If there’s an emergency situation going on around you (hurricane, power outage, soccer practice, etc.), taking the time to create good, wholesome meals can be a daunting task. Fortunately, just-add-water meals are here to save you.
Chicken Teriyaki with Rice
Just-add-water meals are dehydrated of freeze-dried meals that are already prepared – all you need to do is add water and voila! You’ve got yourself a delicious, home-cooked meal in minutes. That right there is reason enough to have these types of meals on hand.
There are also many different varieties, including Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, Pasta Primavera, Creamy Potato Soup, and many more options. Having these on hand will not only make it easy to prepare good meals, but you can also add variety to your daily diet. Eating the same thing day after day can get tiring very quickly, making it hard to even want to eat. Having a wide variety of entrées will keep your meals fresh and exciting for a long time.
Water for Your Meals
One of the main reasons we store water is so we can remain hydrated. After all, we need water to stay healthy, strong, and to be able to function properly. Similarly, without food, our bodies will likewise be weak. But what does water have to do with food?
Water is an essential part in preparing delicious emergency meals. Think about it, how much of your emergency food consists of dehydrated of freeze-dried entrées and pre-cooked meals? Chances are you have at least some food that fits that category. So how do you plan on preparing it in an emergency?
That’s where water comes into play.
Water storage is more than just for drinking (although that right there is also vital). Without water, cooking, baking, and preparing your dehydrated and freeze-dried meals will be quite difficult indeed. So how can you make sure you have enough water to prepare your food as well as stay hydrated and sanitary?
You store it.
Storing water is an important part of any emergency preparedness plan. After all, it’s recommended that a household’s water storage should consist of at least one gallon of water per day per person. This only covers hydration and light sanitation, however. So, if you plan on rehydrating your food, you will want to store more water than that.
Each can of just-add-water meals will tell you how much water you’ll need for each serving, as well as how many servings are inside the can. This will help you gauge how much extra water you’ll need to store.
Another method is through pop (or soda, depending on where you’re from) bottles. Make sure you wash them out thoroughly before adding water. Plastic jugs or cardboard cartons that contained milk or fruit juice are not recommended for storing water, due to the nature of the plastic and cardboard holding on to milk protein and fruit sugars. No matter how hard you scrub or clean, these substances can’t be adequately removed, giving bacteria an easier time to grow when water is stored in them.
Now that you have water, let’s talk for a moment about how to rehydrate (or reconstitute) your just-add-water meals.
Reconstituting Dehydrated Food
If you’re an avid eater of dehydrated food (beef jerky, anyone?), then you might be interested to know that it doesn’t all have to be eaten that way. However, the process of rehydrating dehydrated food differs depending on the food in question.
Some foods, such as sauces or dips, just need cold water to be added until your food reaches its desired consistency. Other food, however, takes longer and needs more than just cold water. Meat is an example of such foods. When reconstituting meat, you will need to add your meat to boiling water and let cook for an extended period of time. Depending on the thickness and type of meat, for example, it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Reconstituting Freeze-Dried Food
Freeze-dried food is much easier to reconstitute, and once rehydrated, it will revert back to its original shape, texture, and taste – just like it was the day it was freeze-dried. To revert your freeze-dried food back to its original design, all you need to do is place it in hot water and wait up to 10 minutes. It doesn’t need to be boiled, and again, it reverts back to how it was before it was freeze-dried.
Water storage must not be forgotten when stocking up on emergency food, especially if that food consists of dehydrated or freeze-dried entrées. Be conscious of the types of food you’re storing and secure enough water to be able to prepare those foods, while still having enough for hydration and sanitation.
How do you store water to use with your emergency food?
Hurricanes are well known for blowing in along the coast and leaving disaster in its wake. But did you know the threat reaches farther than just the coastal areas? Hurricanes can have adverse effects quite far inland. But before we talk about the nitty gritty, let’s start off with the basics.
What is a Hurricane?
Officially, a low-pressure weather system that rotates and has organized thunderstorms is a tropical cyclone, according to NOAA. While similar, this is not a hurricane. Not yet, anyway. As the wind speeds increase, the name by which we call these storms also changes. A tropical storm occurs once wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour, and hurricanes must have wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour.
Hurricanes typically form from June 1st through November 30th, and is commonly called “hurricane season.” Of course, hurricanes can (and do) form before and after these dates.
