Tornado Safety Tips from Ground Zero Storm Shelters

How to Be Prepared for Tornadoes at Work

Guideliines to Proper Tornado Safety at WorkIs your business prepared for a major storm? Is your business prepared to protect your customers, employees, and even your own life in the event that a tornado is coming? Many people have storm shelters in areas that are heavily hit with tornados, but very few businesses have tornado shelters. Many restaurants have walk-in refrigerators, and employees can get inside of those, but what about all of the other businesses out there? If you are a business owner, read on – it could save the lives of you, your employees and your customers!

Make a Plan

The best way to ensure your business is ready for a tornado is to have an emergency preparedness plan. When dealing with a tornado this action plan should identify a place to take shelter, how community tornado warning systems will be monitored and how to account for all people during a tornado. Make sure all employees know of this plan, and have surprise practice drills. If you have a large number of employees, it makes sense to nominate several leaders and divide everyone into groups.

Identify Shelter

During a tornado the best shelter is an underground area, such as a basement or a storm shelter. However, if this type of structure is not available consider the following:

  • Small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible
  • Room constructed with reinforced concrete
  • Room or area with a reinforced ceiling

When choosing a shelter make sure it has no windows and avoid structures with flat, wide-span roofs. Also try to stay in the center of the room. Ensure the shelter location is stocked with adequate emergency supplies.
If caught outdoors away from a designated shelter try to get to a suitable shelter as quickly as possible. If this is not possible here are two options:

  • Stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on, keeping your head below the windows and covering it with your hands or a blanket.
  • Get to an area noticeable lower than the roadway, lie in that area and cover your head with your hands. Do not take shelter under an overpass!

Accountability

The following steps are recommended to help ensure the safety of personnel if a tornado occurs:

  • Develop a system for knowing who is in the building in the event of an emergency.
  • Establish an alarm system to warn workers and test the system frequently. If you have workers who do not speak English ensure this information is communicated clearly to them.
  • Account for workers, visitors, and customers as they arrive in the shelter. One way to do this is to develop a check sheet from a prepared roster or schedule.
  • Assign specific duties to workers in advance; create checklists for each specific responsibility. Designate and train employee alternates in case the assigned person is not there or is injured.

This plan should be reviewed with employees on an annual basis and updated whenever a change occurs within your company. Remember, a tornado can occur at any time, any place. Make sure to protect your employee using these recommended guidelines.

Bug-Out Bags: What Do You Need?

What to Pack in Your Bug-Out BagNo one ever wants to be in a situation where they have to drop everything and leave in an emergency. However; given the increasing concerns today, many people choose to prepare themselves just in case.

Most people are not super paranoid, but if you take a rational look at the world and make some basic steps to protect yourself by building a bug-out-bag, you could help protect you and your family in an emergency.

Sometimes people make bug-out-bags for fear of a big and dramatic event initiating the end of civilization. But there are many more common events that happen all of the time that would make having a bug-out-gag well worth it. These events include:

  • Tornado
  • Home Invasion
  • Flood
  • Terrorism
  • Earthquake
  • Home Fire
  • Riots
  • Hurricane
  • Tsunami
  • Mass Shooting

What Makes a Good Bug-Out-Bag?

There is a wide selection of off the shelf bug-out-bags that are sold online and if you are not interested in individually picking out the bag essentials, this is a good option. However; because they are mass produced and sold to the general public they often do not include options for your specific location. For example, you would not have the same supplies if you lived in the desert versus living by water. Also, you should make sure to pack enough supplies for your entire family. Pre-packaged bug-out-bags may not include enough supplies if you have a larger family.

What to Always Include

Regardless of any variables, there are some simple rules that you should observe when deciding on the content of your bug-out-bag. Please see below:

  • Keep it simple - You are not trying to build a mobile home to carry around. Many prepper websites list dozens of items to pack. This not only adds cost, but weight as well. Pack simple, reliable things to cover your basic needs.
  • Make it easy to carry - Make sure you can carry your bug-out-bag comfortably. You may have to walk for a long distance. If your bag is ill fitted or too heavy, you might as well have taken your chances sheltering in place.
  • Plan for a specific period of time – 72 hours is a good place to begin as this is about how long a person can live without water. Once you start planning for weeks out, your bag will get too complicated and heavy.
  • Be self-sufficient - If you are thinking about packing an item that needs something you don’t already have, forget it. The chances of finding that key item in a chaotic emergency situation is slim to none. If you are moving to safety, the last thing you want to do is worry about scavenging. Pack supplies that can be used both individually and together to save space.
  • Only pack what you need - Remember the goal is to survive, not luxury. If you do not need it to survive, leave it behind.

Bug-Out-Bag Essentials

Below are some of the essentials every bug-out-bag should include. Please remember to customize this to fit with your family.

  • Tarp or emergency shelter (can be used for shelter and signaling)
  • Map and compass
  • Water and high energy / low weight foods (like MRE’s or energy bars)
  • Extra socks
  • Multi-tool
  • LED flashlight
  • Magnesium fire starter
  • Hand cranked radio
  • Survival blanket
  • Paracord

Hopefully you will never be put in a situation where you are forced to flee your home. But, as you can see with some basic planning you can take steps to ensure the safety of you and your family.

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How to Use Off-Season as a Prime Time to Prep for Tornado Season

Off-Season Tornado PreparationJust because tornado season is winding down, doesn’t mean you should forget about severe storms hitting. During the off-season, there are plenty of things you can do in order to prep for next season. Below are our top tips for how to use the off-season as a prime time to prep for tornado season. 

