Do You Know What to Do in the Event of a Tornado?
Tornadoes are a devastating force of nature that seemingly come out of nowhere. They have been known to cause serious injury, death and destruction of entire communities. You cannot control the weather, but as the saying goes, an ounce of preparation can save the lives of many.
Use these tips to help prepare your workplace in the event of a tornado.
What’s the risk of tornado? Depending on your location there is a greater risk of tornado. Data from AccuWeather states that “Dixie Alley” has the highest occurrence of tornadoes in the United States, followed by “Tornado Alley.” Dixie Alley consists of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and northern Texas. “Tornado Alley” starts in central Texas and extends north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and eastern South Dakota. Florida makes the list due to its overwhelming number of thunderstorms, which are a known precursor for tornadoes. Residents in Tornado Alley should be on heightened alert during the months of April, May and June, and residents of Dixie Alley should be on heightened alert October, November and December. Its important to note that these states are at higher risk, however tornadoes can occur anywhere at any time so take the appropriate amount of caution.
Create a safety plan. Identify all possible sheltering places on the property and schedule practice drills with your staff. Employees should know where to find shelter, and how to assist customers to shelter. You should also create a process to account for all employees after an emergency.
Designate a safe sheltering place. An underground storm shelter is recommended as the safest option, however if this is not possible, create a sheltering place in an interior room. Enclosed rooms on the ground floor with no windows, such as bathrooms, closets or beneath a stairway are ideal. If the need to take shelter arises, take extra precaution by protecting your head and neck, and cover your body with blankets to avoid being hit by possible flying debris. Avoid sheltering near windows, doors and outside walls that can be carried away in high winds.
Know the warning signs. The warning signs of a tornado include loud roaring like that of a train, sudden high winds, funnel shaped clouds, rainless hail storms, a dark green skyline and sudden stillness in the sky.
Sign up for weather alerts. Both the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide emergency weather alerts, along with some local agencies. Some communities also use siren systems to alert residents, so find out the specific resources available in your city or town.
Know the difference. There are two tornado alerts to be aware of and it’s important to understand the differences. A “TORNADO WATCH” means that weather conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes. If a tornado watch is issued, you should stay abreast of the weather forecast through either the EAS or NOAA for relevant updates. This is also the time to prepare; make sure you are near a storm shelter or safe room in the event you need to seek shelter. A “TORNADO WARNING” means one or more tornadoes have been spotted in the immediate area and there is imminent danger. If a tornado warning is issued seek IMMEDIATE and substantial shelter.
For information on your responsibility as an employer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides several resources.