Hurricanes on Radar
Hurricanes that strike the United States form in the Atlantic basin and are tracked to give us as much time to prepare as possible. A hurricane’s path can generally be predicted 3-5 days prior to it making landfall. Unlike most other natural disasters that come without warning, this gives a huge advantage to preparing. But, just because you have advanced warning, it doesn’t mean you can wait until the last moment to prepare. On the contrary, preparing well in advance is always the best option.
Where to Start Your Hurricane Preparations
Be proactive in the hours leading up to a hurricane, but also be safe. If the winds start howling sooner than expected, that’s not the time to go into town for a carton of milk. Along those lines, you may have three, four, or even five days advanced notice, but sometimes that’s simply not good enough. The time to prepare for a hurricane is now. Today. To help you get started, here are some steps from ready.gov to keep in mind.
Know Your Hurricane Risk
If you live pretty far inland, chances are you won’t be feeling the brunt of the storm. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks for those living farther away from the coast. In fact, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states – that’s half the continental United States! No matter where you are, there’s something to be said about being prepared.
If you are on the coast (or at least close by), the threat is much more real, the winds more powerful, and the flooding more severe, so plan accordingly. If you’re unsure of what your risk is, the image below shows the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms by county.
Hurricane frequency by county - via FEMA
Make an Emergency Plan
Without a plan, being effectively prepared will be mighty difficult. It’s not that you can’t do it without, but plans make it easier to keep things together without having to remember every small detail. Write your plan down, post it where you can see it, and even keep one in your emergency kit so you have it to refer to.
Your plan will differ depending on your situation, location, and many other factors. If you have pets, include them in your plan as well. Small children, seniors, and those with disabilities will likewise require special attention. What do you need to prepare with before the first warning comes? What should you do when there is a warning? These are some things to consider when making your plan.
If you wait until the hurricane warnings come, you may find your grocery store’s inventory to be virtually empty. To avoid that rather unpleasant inconvenience, take time today to stock up on emergency food. This can be extra cans of food from the store during your regular shopping trip, or even something more long term, such as freeze-dried meals.
Freeze-dried food has a shelf life of 25 years or more (as long as it’s stored properly), so once you get it, you won’t have to rotate it for a very long time, unlike your canned goods from the local store. Those you’ll need to rotate much more frequently. Another perk of freeze-dried food is that it’s already cooked. Meaning, if you’re power’s out, all you need to do is add water, wait a few minutes, and voila! Dinner is served.
Water is also a vital part of your supplies. During a hurricane, as well as after, your water supply might be cut off, or even contaminated (flood water does that to your drinking water). Water filters are an excellent option to have on hand. Also consider storing water in your home, be it in water barrels or just 2-liter pop bottles. Each person needs at least one gallon of water per day for hydration and light sanitation, so the more water you have the better off you’ll be. And, if you have freeze-dried food, you will want more water so you can rehydrate your food, thus allowing you to actually eat your food.
Other supplies to keep stocked are batteries, chargers, cash, first aid, and flashlights, among other personal supplies that are necessary for you and your family. Remember, make sure you have everything you need before the radar picks up a dangerous looking blip. Otherwise, the things you need might be hard to come by.
Most home insurance policies don’t cover flood damage – that’s additional. However, depending on where you live, you might be able to get by without it. FloodSmart.gov can help you identify your flood risk and thereby help you decide if flood insurance is right for you.
If you do decide you need flood insurance, you may not want to wait too long. Most flood insurance policies take effect 30 days once you purchase it. That means, if you see a hurricane is coming and then get insurance…you still won’t be covered if you get flooded. When it comes to flood insurance, you will definitely want it well in advance.
Familiarize Yourself with Local Emergency Plans
Your city or town will have an emergency plan in place. Learn it and know it well so you won’t have any hesitation when the need to execute it arises. Know the evacuation route to ensure not getting lost on your way out.
Fortunately, hurricanes give us at least a day or more of warning before they come for a visit. However, once we’re apprised of their arrival, the time to prepare is all but past. Start getting prepared now so when the next disaster comes, you’ll be ready for it.
Before a Hurricane
Having advanced warning will give you extra time for to get things done you can’t really do months in advance, such as filling up your car’s gas tank. Ready.gov has broken down the hours until arrival into four sections, each with different tasks you should do in order to be best prepared for the approaching hurricane.
Watch vs. Warning
It’s important to know the difference between a watch and a warning. If you get them mixed up, you may be in for a very unpleasant – and dangerous – experience.
According to NOAA, a hurricane watch means that “hurricane conditions are possible within a specified area.” This means it’s time to be vigilant and prepare for the worst. Continue monitoring the weather to stay on top of the situation.
