A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a thunderstorm (or sometimes as a result of a hurricane) and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly.
The best protection during a tornado is in an interior room on the lowest level of a building, preferably a basement or storm cellar.
Tornadoes strike with incredible velocity. Wind speeds may approach 300 miles per hour. These winds can uproot trees and structures and turn harmless objects into deadly missiles, all in a matter of seconds. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes.
Injuries or deaths related to tornadoes most often occur when buildings collapse, people are hit by flying objects or are caught trying to escape the tornado in a car.
Tornadoes are most destructive when they touch ground. Normally a tornado will stay on the ground for no more than 20 minutes; however, one tornado can touch ground several times in different areas.
Tornadoes can occur in any state but are more frequent in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are at greatest risk.
A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments.
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety. Turn on a battery-operated radio and wait for further instructions.
Look out for:
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.
Conduct tornado drills each tornado season.
Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat.
Discuss with family members the difference between a "tornado watch" and a "tornado warning."
Have disaster supplies on hand.
Develop an emergency communication plan.
In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
If at home:
If at work or school:
If in a car, NEVER:
Help injured or trapped persons.
Give first aid when appropriate. Don't try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance - infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Check for gas leaks - If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage - If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
Check for sewage and water lines damage - If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
Once a tornado, hurricane or major storm hits, it's too late to protect your home and property. But there are things you can do now to limit future wind damage. Some are fairly simple and inexpensive; others will require a contractor. You'll need to consider the characteristics of your home, your financial resources and the building codes in your community.
This homeowner's checklist will help you learn what you can do. For more information about the costs and benefits of each approach, talk to a professional builder, architect or contractor. You should also ask the Building Services Department about building permit requirements.
If you're building or remodeling a home, there are many other ways to protect your property that are not addressed in this checklist. To learn more, talk to a professional home builder, architect, contractor or building supply retailer.
Even if you have taken steps to protect your home from flooding, you still need flood insurance if you live in a floodplain.
Homeowners' policies do not cover flood damage, so you will probably need to purchase a separate policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
It takes 30 days for a flood policy to take effect. This is why you need to purchase flood insurance before flooding occurs.
If your insurance agent is unable to write a flood policy, call (800)638-6620 for information.
During a windstorm, wind forces are carried from the roof down to the exterior walls, down to the foundation. Homes can be damaged when wind forces are not properly transferred to the ground.
Roof sheathing (the boards or plywood nailed to the roof rafters or trusses) can fail during a hurricane if not properly installed. Examine the sheathing from the attic. If many of the nails have missed the rafters, you may need to renail the sheathing. If you're putting on a new roof, make sure the sheathing complies with current recommended practices.
In a hurricane or other wind storm, the side walls of the roof (end gables) take a real beating and can collapse. Gable bracing often consists of 2"x4"s placed in an "X" pattern at both ends of the attic: from the top center of the end gable to the bottom of the brace of the fourth truss, and from the bottom center of the end gable to the peak of the roof.
Hurricane straps (made out of galvanized metal) help keep the roof fastened to the walls in high winds. They can be difficult to install, so you may need a contractor for this project. Ask the Building Services Department whether hurricane straps are required or advisable in your area.
The exterior walls, doors and windows are the protective shell of your home. If the shell is broken during a storm, high winds can enter the home and put pressure on the roof and walls, causing serious damage.
For each double door, at least one of the doors should be secured at both the top of the door frame and the floor with sturdy sliding bolts. Most bolts that come with double doors, however, are not strong enough to withstand high winds. Your local hardware can help you select the proper bolts. Some door manufacturers provide reinforcing bolt kits made specifically for their doors.
If the garage door fails, winds can enter your home and blow out doors, windows, walls and the roof. Ask the Building Services Department for guidance on what to do.
Installing storm shutters is one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Purchase or make shutters for all exposed windows, glass surfaces, French doors, sliding glass doors and skylights.
There are many types of manufactured storm shutters available made out of wood, aluminum or steel. You can also make storm shutters with 5/8-inch thick exterior-grade plywood.
Information compiled from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Information compiled from the Federal Emegency Management Agency.
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