Be alert to changing weather conditions. When there are thunderstorms in your area, turn on your radio or TV to get the latest emergency information from local authorities. Listen for announcements of a tornado watch or tornado warning.
Learn about any tornado warning system in your county or locality. Many tornado-prone areas have a siren system. Know how to distinguish between the siren's warnings for a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, for example, during a severe thunderstorm.
During a tornado watch:
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar.
You should take shelter immediately.
Because tornadoes often accompany thunderstorms, pay close attention to changing weather conditions when there is a severe thunderstorm watch or warning.
A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area.
Keep fresh batteries and a battery-powered radio or TV on hand. Electrical power is often interrupted during thunderstorms--just when information about weather warnings is most needed.
Important measures to take
Extra measures for people with special needs
Practicing your emergency plan
Conduct drills and ask questions to make sure your family remembers information on tornado safety, particularly how to recognize hazardous weather conditions and how to take shelter.
Writing down important information
Make a list of important information. Include these on your list:
Storing important documents
Store the following documents in a fire- and water-proof safe:
First Aid kit
Store your first aid supplies in a tool box or fishing tackle box so they will be easy to carry and be protected from water. Inspect your kit regularly and keep it freshly stocked.
Drugs and medications
Other First Aid supplies
Reducing household hazards
The following suggestions could reduce the risk for injury during or after a tornado. No amount of preparation will eliminate every risk.
Inspect your home for possible hazards, including the following:
Securing your home's structure
No home is completely safe in a tornado. However, attention to construction details can reduce damage and provide better protection for you and your family if a tornado should strike your house. If an inspection using the "reducing household hazards" checklist above reveals a possible hazard in the way your home is constructed, contact your local city or county building inspectors for more information about structural safety. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do any needed work for you.
Walls and roof rafters
Strengthen the areas of connection between the wall studs and roof rafters with hurricane clips as shown in the above graphic.
Shutting off utilities
After a tornado, DO NOT USE matches, lighters, or appliances, or operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas and cause an explosion.
If you smell the odor of gas or if you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas meter, shut off the gas immediately. First, find the main shut-off valve located on a pipe next to the gas meter. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the valve to the "off" position.
After a major disaster, shut off the electricity. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion.
Water may be turned off at either of two locations:
Attach a valve wrench to the water line. (This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.) Label the water mains for quick identification.
Arranging and securing household items