NOAA describes a hurricane warning as requiring immediate action, and that “hurricane conditions are expected within the specified area.” Essentially, the time to prepare has passed, and the time to act is now. When it comes to hurricanes, warnings are issued 36 hours before their expected arrival. This gives you just a bit more time to take care of any last minute precautions, including tying down yard decorations and preparing your home. Again, warnings mean imminent danger, so be sure to do as much as you can as soon as you receive your first warning, if not sooner.
36 Hours from Arriving
First of all, stay tuned to your TV or radio station for updates. If the storm turns sooner than expected, you could be caught high and dry (so to speak). Use this time (if you haven’t already) to go through your emergency supplies and restock anything that needs to be replaced. This include batteries, flashlights, cash, and first aid supplies, along with anything else that fits your personal needs.
Check out your vehicle and make sure it’s in proper working order. If anything needs fixed (that won’t take a couple of days to get done), consider fixing it, just in case you need to evacuate quickly. Likewise, fill your vehicle full of gas. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road when the hurricane comes roaring in.
Also review your emergency plan. It’s always good to keep that information fresh in your mind so you won’t forget anything in the rush to get everything done. An important aspect of an emergency plan is knowing how to contact your loved ones should you be separated. Texting is generally a better option during emergencies, as text messages don’t tie up phone lines, and even if service is spotty, texts can still go through when a phone call won’t.
18-36 Hours from Arriving
At this point, there really isn’t much more time to prepare. But, you still have enough time to brief yourself and your family on your city or county’s emergency instructions. A quick Google search should pull that up (if it’s not already bookmarked).
Now is also a good time to tie down or bring in any loose, lightweight object in your yard (such as lawn chairs, garbage cans, etc.). When the high winds come, these objects can become dangerous projectiles. Trim trees and cover your home’s windows.
6-18 Hours from Arriving
The time for preparing is past. You don’t want to be caught out in the storm when it comes, so unless there’s a big emergency, you should stick around your home or shelter, especially when the estimated time of arrival is near the 6 hour mark. But whether you have to go out or not, keep an ear to the radio and an eye on the TV for weather updates. Also charge your phone so you will have a full battery, just in case the power goes out.
6 Hours from Arriving
The hurricane is quite nearly on your doorstep. If you haven’t already been evacuated, stay indoors, close the shutters, and keep away from the windows. In case the power goes out, crank up your refrigerator and freezer’s temperature to their coldest settings. This way, if there is a power loss, your food will last longer. Keep your emergency radio on and keep current on the updates coming your way. Do not venture outside, as hurricane-force winds are very strong, and very dangerous.
During a Hurricane
When the winds howl and the rains deluge, stay inside. Keep away from windows and glass doors as strong winds could blow them in, turning the glass into deadly, flying debris. To avoid harm should the storm penetrate your home, take shelter in a safe room, preferably in an interior room, such as bathroom or closet. Stay on your home’s lower level.
If your home is threatened by flooding, turn off your electricity at the breaker. If the power goes out, shut off your large appliances to avoid damages.
Sometimes, the hurricane may calm down before it has completely passed, but don’t be fooled. If the eye of the storm passes over your area, the winds will die down, but once the eye passes, the winds will increase quickly, ramping back up to hurricane-force winds.
Don’t take any unnecessary risks, even if it’s just to take a brief step outside to see what the wind feels like. Debris will be in the air, and it is far too easy to be hit by some. Stay indoors, and stay safe.
After a Hurricane
You’ve rode out the storm, but there’s still more work to be done. As with any disaster, there are still dangers to be aware of even after the storm calms down. Even though the winds are no longer howling, you still need to practice caution. The following suggestions from Ready.gov will help you know what to do following a hurricane.
Check for Injuries
Make sure you and your family are safe. Use your first aid kit to patch up any minor injuries that may have been sustained. Emergency personnel will be busy helping everyone they can, which means it could be a while until they can get to you. By having a first aid kit and being able to patch yourself up, you won’t have to wait until help arrives.
Use your emergency radio to keep tabs on weather updates and further instructions from your local officials. Text your family and friends to let them know you’re safe, as well as to see if they are safe, too. Facebook and other social media platforms are another good way of checking in with those you care about. In fact, Facebook has a feature known as Safety Check which automatically activates the next time you log in if you are in the affected area. Through this, you can mark yourself as “safe”, letting your Facebook friends know you’re doing well.
