Preparing for Tornadoes

Living in Central Indiana my whole life, there are never really too many natural disasters that have happened to me personally. Last year we saw a flood of the neighborhood near mine that destroyed many people’s homes. The year I was born, a major blizzard was on the books. This Winter we had an ice storm that many never expected and frightened many into the grocery stores to stock up. But what we see most often here are the dreaded tornadoes. I have been fortunate to have never been in one or near one but I do know several people who have been affected by them, homes destroyed, and neighborhoods demolished. So, nevertheless, my family and I are prepared for a tornado. (Hopefully, we will never have to use this plan.)

As with setting up all emergency kits, you first need to think about what the potential emergency will entail. Just like an emergency kit in your car, you have to know what you might encounter on the road and add supplies to handle those conditions.

1. Sit down with adult family members and discuss natural disasters

First, my husband and I sat down and talked about the likelihood of each natural disaster happening in our area. We have had small earthquakes, floods, ice storms, blizzards, and tornadoes in our area. While they are all different and some very rare for us, our plan revolved around tornadoes but yet covered all areas.

We talked about important documents that we would need should everything be destroyed. Also, what food would we eat if there was no power in the house? How would we see at night and stay warm?

2. Important papers

We decided that we would need all our insurance papers up to date and safely on file away from danger. Also, any birth certificates, SS cards, and other policies that we would need. Another document that many people do not think about is a list of local shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, and relief services that you may need to utilize in an emergency. If a tornado picks up our home and puts it in the field down the street, we will need a place to stay.

First, we checked our home owner’s insurance to make sure all our household goods were accounted for in the policy. Then we made copies of that and all the other important papers and put them in a waterproof, fireproof box. This box does not protect it from the power of a tornado however, so we decided to put it in the crawl space of our home. If we ever do get flooded, the box will protect its contents and being below the ground will protect it from a tornado. The most important part of this was to keep it low so that a tornado can’t get to it and carry it away.

3. Supplies

Then we discussed what supplies we would need for any emergency. The simple fact is that a tornado can rip down the street behind us and destroy all the homes around us and not ours. We would then probably be without power like we would be in an ice storm or a blizzard. So we wanted to prepare for not having any electricity. A battery operated weather radio would be excellent to have in an emergency.

If a tornado hits, all of the food saved in your home will probably be all over the city. So, no matter how much we stock up in our pantry, it will do no good if it is taken away. We decided to get a large plastic tote and fill it with canned goods, a can opener, plastic spoons, bottled water, candles, and matches. We put this with our important documents in the cellar. (If you do this, you will need to take it out on a regular basis and use up the goods in there so they are not spoiled.) We only do this at the start of tornado season because in the winter if we lose power, we will be stuck inside where all our canned goods are. We still like to keep the box together at all times so we know exactly where to find candles and matches if necessary.

We would also need blankets to keep warm at night. I would never recommend a fire of any kind in the house for warmth at night. You may fall asleep and any tragedy could happen with that flame. In our hallway closet, we have a whole shelf full of extra blankets. I buy them any chance I get when the fleece blankets are on sale for a couple of bucks. We also filled a large Space Bag with blankets and put it in the cellar tote with our other emergency supplies. This is a great way to get a large amount of blankets in a small space by vacuuming the air out of the bags.

A final thing I like to keep in our emergency stash is a couple of favorite books for each child. They are already going to be scared so instead of having them think about it a lot, I am hoping the books will take their mind off things while we are waiting in the crawl space for things to pass over.

4. Lists

For every emergency especially when a family with young children is involved, it is important to have lists. You need your list of phone numbers, where supplies are located, and a list of what to do directions.

At this point, most of our lists are already complete. We need a document stating what to do in case of a tornado. Typically, you want to be in the lowest level of your house in a room with no windows. Our house has a window in every room except for a small hallway closet. So we decided on staying in the hallway in case of a tornado. Ideally, if we have enough notice, we would want to go into the crawl space where our supplies are located. But, we have to go outside to do this so we only allotted for this if time allows.

Once we had all lists complete and emergency procedures written down, it was time to gather the rest of the family to discuss.

5. Family Meeting

My children are 10 and 5 and at the time we started this, they were several years younger. So, we decided to make this an annual celebration to refresh all of our memories on what do to and where to go.

Because of their ages, I like to get books from the library on tornadoes and at our gathering, we always go through those books first to show them the damage that can be done from a tornado. I do this every year and they never tire of looking at the pictures.

Then we discuss going into the hallway or crawl space and the proper position we should be in when a tornado has been spotted. It is important for me to always stress position of being down and holding our heads because they do not like doing that and always want to look around and play. So we always practice that position each year.

The other thing we do that the kids never like to do is to practice going into the crawl space. The kids do not like the dark, musty place under the house where spiders lurk and that is why it is important to practice so they are not timid in a real emergency. Once down there for practice, we get into the kit and light a candle and sit for a few seconds looking around at everything so they are not scared. I do not particularly care for it under there either but I know we all need to be calm because we could be there for awhile.

After we get out of the crawl space, we sit down again in the house and I ask them if they have any questions. The most important thing we get out of preparing each year and updating our kit each year is to know when to except a tornado, what the signs for possible tornadoes are, and of course, how to keep the whole family safe and healthy in this situation.