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Severe Weather: Tornadoes

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Tornado

Last week, we launched a series about preparing for severe weather. This week, we will focus on one of the most chilling of all severe weather storms—tornadoes. Tornados can cause flash floods, lightning, and winds up to 140 miles per hour. What’s more, tornadoes can produce hail stones as big as grapefruit. Tornadoes occasionally develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect, and they may strike with little or no warning.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, they can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhood in mere seconds. Initially, a tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. According to Ready.Gov, damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Did you know that every state in the union is at some risk from this hazard? Admittedly, some states are at greater risk than others. While many tornadoes are clearly visible, rain or nearby low-hanging clouds can obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. So remember to protect your head!

Before a Tornado:

  • Look for danger signs such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark low-lying cloud (particularly if it is rotating); or a loud roar reminiscent of an approaching freight train.
  • Listen to radio and television for updates.
  • Keep a map nearby to follow storm movement.
  • Secure a battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) All Hazard Radio.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • If an underground shelter is unavailable, move to an area that puts as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.
  • Move to the lowest floor of the building.
  • Do not stay in a car or motor home.
  • Sit underneath a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blanket, and use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

Description of tornado states of alert:

  • A “Tornado Watch” denotes that tornadoes are possible for your area. Remain alert.
  • A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted, or its presence is indicated by weather radar. In the event of an alert, finding shelter is imperative. Sirens are activated in response to warnings.

During a Tornado:

Outside

  • Try to get inside and seek a small protected space devoid of windows.
  • Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls.
  • If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing.

In a Car

  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter.
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Inside

  • When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.
  • If you’re inside a house, make sure you have a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio on hand.
  • Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows.
  • You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but never use one to cover yourself. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
  • Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier.
  • Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed.
  • Don’t leave a building in a vain attempt to escape a tornado.
  • If you are in a manufactured (mobile) home, leave immediately and take shelter elsewhere.

After a tornado

  • Injuries can occur in the aftermath of a tornado, during cleanup or rescue attempts, from exposed nails or broken glass. Wear sturdy shoes, gloves and long sleeves.
  • Be careful entering any structure that has been damaged by a tornado.
  • Don’t touch downed power lines or objects that are in contact with power lines.
  • Beware of open flames. Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to light homes without electricity.
  • If your home has been damaged, shut off electrical power to avoid natural gas and propane tanks from catching fire.
  • If you see damaged electrical wires, tell authorities.
  • Cooperate with public safety officials and respond to requests for assistance from emergency responders. However, do not go into damaged areas unless your assistance is requested.

Measuring damage on the EF-scale

  1. You’ve probably heard a tornado described as “an F3” or “barely an F0.”
  2. The “F” comes from the Fujita scale, developed by T. Theodore Fujita in 1971.
  3. The 2004 update of the system came with a new name: the Enhanced F-scale or EF-scale, which measures estimated tornado wind speeds based on the damage they cause.
  4. To determine where a tornado falls on the EF-scale, surveyors look at the damage in its wake. Investigators examine 28 types of free-standing structures to see how much damage they sustained.
  5. Based on all the damage, the National Weather Service can estimate the wind speed of the tornado itself and put it on the EF-scale.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Terrible Twisters

Sunday, May 9th, 2010
Prepare for tornadoes.

Prepare for tornadoes.

Few events put the power of nature on display like tornadoes. With the recent destructive tornadoes in the Midwest and South, it’s timely for all property owners to review tornado safety procedures.

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes appear quickly and do not follow any forecasted paths. Panic and confusion among tenants can set in unless prior planning and procedures have been established. Tornadoes are unlike other emergencies, such as fires, because tenants need to stay in the building during the emergency, and actually use the building for protection.

Preparations Before a Storm Occurs

“Warning” or “Watch:” The first alert regarding tornadoes is a “tornado watch,” which simply means the conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “tornado warning” means that a twister has either touched down or been spotted on meteorological radar.

Warning System

  • Consider installing a warning system that works in conjunction with fire alarms. Make sure that tenants can easily identify the two types of warnings, so they can plan properly. Remember that outside sirens are not intended to be heard indoors.
  • Establish tracking and warning procedures so tenants have enough time to properly prepare for storms.

Physical Improvements

  • Shatter resistant glass, made of Plexi-glass or acrylic substances, can greatly reduce the risk of flying debris including broken glass. This is especially important when tornadoes strike unexpectedly and tenants do not have time to move to the interior of the building.
  • Designate a building area as a tornado shelter. Make sure the area is large enough to accommodate all tenants. FEMA has guidelines on how to select the area in a building that is best suited for a shelter. If possible, investigate ways to reinforce the area through structural improvements, making sure to minimize the amount of materials/projectiles that are in the area.

During the Storm

Personal Safety and Evacuation:

  • Tenants should move away from windows and proceed to the interior of the building, moving to the lowest floors possible.
  • Instruct tenants to use stairs, as power to the elevators will very likely be out.
  • Tenants should be advised to cover their heads at all times in order to prevent injury from falling objects.
  • Establishing safety procedures for employees who are physically disabled will save valuable time.

Lightning:

  • Tornadoes form around severe thunderstorms, which lead to lightning! If time permits, tenants should unplug sensitive computer and television equipment to prevent the risk of fire.

After the Storm

  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or check websites to be sure the threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have left the area. Remember you may be safer in a slightly damaged building than risking exposure to lightning!
  • Tenants should evacuate the building according to the designated evacuation plan.
  • Once outside, everyone should pay special attention to downed power lines and other dangerous debris.

For tornadoes and other emergencies, we always say that preparation is the first step toward ensuring tenant safety. Proper planning and respect for nature can help save lives.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.