Beach Haven, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy
Hurricanes can really make a mess of the area (see Hurricane Damage below). If you had to evacuate, do not return home unless your local officials have deemed it safe to do so. Electrified flood water due to downed or underground power lines can be hazardous. Hidden dangers also include debris and washed-out ground. If you encounter flood water – flowing or standing – stay out of it. Just six inches of moving flood water can knock a person over, and swift-moving water can sweep a vehicle away as it flows by. Likewise, flood water can be heavily contaminated, which is why it’s important not to wade through it unless properly covered. Drinking flood water is also dangerous unless properly treated first. When you do get to your home, take pictures of the damage as a reference for your insurance claim.
Cleaning Up Safely
Be careful as you navigate your home, and watch out for broken glass and other sharp objects. If you smell gas, do not turn on any lights or use a lamp, match, or any open flame. Wear protective gloves and boots so if you do step on or grab something sharp, you can avoid getting injured.
With the amount of wind blowing around a hurricane, it’s little wonder these massive storms deliver heavy destruction wherever they go. Along with the heavy winds there is also torrents of rain, which can cause flooding. To add to these watery woes, hurricanes also bring with them a storm surge. This is when the water near the shore rises with the low pressure weather system, which in turn heaves itself onto the banks, rushing far across the inland. Storm surges cause major flooding, and can be just as destructive – if not more so – than the hurricane force winds.
Speaking of strong winds, hurricanes are classified by numbers 1 through 5. A category 1 hurricane is the weakest, but still requires wind speeds of 74-95 miles per hour to achieve that rating. Despite being the lowest lever, these wind speeds are quite powerful.
A category 2 hurricane has winds ranging from 96-153 miles per hour, but is not yet considered a major hurricane. That rating is reserved for hurricanes of at least a category 3.
Hurricanes become major storms at category 3. Wind speeds range from 111-129 miles per hour, and cause devastating destruction, even on well-built homes. These storms will knock out power and water supplies for a few days.
Winds over 130 miles an hour are obviously dangerous, but hurricanes can get even stronger. Category 4 hurricanes have wind speeds between 130-156 miles per hour. The damage inflicted is catastrophic, including badly damaged homes, most trees will be uprooted or at the very least snapped, and power outages can last for months. Hurricane Sandy, only reaching category 3 status, knocked out power for millions, and it took weeks to get everyone’s power back up and running. A category 4 hurricane will be much worse.
That brings us to category 5 hurricanes. These behemoths boast wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or higher. Damage will be worst than that of a category 4, which is of itself an awesome display of destruction. After a hurricane of this magnitude, most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, or even months.
No matter where you live in the United States, you’re not immune from tornadoes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), every single state in the U.S. has experienced a tornado. That means no matter where you live, learning about and preparing for tornadoes is important.
In order to prepare most effectively, learn about these twisting phenomena. Once you know more about tornadoes, you can use your knowledge to prepare as best as you can.
What is a Tornado?
Let’s start off with the basics. Chances are you’ve at least seen a picture of a tornado, which means you know what one looks like. But what exactly is a tornado?
According to The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a tornado “is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground.” That’s a pretty good description. Tornadoes, however, are naturally invisible, since they’re made up of air. The reason we are able to see a tornado is due to the fact that the vortex is made up of water droplets, dust, and debris.
Tornadoes form when warm, moist air (usually from the Gulf of Mexico) collides with cool, dry air (from the North, usually from Canada). This collision of air pressures destabilizes the atmosphere, causing changes in wind direction. When this change occurs, wind speed also increases, which causes the spinning effect we attribute to tornadoes. As mentioned above, the reason we can see this spinning air is because of all the extras the vortex picks up with it.
Tornadoes on Radar
The United States is the most tornado prone country in the world. NOAA reports an average of over 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S. every year. The next country in line with the most yearly tornadoes is Canada with roughly 100 twisters annually. So congratulations, America, on having the most tornadoes.
Tornado Alley via LIveScience (click to enlarge)
Although the United States wins when it comes to tornado count (if you can call that “winning”), most of the states aren’t tornado prone. There are a few states, however, that make up what is known as Tornado Alley. These states are in the Midwest and start in Texas, then up through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Don’t forget about Colorado and New Mexico which also see their fair share of twisters. Tornado Alley can also spill into Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and parts of Ohio.
Tornadoes struggle to form in the winter months, but they can start coming as early as March. Spring is the official start of tornado season. Tornadoes will begin to form more frequently in the Southern Plains, and from there work northward. Tornado season begins to wind down in the Northern states and the upper Midwest around June or July.
