Tornadoes are a highly destructive weather event. In 2020, the United States saw 1,053 preliminary tornado reports, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. They can happen at any time in any place. Though there is nothing anyone can do to prevent them, there are plenty of things people can do to prepare for tornadoes. The first thing everyone can, and should, do to prepare is listen to your local weather service and make sure you understand the terminology used regarding tornadoes. As The Weather Channel explains, it's key to know the following definitions:
- Severe thunderstorm watch: A severe thunderstorm could develop in and around the area. A severe storm could produce hail with a diameter of three-fourths inches and/or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.
- Severe thunderstorm warning: This warning is issued once a severe thunderstorm has been physically observed or indicated on radar. This warning will last for a period of 30 to 60 minutes.
- Tornado watch: The weather service will issue a watch if the area's conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes. People living within an area under a watch are advised to stay vigilant.
- Tornado warning: A warning will be issued once spotters have sighted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar. Under a warning, people are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately.
But, you shouldn't wait to hear a tornado is on the way to get your supplies in order. Here are a few things you need to have handy before disaster strikes in every situation imaginable.
Inside Your Home
Fortunately, it's rather easy to prepare for a tornado in your home. All you need to do is prepare an emergency kit and store it somewhere safe.
Ready America Tornado Emergency Kit for Two
Ready America 70287 Tornado Emergency Kit Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
You could purchase a pre-packed emergency kit like the Ready America Emergency Kit available on Amazon for $59. In the bag, buyers will find enough provisions for two people including food bars, water pouches, safety goggles, a blanket and more.
To buy: amazon.com, $59
Runningsnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Emergency Radio With Flashlight
RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
Beyond what's in the bag, experts also advise people to purchase a battery-powered radio so they can stay tuned into the weather service even if the power goes out. Even better, you could get a solar and crank-powered radio that doubles as a flashlight for $30 on Amazon.
To buy: amazon.com, $30 (originally $46)
Blokkd Fireproof Document Bags
Fireproof Lock Box Bag Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
In your home, it's also critical to store all your important documents in a water and fireproof holder, like this one (amazon.com, $36). This way, even if disaster strikes, you'll have a much easier time recouping your losses. According to Missouri's Storm Aware site, the file protector should contain the following items: birth certificates, ownership certificates (autos, boats, etc…), social security cards, insurance policies, your will, and a household inventory list with the contents of your home and photos of your home, belongings, and any high-value possessions.
To buy: amazon.com, $36
Inside Your Car
If you happen to be inside a car when a tornado strikes, The Weather Channel suggests you drive as quickly to safety as possible. If there is a sturdy building, nearby get out of your vehicle and go inside.
However, if there are no buildings around, The Weather Channel suggests, "it might be better to pull over, stop the car (but leave it running so the airbags work), and crouch down below the windows." According to The Weather Channel, the car's airbags and frame could offer some amount of protection from the storm.
Do not, under any circumstances, get out of your car and seek shelter under the embankment of a bridge or overpass as these are likely to fall in a severe storm.
Protect Life First-aid Kit
Red and black first aid kit bag Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
And, like inside your home, it may be a good idea to keep a to-go bag ready in case of an emergency. Like the list above, make sure to add in water, food, and a blanket. Also add in a small first-aid kit filled with bandages, hydrogen peroxide, wipes, and a small pair of scissors. The Protect Life First-aid Kit (amazon.com, $25) comes ready with everything you'd ever need and is the ideal size for a trunk.
To buy: amazon.com, $25 (originally $30)
For a Shelter
Many times, people are forced from their homes during a tornado watch or warning. Those who live in mobile homes are especially urged to leave their residences during a warning as the structures cannot withstand strong winds. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, tornadoes claimed the lives of 41 individuals and injured hundreds more. Of those, 71 percent were in a mobile home or trailer park at the time of the tornado.
Defler Small First-aid Kit
Small First Aid Kit Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
But, before heading off to a shelter, it's key to pack a few things. First, bring along a few bottles of water and food bars for your family. Though a shelter will likely have these things, supplies can run out fast. Next, pack a change of clothes for each member of your family. You could even pack a mini first-aid kit (amazon.com, $10) just to be safe.
To buy: amazon.com, $10
Ambor Anti-theft Laptop Backpack
Laptop Backpack, Business Anti Theft Travel Backpack Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
And, to keep all your items super secure, pack them in an anti-theft backpack like this one by Ambor (amazon.com, $24) The backpack, which retails for $24, has a combination lock and durable metal zippers, making it difficult to get into. The pack even comes with a USB port and a power bank so you can charge your devices on the go. And, with its understated design and color, your valuable items won't stick out in a shelter.
To buy: amazon.com, $24
Though it's unpleasant to think about disaster striking, being prepared can at least provide a little peace of mind knowing you have a solid plan — and all the things you need — in place.