April is the most active month for severe weather, including tornadoes, in the Tennessee Valley. We have countless reminders from over the years of just how dangerous the weather can be this time of year. As we head deeper into April, it is important that you prepared if severe weather threatens. Here are some basic things you can do right now to prepare:
1. Stay Weather Aware. It is critical to be up-to-date with the latest forecast information as we head through tornado season so that you are aware of any possible threats that may be incoming. Being aware of the potential is the first step in being ready to deal with it.
2. Have a severe weather plan in place BEFORE storms threaten. This is important. You have to know what you are going to do during a weather emergency before that weather emergency occurs. Know your plan and practice it before severe weather approaches. Here are some basic tornado safety guidelines.
- If you have a basement or certified shelter, those are the best places to be.
- If not, go to the lowest floor of your building in a small interior room such as a bathroom or closet.
- The room you're using doesn't need to have any windows or sliding glass doors. That glass easily shatters from being hit by projectiles during high wind and then the broken glass becomes shrapnel.
- When you are in your shelter and hunkering down, get low (under something sturdy if you can) and protect your head and neck from flying debris. A hard, reinforced helmet is best. Helmets such bicycle helmets, sports-related helmets, ballistics helmets, welding helmets, motorcycle helmets, even metal cooking pots can protect your head from flying debris in the unfortunate incident that you may be hit by a tornado.
- Make sure to wear hard-soled shoes in case your home is damaged and you have to walk across a tornado debris field that may be littered with broken glass, splinters, nails, etc. Have a squeezable air horn in your shelter location so that you can sound a call for help if debris buries your shelter location and/or you are injured and can't call out for help. First responders are trained to listen for sounds like air horns, whistles, etc., to look for tornado victims that may need help.
- NEVER stay in a vehicle or a mobile home during a tornado, even a lower-end type tornado. Mobile homes offer wonderful and affordable housing for many people, but they become death traps during high winds and tornadoes. And now, above about a mid-range EF1 tornado, it doesn't even matter if they are tied down. Have a plan in place to leave your mobile home for a more sturdy shelter and enact that plan BEFORE a warning is issued and a tornado is rapidly bearing down on you.
3. Have a readiness kit in your shelter with essential items that you will need if you lose power or your home receives damage. Things like flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, non-perishable food and bottled water, medications, pillows and blankets, toys or games for the kids to keep them occupied, pet food and accommodations, and important documents and papers are important things to have secured in your shelter location.
4. Make sure your insurance policies are up to date, make sure you are aware of the things your policies do and do not cover, and make sure all your important documents are protected in case your home receives damage. Having multiple copies of those important documents and having a backup copy in another secure location may be another good idea.
5. HAVE MULTIPLE RELIABLE WAYS of hearing warnings when they are issued, and NEVER rely on an outdoor warning siren as your only way of hearing a tornado warning. Outdoor warning sirens serve a purpose. They are designed to alert people OUTDOORS to go inside and seek additional information about an approaching threat. You may hear a siren in your home on a calm day, but it won't wake you up at 3:00 am when there is a raging storm outside and a tornado is bearing down on you. A NOAA Weather Radio with backup batteries is the baseline for receiving warnings, but those can even fail too. That's why you need multiple reliable methods in place. In addition to a weather radio, Wireless Emergency Alerts, local media smartphone apps, local TV and radio stations, etc., all do a great job of alerting you to dangerous weather. The main message is, no matter which methods you choose, never rely on just one. Always have backups and redundancy.
April is sometimes an active and dangerous time for weather in the Tennessee Valley. Following these guidelines will allow you to make sure you are aware and prepared the next time severe weather threatens.