But, just because there’s a season set for these twisters doesn’t mean they follow the rules exactly. Sure, spring sees the most tornadoes (all the way up through July), but they can still form before or after their expected dates. Likewise – as mentioned above – they can form in any state. For example, a tornado struck Salt Lake City, Utah back in 1999. To throw us off even more, the tornado occurred in August. If we’re following the rules of tornado season and where tornadoes generally form, both the location and the month should dictate that a tornado just shouldn’t have shown up in Salt Lake City in August. But, as is typical with natural disasters – especially tornadoes – we just can’t predict when or where they’ll spring up.
From thin to thick, tornadoes vary greatly in size and form. That doesn’t mean, however, that size determines strength. Some small tornadoes can be at the strongest measurement, whereas a wide tornado can be fairly weak. But no matter what size a tornado is, you should take cover anyway. Even a weak tornado can cause injury or death.
Chandler, MN Tornado (EF 5), June 16, 1992
Tornadoes are ranked based on the Enhanced Fujita scale (EF), which replaced the original F-scale in 2007. While similar, there are a few differences in how it’s measured (the image to the side shows how the EF scale gets its rankings). Once wind gusts reach 65 miles per hour, the lowest level of the EF scale is reached (EF0). After that, the rankings rise as the winds increase. An EF5 constitutes wind speeds over 200 mph.
While EF5’s are obviously devastating, even the weakest EF0 can bring about lots of damage and injury. Just because a tornado isn’t an all-out howler doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. After all, 65 mph is quite fast; it may just look slow when compared to the other speeds on the EF scale.
Before a Tornado
In order to be as safe as possible during a tornado, it is important to prepare in advance. Knowing exactly when and where a tornado will strike is quite nearly impossible. However, there are some things you can do to be better prepared.
How does one prepare for a tornado? First off, make sure you have enough food, water, and other essential gear for at least 72 hours. The ideal place to keep this gear is in your basement or storm shelter, as the winds are less apt to reach down there and blow everything away.
Following a tornado, power may be out for days, leaving you without a way to refrigerate your food, have light, air conditioning, and other comforts of life. Having food that won’t go bad if not refrigerated (freeze-dried food being a great option) gives you greater control over your diet. It is common for store shelves to be stripped bare before and immediately following disasters.
If your power is out, having an alternate source of power can make a huge difference until your home’s power gets up and running. These smaller power sources can charge your cell phones, and depending on the size of the power supply, can charge laptops and even power your television. Having a bit of extra power on hand can make a huge difference following a disaster, especially once the sun sets and darkness falls.
Shelter is something else that’s important to procure before a disaster. If your home becomes damaged so much that you can’t stay the night for fear of structural damage, having a tent or other form of shelter will keep you covered.
Know the Signs
You may not always be around a radio or television for tornado alerts, so knowing the visual signs of an imminent tornado is important in making it safely to a shelter in time. You’ll know there’s a tornado coming if you see the funnel cloud – that part is obvious – but there are some other, perhaps lesser known signs to look out for.
A dark, sometimes green sky can give good indication that a tornado is about to form. There is a lot of hail in thunderstorms associated with tornadoes, so as this hail begins to be whipped around, the light of the sun refracts off the hail, giving the sky a green tint. The sky won’t always be green before a tornado, however, so don’t be fooled if the sky just appears very, very dark.
A loud roar – similar to a freight train – is another way a tornado may be heralded in. This is especially useful if you don’t live near a railroad, as the sound might be a bit out of place. The high velocity of the winds produce the howling, as well as all the debris the tornado is hurling around and smashing into.
Another sign of a tornado is a strange calm after a thunderstorm. Tornadoes are not uncommon after a large storm, so don’t be surprised if you see a clear, calm sky followed by a tornado!
If you want to get better at a sport, you’ll most likely be doing drill after drill in order to get your skills up to – and way above – par. Likewise, if you want to be as safe and prepared as possible for a tornado, you’ll want to do tornado drills until you and your family know what to do without having to hardly think about it.
Tornado drills will be pretty similar for each family, although there will be differences in your designated safe room in your home and other things depending on your location. Tornado drills should involve acting out what you should do during a tornado (see section During a Tornado below).
Watch vs. Warning
Knowing the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning can help you better prepare. A tornado watch suggests that tornadoes are possible. This warning can cover entire cities, counties, and even multiple states. When a tornado watch occurs, that is the time to check and gather your supplies, review your emergency plan, and identify and locate your nearest safe room. A tornado watch may pass without incident, but it could very quickly turn into a more dangerous situation.
