Today we’re under a tornado watch. Not a particularly unusual situation during spring and summer months in the Upper Midwest. And being a common situation very likely makes it even more dangerous.
We learn from repetition. So we have a tendency to ignore events that we haven’t experienced before. We ignore events that are likely to at best (or worst) happen only once in our lives before they happen, and then overestimate thier likelihood of happening to us for some time after they occur.
So, if your house has never been hit by a tornado, you are likely not to consider a severe weather alert a significant event. And since most of us fall in that lucky group, we tend, as a society not to take these warnings as seriously as we should.
What to do?
First, take the threat seriously and be prepared.
- Take human and pet first aid classes. Knowledge is power and it doesn’t cost much to get this kind of power. Look into local classes and take advantage of them.
- Have emergency supplies on hand (first aid kit, leashes, extra water, vital medications, flashlights, blankets, basic tools, photos of your animals, vaccination recrods, etc.) Keep these supplies in a protected area that is simple to find when you are in a panic.
- Make plans. If a storm hits, where will you go? If you’re away from home where can you go and how will you contact loved ones if phone lines are down and local roads are closed? If your home is destroyed but you survive, where can you stay with your pets? These are things you need to consider BEFORE A DISASTER STRIKES.
Second, when severe weather is likely stay tuned to NOAA weather channels or local news and heed warnings. When the sirens go off collect your family (including the four-leggers), grab your emergency supplies and go to a safe area. What is a safe area? Well, according to NOAA:
- In a house with a basement:Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.
- In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
- In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
- In a mobile home:Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.
- In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. [It is safer to get the car out of mud later if necessary than to cause a crash.] Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
- In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.
- In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.
- If you are with your pets: Don’t rely on obedience to keep them with you. If the worst happens and the storm hits they will panic and may try to escape. If possible restrain them in sturdy crates. If crates aren’t available use leashes, a belt, a purse strap or any other item handy to prevent them from bolting. It is also a good idea to restrain your pets (by a leash, crate or other means) before severe weather hits
Stay in the sheltered area until you are certain the storm has passed. When you can see that it’s safe to come out:
- Keep your family and pets together while you wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
- Provide aid to those who need it.
- Stay away from gas leaks, power lines and puddles or other water bodies with wires in them. And avoid open flames due to the potential presence of explosive gases.
- Watch out for broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Tie or otherwise restrain your pets in a safe, dry area to keep them from injuring their paws on these sharp objects.
- Stay out of all damaged buildings — including your own home; the danger of collapse is not worth the risk.
- Remain calm and alert, and wait for help, information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.
Additional notes for pet owners:
- Consider teaching your pet how to seek shelter when extreme weather hits.
- Have your pet microchipped and/or tattoo’ed to aid in identification in the event that you become separated.
- Plan in advance for a location where you can shelter with your pet if a disaster keeps you out of your home. Many public shelters will not accept pets.
- If you have a pet with medical problems consider keeping a copy of his medical records, perscriptions etc. in an offsite location. If your home and local vet clinic are both destroyed you want to still be able to get necessary treatment and medications with a minimum amount of fuss.
Even though heart-warming stories of dogs being reunited with their owners days after being searated by a torndo, tidal wave, earthquake or other act of nature warm our hearts, we ask you to remember that these stories are outliers.