They don’t call parts of Texas tornado alley for nothing. We get tornadoes a lot, so much so that the highest average annual number in the U.S. is in the Lonestar State. If you’ve ever experienced one, then you know that when a tornado comes ripping through your area, it can be scary stuff. March through May are the peak months in Texas, but tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, and when they do, they can cause severe damage to all types of structures, including power lines and other electrical equipment. Once you’ve weathered the storm, you need to prepare for the dangers that are present after a tornado strikes.
Be Alert to Your Surroundings
Most tornadoes come with little or no warning. That said, you can be better prepared when you know there’s one on the horizon. Pay attention to a few warning signs, like a dark, greenish sky or a wall cloud. Other signs to look for are large-sized hail and a sound that’s similar to a freight train.
Often, tornadoes accompany a thunderstorm and are quite visible to the naked eye. So, if the weather looks like it’s starting to get worse, take shelter. You’ll want to prepare for any kind of natural disaster, so be sure to have an emergency kit handy and a family emergency plan. It’s also a good idea to invest in a hand-cranked or battery-powered radio.
Invest in a portable cell phone charger so you can stay connected to better monitor the situation, and call loved ones to let them know how you’re doing.
Assess the Damage
Once the storm has passed, you’ll want to assess the damage. Watch out for debris, like glass, nails and other hazards. For safety, you’ll want to be wearing long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and a pair of sturdy shoes to survey the damage. Tornadoes can down power lines, so stay away from power lines you see on the ground and contact your local electric utility company. Keep in mind that just because a power line looks like it’s not active, doesn’t mean it’s not live and dangerous.
Never touch a downed power line, regardless of the situation. Downed power lines can still energize things around it. So, if these lines are near chain link fences or other metal objects, stay away and wait for authorities.
You’ll also want to be mindful of exposed electrical wiring in your home or place of shelter. Exposed wires can cause injuries such as electric shock, fires and electrocution. If the building you’re taking cover in is in bad shape, you might want to find shelter in another building. However, large rooms such as gymnasiums and auditoriums are not very safe due to possible falling debris.
When you’re inspecting your home and notice damage to structures, shut off electrical power. You’ll also want to shut off natural gas lines and any propane tanks. If a tornado strikes at night and it’s dark inside, reach for a flashlight rather than a candle.
Candles can increase the risk of an explosion or fire in a damaged home, especially if there’s a gas leak present. If you smell gas, contact the gas company or your local police or fire department. Try to clean up as best you can. There might be spilled medicines, flammable liquids, and other potentially hazardous materials that need to be cleaned up.
Assist Your Neighbors
Severe storms, such as tornadoes, can cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage. Tornadoes can also cause fatalities, and one of the significant causes comes from flying debris. Besides deaths, there may be many people injured after a tornado. Stepping on nails is a common injury, as are injuries caused by falling or rolling heavy objects. People may be injured due to electrocution or fires, too. Once you know that your family is safe from harm, help your neighbors if you can. Police, firefighters, relief organizations, and emergency management may ask for volunteers to help with cleaning up or assisting those in need. If you’re adequately trained and emergency response teams haven’t arrived, provide first aid to victims.
Tornadoes are scary at any age and are especially frightening to children. Be sure to explain the situation and reassure them that it’s a natural event.
Let them express their feelings of fear and be sure to listen and show them that you understand. Provide reassurance by spending time with your children and showing them love. One of the best things you can do is to include your children in any clean-up activities. Watching the home return to normal and giving them a job to do is comforting.
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