A tornado warning means that there is a visual on a tornado, or has been indicated by weather radar. Once a tornado warning arrives, head directly to your safe room. Avoid window and open areas. Tornado warnings cover a much smaller area than tornado watches – perhaps a single city or county – but act as a warning to those in the area to take action immediately.
During a Tornado
The first step to take when you hear the tornado sirens going off (or receive the warning in some other way) is to take shelter. Where you find cover depends largely on where you are and what is available.
Outdoor Tornado Safety via Ohio Weather Safety (click to enlarge)
Some locations just don’t provide adequate protection. Being outside is, of course, one of these places. Other shelters that provide inadequate cover are manufactured (i.e. mobile) homes and offices, malls, gymnasiums, and vehicles. The problem with manufactured buildings is they blow away far too easily. Malls, gymnasiums, and other open-plan buildings are too open.
If you do find yourself outside when a tornado starts to form and there is no available shelter to run to, lay flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Use your arms or another object to protect your head from flying debris. Avoid areas with trees, and do not take cover underneath an overpass. Doing so can put you at greater risk from the winds and debris.
While not always 100% effective, sturdy buildings – like modern houses – can provide adequate decent protection from tornadoes. Still, while inside a sturdy building, you’ll still want to exercise caution. Stay away from window, which can shatter and start flying through the air. In fact, it’s best to find yourself a central room on the lowest level of the building. A room such as that will provide you with the most protection.
Even if you feel safe inside a sturdy building, still take cover. Use what you can find – blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, etc. – to cover up so if the howling winds do break through, your body will still be at least somewhat protected from flying objects.
If you live in an area that is constantly at threat from tornadoes, perhaps it’s time to look into a safe room or storm shelter. These safe havens will withstand nearly all strengths of tornadoes and greatly increase your chances for safely weathering the storm. FEMA has a guide on building a personal safe room, so be sure to check it out.
Being outside during a tornado is one of the least safe places you can be. There is little to no protection, and between the buffeting winds and the flying debris, things could get unpleasant fast. One of the best things you can do during a tornado, no matter where you are, is to stay low to the ground, or even below it if possible. If available, lay flat in a ditch. This will help protect you from debris and other flying objects. Do not hide underneath an overpass. This could potentially channel the already high wind speeds, making them even faster. Besides stronger winds, there is usually nothing to hold on to, and dirt, debris, and other projectiles can be channeled through, making you a susceptible target.
Should you be driving when a tornado comes, do not try and outrun it. Tornadoes can be dangerously fast, and can shift direction without warning. Pull over and park your car. If you see a noticeably lower area than the roadway you’re on, quickly make your way there and lie flat, covering your head with your hands. Otherwise, remain in your car with your seat belt on.
The following video helps explain what you should do during a tornado.
After a Tornado
Once the winds have died down and the threat has passed, you can start surveying the damage and checking for injuries. But remember, just because the tornado has passed doesn’t mean the danger is over. A study done after an Illinois tornado showed that half of the injuries caused by that tornado came during rescues, cleanup, and other activities following the tornado. So while it is important to take care of yourself, others, and your home once the tornado leaves, it is important to do so with caution.
Check for Injuries
Tornadoes can be deadly. Caring for the injured should be the first thing you do after a tornado. Clean open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. If you or someone near you is bleeding, apply pressure directly on the wound to help it stop. If you find somebody that is seriously injured, do not attempt to move them. Doing so could only injure them more. For more information on taking care of the injured, check out the CDCs post-tornado page.
Buildings can be badly damaged because of tornadoes, but you may not be able to see some of it. This includes some structural damage which can leave your home weakened. This is a potential hazard, so when the tornado passes and you start inspecting your home, be extra cautious.
If you smell natural gas, or suspect there might be substantial damage to your home, you should turn off your gas valve. This will keep the gas from coming through into your home so you don’t have to worry about breathing it in. Likewise, if there is too much gas floating around inside your home, that has the potential for an explosion should some sort of open flame come too close. This is why using a flashlight is a better option than a candle or torch when checking out the damages.
Similarly, shut off the main circuit breaker if you see any sparks, frayed wires, or other electrical damage. Sparks could jump up and catch your home on fire.
Cleaning Up Safely
Because there will probably be a lot of dangerous debris, be sure to wear the proper attire when cleaning up. Glass and other sharp objects can be anywhere, so wear sturdy boots, cloves, and long sleeves and pants. Pay attention to your surroundings, and don’t go into any building that has received extensive damage and may not be structurally sound. Remember, many injuries come after the tornado has passed.