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Are you Tornado ready?

Posted 3/4/2011   Updated 3/4/2011 Email story   Print story


by Steve Serrette
72nd Air Base Wing Safety Office

3/4/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- There are few words in the English language that bring about as much concern as the word "tornado." Of all nature's moods, this is perhaps the most violent.

Though not as large-scale as a hurricane, or as long-lived as a Nor'easter, this particular severe weather event has occurred in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii.

As a matter of fact, the average life cycle of one is only eight-minutes, but it can be the longest eight-minutes of one's life.

Tornados have occurred at virtually every time of the day, sometimes at night and early morning. They occur most often in the afternoon or early evening. Tornados that occur overnight are among the most deadly, as people are sleeping and may not be aware of the imminent danger.

Tornadoes are storm-related events requiring a relatively rare combination of atmospheric conditions for them to form. Even so, there are approximately 1,000 of them annually in the United States.

Knowing that an area is prone to tornadoes is the first step to becoming prepared for one. Know what the immediate, short-term or long-term potential is for severe weather in the area.

The key to being safe is to have a plan. Knowing what to do when a tornado is approaching will help you get out of harm's way, fast. National weather Service, National Severe Storm Laboratories and the American Red Cross provide tornado safety checklists on their web sites.

Currently, there are two stages of alert in place. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado. A tornado warning means that a tornadic event has been detected, either by radar or by trained storm spotters relaying information to the National Weather Service.

Be aware of what the experts are saying the potential is for severe weather. Be aware of local warning systems. Also, a NOAA weather radio is an easily affordable and easily acquired appliance that can keep you abreast of developing situations. Many local municipalities will provide assistance in purchasing a weather radio: they may also provide community shelters or specific instruction. See your local public safety office webpage.

Have a safe area to go to like the most interior room without windows on the lowest floor possible and have helmets for head protection. Even better, if possible have an underground shelter or above-ground safe room in which to seek refuge. Keep items like credit cards, emergency cash, a porta-potty, pet food, water, a change of clothes and shoes and other valuables in a plastic box that you can easily grab and take to the shelter. Don't forget your pets.

Keep the proper insurance on your vehicle, home and its belongings. At work, know your shelter location and be familiar with the proceedings that could inevitably save your life.

Tornado Watch

Monitor local radio/television stations for current information. Implement unit tornado watch and tornado shelter preparations.
· Review your tornado shelter checklist
· Check first aid and shelter kit and ensure supplies are available
· Ensure shelter area is clear of debris.
· Put batteries in flashlights
· Check communications
· Monitor weather radios
· Determine when to relocate to designated shelter or dismiss personnel
· Consider cancelling or curtailing training events
· Curtail or prohibit routine business movement outside of unit facilities
· Use sign out boards to account for personnel and visitors away from duty sections
· Implement unit procedures for assisting the handicapped as necessary. Consider sending the "Movement Impaired" to
shelters early.

Notify all on duty unit personnel of weather conditions. Ensure notification of personnel working in high noise areas. Ensure personnel are briefed of tornado shelter locations. Secure or shelter outdoor equipment and materials if time permits. Take cover immediately and dial 911 upon spotting a tornado. Know your UCC phone number and ensure it is available in the shelter for notifications, personnel accountability and further instructions.

Tornado Warning
· Notify personnel to take immediate cover. Attempt to identify and shelter any visitors. Account for all on duty personnel. Ensure all personnel remain in shelter until notified of "All Clear" through your chain of command.

· Personnel must not be permitted to leave shelter until the outside has been assessed for life-threatening hazards.

· Monitor local media and weather radios for current situation updates. The "ALL CLEAR" will NOT be sounded using the base Siren System.

· Additional sirens indicate a new tornado threat. Notification will be sent through the unit chain of command or provided by Emergency Responders when necessary.

· Account for all on duty personnel. Perform damage assessment. Report damage to the Unit Control Center and Emergency Operations Center. Remember to identify and account for any visitors in your shelter, by name and organization, and identify when they leave the shelter area. Assist the injured and call 911 for badly injured personnel.

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