Tornado Survival: No Shelter, No Basement, No Problem

It you live in an area that is vulnerable to tornadoes, you have undoubtedly heard the advice to head for your shelter or basement as a severe storm approaches. Hopefully, you’ve made tornado survival plans.

For an entire week prior to the April 2011 storms and tornados that devastated parts of my town and Northern Alabama in general, the local weather forecasters gave us warnings. They saw the emerging weather pattern as it traveled across the country and how dangerous it would likely be. If your weather forecaster starts talking like this, you need to start planning ahead. Many storms won’t give that much warning, but staying weather aware will give you enough lead time (usually hours at least) to enact your pre-determined tornado plan.

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1. Go to a friend’s house

Consider leaving your home and staying with a friend who has a shelter or basement. Of course, you must ask first! Don’t just assume there will be space for you or that they will even be home. If you’re invited to stay with your friend, you don’t want to be a burden, so bring enough food and water to last your family a minimum of three days. Be sure to take your emergency kit and important papers with you in case your home is damaged or you are not able to return to your neighborhood for a period of time.

2. Go to a community storm shelter

When you create your emergency binder,  include a list of community storm shelters in your area. Know where they are and the quickest route to get to each one. List the rules of the shelter – most don’t allow pets, some don’t First Aid Kit Hard Red... Best Price: null Buy New $35.88 (as of 11:15 EST - Details) allow large bags or bins, and many request that you bring your own bottles of water and snacks. Know that shelters often fill up quickly so don’t wait until the last minute to arrive. Community shelters are often cramped, sweaty, and full of frightened and/or bored children, but the safety and peace of mind they provide will be worth it.

3. Go to a public building

Some public spaces like churches, libraries, malls, large stores, and government buildings have storm shelters or “safe areas” built in for their employees and customers. Going to these locations and waiting out a storm is an option. Speak to a manager ahead of time and ask them what their policy is for allowing members of the public to use their location. Include this information in your emergency binder. If you choose this option, be sure to leave your home well ahead of the storm. Keep in mind that tornadoes can happen in the middle of the night and public buildings are unlikely to be open and available.

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