  • Find out where the nearest shelters are (make sure your kids also know these locations).
  • Have up-to-date homeowner’s insurance.
  • Purchase an emergency radio (preferably a hand-crank).
  • Prep your bug-out bag and have it ready to go.
  • If your kids have friends or family they spend a lot of time with, find out what those families have planned in case of a tornado.
  • Get an extra cell phone charger. During tornado season, always have your phone charged, and keep an extra charger in your bug-out bag.
  • Check the FEMA website for helpful information regarding tornado preparedness.
  • Have flashlights, oil lamps and other sources of light. Also, extra batteries are a must!
  • Talk to your neighbors! Find out how they have weathered past tornado seasons.
  • Make a family plan. Have practice drills so everyone knows what to do and where to go. It is also best to have an occasional drill in the middle of the night.
  • Have at least 72 hours’ worth of food and water stored in a cellar, interior closet, or other safe place.    
  • Know how to safely shut off your electric service, gas line and water.
  • Keep cash at the ready.
  • Keep a small refrigerator or freezer in the basement.
  • Know how to be as safe as possible wherever you are. You may be visiting friends, out shopping, or at the park when a tornado hits.
  • Some TV stations offer free weather warnings via text messages. Check the websites of your local TV and radio stations to see if they offer this service. You can also check out these apps for survival and emergency situations.
  • Last, and certainly not least, the number one thing you can do to prep is to purchase a storm shelter!       

We hope this article gave you helpful ideas that you may not have thought about before. Take the off-season months and get prepared!

Posted in General

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Why You Should Always Avoid Underpasses During Tornadoes

Why Not to Seek Shelter Under Overpasses During TornadosMany people mistakenly think that a highway overpass provides a safe haven from a tornado. The reality is that an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado. Using an overpass for your shelter can put you at a much greater risk of being killed or seriously injured by a tornado.

Tornado wind speeds can sometimes exceed 200 mph. These destructive winds produce airborne debris that are blown into and channeled under the overpass where people might be seeking shelter. Varying debris, including dirt, sand and rocks that are moving at incredible speeds can easily penetrate clothing and skin, causing serious injuries or even death. 

Let’s take a look at the facts:

  • If an overpass is directly in the path of a tornado, the wind could change direction by nearly 180 degrees as the vortex passes.
  • By climbing up higher to get under the overpass, you will be exposed to higher wind speeds and more flying debris.
  • Flying debris become dangerous missiles in the tornado airflow.
  • Most overpasses don’t have girders or support beams for handholds.
  • The narrow passage underneath an overpass could cause an increase in the wind speed under the bridge.

Where You Should Shelter Instead

If you are on the road, try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If that is not an option, pull over and park. You now have two choices:

  1. Stay in your car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  2. If you can get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

The bottom line is: OVERPASSES DO NOT MAKE SAFE SHELTER AREAS! Check out the video below to see what happens when you shelter under an overpass:

Also, take a look at our related articles:

Effective Tornado Safety Tips for Schools

Tornado Safety in SchoolsThe most important part of ensuring your school is safe from severe storms is to develop an action plan with frequent drills throughout the year. It is important to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to a tornado safety plan. School buildings should be inspected and shelter areas identified by a registered engineer. Once these shelter areas are designated, then a plan should be tailored around being able to move people to those areas quickly.

Basements offer the best protection, but for schools without basements interior rooms or hallways away from windows and glass are the next best things. Flying debris is the biggest tornado hazard and causes the most injuries! That's why it is important to put as many interior walls as possible between you and a tornado.

Don’t Forget Portable Classrooms

These buildings are often constructed like mobile homes and can be just as dangerous during severe storms. Your tornado safety plan must include getting students out of portable classrooms quickly and into a safe area within the main building. If possible students should be evacuated from portable classrooms before the severe weather begins or when a tornado watch is issued, not a tornado warning. That is why it is important for all schools to have a NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup. Having someone monitoring this radio can give you a head start if severe weather is approaching!

Avoid Gyms & Auditoriums

Large open areas like gymnasiums, auditoriums, and lunchrooms can be very dangerous and should not be used as shelter areas. These types of rooms have structural weaknesses and lack of roof support, making them prone to collapsing during severe wind and weather.

Have Alternative Warning Signals

If the school’s tornado alarm relies on electricity, have an alternative method to notify faculty and students of the warning in case of a power failure. A large bull horn or whistle are considered good alternatives. Make sure all faculty and students are aware of the alternative warning signals.

Make Provisions for Disabled Students

Students with physical disabilities can take longer to move to shelter areas. Moving these students when a watch is issued will insure getting them into safety shelter areas before the storm hits.

Make Sure Students Know the Protection Position

Crouch low on your knees, head down and cover the back of your head and neck with your arms. Crawling under a desk or table in this position can offer you more protection as well.

Keep Students After Hours

If severe weather is approaching keep students after until the severe weather passes. Students are safer inside the school than in a car or bus.

Having several tornado drills throughout the year will insure the smoothest transfer of students to shelter areas. Seconds count during severe weather and the quicker you can get them to the designated safety areas the less chance for injuries or fatalities!

Apps for Survival & Emergency Situations

Are you the type of person who likes to be prepared for any situation? We are too! Check out our list of severe weather, disaster, and survival apps to stay alert and prepared.

Apps for Survival

Please note that you will need to check each to see the compatibility with your iOS or Android device.

General Emergency Apps

Severe Weather Apps

Survival

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