Surviving A Tornado When Your Home May Not

By Katie McCoy

The United States has witnessed a number of high-profile tornado disasters in recent years. There was the distressing story involving seven young kids who died when an EF5 tornado destroyed their elementary school last summer.

Not long after the school disaster another powerful twister led to the deaths of tornado researcher Tim Samaras and three other experienced tornado chasers. A number of tornadoes in past decade have each claimed dozens or even hundreds of lives.

This increase in destruction could be the product of higher intensity storms, or it may simply be that these twisters are more often striking in populated places. It’s probably both. Whatever the case, a small amount of planning and preparation can help to keep your family safe. Here are a some of the things you might want to consider.

A) Arming your kids against a tornado.

Most people who perish in a tornado are killed by flying debris. Therefore finding ways to shield yourself and your children from blows to the head or body will increase chances of survival.

For example, should a tornado warning be issued in your area, tell the kids to put on their bicycle helmet. If you really want to go all out on protection, dress them in a karate sparring vest or baseball catchers equipment to protect them from debris. Just be sure not to cover their hands or get overly carried away about it because you don’t want to outfit them to the point where they are cumbersome or have a larger area to catch the wind. Once your children are geared up, get low in the safest area in your house and cover everyone up with couch cushions.

The idea of defending your child against a tornado through body armor may seem absurd, but it works. I know one little girl in particular whose life was saved by wearing her bicycle helmet when a tornado tore through her home. The helmet she had on was cracked in two when a flying object hit her in the head. Because of the helmet, her skull emerged no worse for the wear.

Her life was saved only because her parents took this extra precaution of using a bicycle helmet. Had they not had the presence of mind to have her put it on, this little child would likely have died.

B) Knowing when to leave the area.

Scientists have gotten much better at forecasting which storms are likely to spawn violent tornadoes. So if you’re in a vulnerable home and you know ahead of time that a severe thunderstorm is heading your direction, you might think about getting in the car and getting your family out of harms way.

More often than not, these trips to your mother house (or where ever you destination may be) will be nothing more than a social excursion, a storms will come and go without incident. Yet for some families, this caution has saved their lives. Because they were in a safer place when a tornado leveled their home, they escaped what otherwise would have been a deadly situation.

If you consider this option, however, it’s important to leave will in advance. Once a tornado warning has been issued, that’s not the time to hop in your car for a long distance traveling.

C) Planning ahead helps your survival.

If you live in a home without a basement or storm shelter that you know wouldn’t survive a tornado, planning ahead is crucial. Check around to see if neighbors have a basement or storm shelter that you can share. About that, look into nearby commercial buildings that might offer better protection. Getting underground is ideal, but a sturdy cement or steel building with small interior rooms tends to offer better protection than a trailer or wood-frame house.

This may take an afternoon or two of your time, but the reward is worth it. Having someplace to shelter picked out ahead of time could mean the difference between living and dying. Ideally you should have one or two alternate safe havens picked out, each within a few minutes of your home. Go there right away if a tornado warning is issued for your area, assuming of course that you can do so safety.

Hopefully, a tornado’s power is something you’ll only ever have the chance to admire from a safe distance. But should you ever encounter one up close and personal, these precautions will help ensure that property is the only thing that gets destroyed.

Don’t miss learning more about tornado safety on our website, and other types of extreme weather and storm safety tips.

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