This winter has seen a spike in tornado activity, with twisters hitting parts of the country that are unaccustomed to having to deal with tornadoes. Because tornadoes can strike with little or no warning, it’s important to have a plan in place even if you run a facility not located in “tornado alley.” OSHA has a rather extensive website devoted to preparing for and responding to tornadoes, but here are some key things to keep in mind.
Know Your Alerts
With snowstorms, hurricanes, and other severe weather systems, managers have at least a day or more to make decisions and prepare for the worst. Tornadoes, however, can appear rapidly, so it’s important to heed the warnings from your local weather service and to know the difference between alerts:
Tornado Watch – This means tornadoes are likely to occur in your area. Be alert. Check your supply kits. Be ready to act quickly and take shelter. Monitor radio and television stations for more information.
Tornado Warning – This means a tornado has been sighted in your area or has been indicated by radar and you are facing an imminent threat. Take shelter immediately.
Your local emergency management office can provide information about your community’s tornado warning system.
Beware of the signs
If your area is under a Tornado Watch or Warning, keep an eye on the skies. Being able to quickly recognize the signs of an impending twister can help save lives. Here are some signs to look for:
- Dark, often greenish clouds or sky
- Wall cloud
- Large hail
- Funnel cloud
- Roaring noise
Have a designated safe zone
Set up a pre-designated area for employees to gather in the event of a tornado. The best locations are in safe rooms, basements, storm cellars, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement or if you are located in a high-rise building, choose a location in the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closets, interior hallways, etc.) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. There should be as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
Build—and maintain—your emergency kits
The Department of Homeland Security has a great website for how to build, store, and maintain your emergency preparedness kit. They recommend checking your kit every six months.
Review your checklist
When was the last time you checked your emergency preparedness checklist?
Prepare for outdoor and indoor scenarios
Not only do your employees need to know what to do when they are inside your building, they should also be prepared for getting caught outside. DHS has good info on internal and external preparedness. (http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes)
If you are caught outside in a tornado you should try to get under an overpass, right? Wrong! Check out these tornado myths and make sure your employees understand the realities. (https://www.wunderground.com/resources/severe/tornado_myths.asp?MR=1)
Practice saves lives
No matter how great your tornado disaster plans and your emergency kits are, what really saves lives is practicing your emergency plans. The employees of Tinker Federal Credit Union survived a direct hit from an E-5 tornado thanks to proper planning and practice. See how in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hVt_ZuG7p8
Even if your facility is in a location that sees almost no tornado activity, familiarizing your self with proper tornado preparedness and practicing your emergency plans can save the lives of your employees.
For help with developing an effective disaster preparedness plan at your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.