tornado shelter.
“Families need to decide now where to take shelter – a local community shelter, your own underground storm cellar or in-residence ‘safe’ room – in the event of a storm. Don’t try to ride out a tornado in a trailer or manufactured home. Even with tie-downs, these overturn in tornadoes because they have light frames and offer winds a large surface area to push against. Their exteriors are also vulnerable to high winds and wind-borne debris. Your best bet is to get to a safe place.
“If you don’t have time to reach a tornado shelter, taking the following measures can help reduce the chances that your family will be harmed if predictions of tornadoes become reality:
• “When you are certain you’re in the path of a tornado, head to the centermost part of your basement or home, away from windows. If you can, get under something sturdy like a workbench or staircase or in a bathtub with a mattress over you.
• “Create an emergency kit that includes first aid supplies, a portable NOAA all-hazard radio, a flashlight, fresh batteries, basic tools, work gloves, portable lanterns, a signaling device such as an air horn, prescription medications, extra car keys, extra eyeglasses, cash and important documents such as insurance policies.
• “You may have heard that you should open windows – don’t. Opening windows will not save the house and may actually make things worse by giving wind and rain a greater chance of getting inside. Get to the safest place possible, away from glass that can break and injure or kill you.”
Media note: Keith Tidball is coordinator for the New York Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). A list of available resources as well as emergency preparedness tips and family communication plan tips can be found at the EDEN website, http://eden.lsu.edu/Topics/Hazards/Tornado/ResourcesCollected/Pages/default.aspx
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