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Tornado safety

How to keep your family protected

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Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, but spring and early summer is peak season for much of the United States. How can you keep your family safe during a potentially catastrophic weather event such as a tornado? Family Safety & Health asked Cheryl Nelson, meteorologist and weather and preparedness adviser for Cummins Inc., some key questions to help you be better prepared.

Family Safety & Health: What are some important elements of a tornado emergency plan?

Cheryl Nelson: The most important thing people should do is determine their tornado “safe room” in advance. The safest place you can be during a tornado warning is a tornado shelter or a basement. If those are not available, go to the lowest level of your building and take shelter in an interior room without windows.

Essentially, put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. If you live in a mobile home, locate a sturdy building ahead of time. If you work or live in a high-rise building, get to the lowest level possible and seek shelter in an interior room or hallway.

Other safety measures you should consider:

  • Have a plan for all members of your family (seniors, children, special needs family members and pets).
  • Store a portable disaster kit with essentials such as water and non-perishable food in your safe room.
  • Have an established family meeting place in the event you all are separated.
  • Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means the potential exists for a tornado and you should be prepared to take shelter, while a warning means a tornado is occurring or is expected to develop, so you should take shelter immediately.
  • Know where the safe room(s) and/or hallway(s) are at work and school.
  • Keep leashes and carriers nearby so you can take your pets to your safe room, too.

FS&H: How often should families have tornado drills?

Nelson: Some states, like Virginia, hold statewide tornado drills once per year to prepare residents for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems. Believe it or not, tornadoes occur in all 50 states. Like fire drills, I would recommend having tornado drills at least one or two times per year.

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