By December 2, 2013 Read More →

Rethinking Tornado Preparedness

Guest Post by: Ben Vaughn

tornadoWith the recent scourge of late fall tornadoes across the Mid-western United States, its worth thinking about tornado preparedness. For those who live in the Midwest, tornadoes are a well understood risk and most people maintain good preparedness, if not a healthy awareness of the threat. While it is possible to be extremely prepared and still succumb to the devastation of a tornado, storms that strike out of season are of particular concern. Most tornadoes occur during the spring and early summer, typically between the months of March and June. Though it is not extremely uncommon to see tornadoes in the fall, it is notably less likely. The storm systems that shook Indiana, Illinois, parts of Ohio, and Michigan  demonstrate the exception to the norm when it comes to annual tornadoes.


A Tornado for Every Season

According to the National Weather Service, May is the peak month for tornadoes and over 50% of the tornadoes during the month of September were due to tropical storms and hurricanes striking land. These storms created the ideal weather conditions for a string of tornadoes. The more recent outbreaks in October and November, however, were due to low pressure systems and cold fronts pushing through the south and Midwest. Because of the way air converges along the flat topography of this region, tornadoes are unfortunately common every year. This year has been especially severe. Because of this persistent risk, focusing on ongoing tornado preparedness has taken a renewed significance.


Maintaining Preparedness

Tornado preparedness is essentially all about evaluating risk and having a personal safety strategy. Pre-planning in anticipation of a tornado is always the best approach. Although early warning systems are generally reliable and weather forecasts can predict severe storm systems well in advance, there is no substitute for knowing exactly what to do in the event a funnel cloud touches down. The first place to begin is to assess your geographical risks. Even in a large region plagued by tornadoes like the Midwest, there are still degrees of risk for tornadoes. Some areas are more susceptible to annual tornadoes than others, so knowing your risks is the first step of preparedness.


  • The next most important thing you can do is prepare an emergency kit full of essential items to sustain yourself and your family. These preparedness kits typically include things like: first aid kits, medication, flashlights, blankets, food, water, tent, sleeping bag, batteries, local area maps, and cash. These kits should have enough food and water to sustain you for 3-4 days. In the aftermath of a severe tornado, your area will likely be without gas, power, and water. You will want to be as self-sufficient as possible until resources become available.


  • Determining where you will take shelter is an extremely important part of tornado preparedness. Having an emergency plan for getting out of harms way cannot be overlooked. Whether it is a storm cellar, a home safe room, or a local community shelter, know where to go beforehand. You also want to coordinate a communication plan among family to ensure that everyone gets to safety in time. The same applies for businesses as well. Create an emergency plan and ensure that everyone understands how to remain safe.


  • Finally, you want to maintain alerts regarding the weather. Smartphones are great for this since there are dozens of apps related to disaster preparedness and weather alerts. Simply download the app and it is always accessible on your phone. Of course, your phone needs to be on to enable this to work and after a few days with no power, you may no longer have a functioning phone, so keep a radio on hand as well to listen to post tornado alerts and emergency updates. In anticipation of a tornado, however, these apps can be invaluable.




Ben Vaughn writes on natural disaster preparedness, tornado awareness, and finding the best disaster restoration services throughout the Midwest.

Posted in: Tornado

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2 Comments on "Rethinking Tornado Preparedness"

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  1. An important side note: ANY plans for seeking shelter above ground during a tornado is a gamble. Most devastation caused in tornadoes originates from wind-borne objects. Straight line winds in an F5 tornado can exceed 250mph. This means that heavy objects like automobiles, semi-trucks, trees etc… can become fast moving battering rams. On May 20, 2013; Moore Oklahoma was struck by a tornado with winds that registered as an EF5. This tornado was 1.3 miles wide and stayed on the ground for 39 minutes. Among the thousands of homes and business’ destroyed was Briarwood Elementary school. The school was full of students and teachers who assumed they were inside of a safe structure. The school was flattened and the seemingly strong walls of brick and cement folded like paper. Trusting your safety to above ground structures during a tornado is no guarantee. The only true “SAFE” shelter during a tornado is an underground shelter. Don’t gamble with your safety. Make plans now – build your own storm shelter and ensure your family’s future.

  2. DocOps1 says:

    We need to add items to our emergency kits. Tarps along with the proper fasteners to fasten to the roof. A good supply of screws and charged up drills/circular saws to put plywood over windows and doors. A good supply of paper plates, disposable utensils, and cups. Dual fuel camp stove with fuel to use it. Pigtail to allow hook-up of a generator to power panel to facilitate use of HVAC. These are some of what I learned from being on the ground in the recent Illinois tornado.