The movie Twister, made in 1996, captures the true essence of the power and force of a tornado. These immense columns of violently spinning air, spare nothing that comes their way, be it heavy trees or huge buildings. In just a few seconds, they can bring down huge structures of steel and concrete and wipe out any trace of human occupation that lies in their path. It always helps to be well informed about them and keep certain safety tips in mind, to help protect oneself better in case of being caught in its fury.
Know the Signs
The best form of safety from tornadoes is being able to read their signs, so that you are able to take necessary steps in times of emergency. Some sure signs are:
- A pale green or greenish black color to the sky.
- A strange calm after a thunderstorm.
- Clouds moving fast in the sky, specially in a rotating motion and collecting at one spot.
- A slow gurgling sound that increases into a roar. An approaching tornado sounds like the rail road trains and jets.
- A funnel-shaped rotating cloud on the horizon that seems to pull trees and other debris into it.
- Debris falling from the sky.
When at Home
Vacate the upper floors and try to reach the lower floors. The basement is the safest place in the house to be during a tornado. In case you can't reach the basement, look for some room in the interior of the house, which does not have any windows. Try to get under some sturdy object, like a table or a stairwell. Lie down and protect your head by covering it with your hands.
If possible, cover yourself with a mattress or blankets that would act as a cushion against heavy objects that may fall on you. As bathtubs and commodes are directly anchored to the ground they are sometimes the only things left behind after this natural disaster has hit an area. Getting into a bathtub and lying in it sideways with some form of thick, soft material, like a mattress or quilt covering you, could help protect yourself.
When in School
If your school has a basement, reach there. In case there isn't one, go to the interior rooms or halls. Avoid the auditorium, gym, and rooms with doors and windows. Stay away from any glass structure in the room, say a door, window, or a wall, as these glass structures may shatter during a tornado sending splinters all around. Crouch down and try to protect your head from injury by covering it with your hands.
When Out in the Open
In case you are on foot or riding a bicycle, try to get off the road and get into the basement of some house close by. If no such option is available, lie down flat in a ditch or in a low lying area if you can find one. Taking shelter under a culvert could be a good option if only the tornado is not accompanied with rain, as rains may cause flash floods, that would drain the culvert. Though some people have been able to drive away to safety when this natural disaster occurs, many have died while trying to do so. It might seem that you are moving away from it, but you never know if you are actually driving right into its path.
When in Large Buildings
The most important thing to remember in case you are in large commercial places, is to stay calm! Try to reach the lowest floor. Go to smaller rooms that are in the interior of the building. Stay away from areas enclosed with glasses, or rooms having a wide span roof. In case the building has an evacuation plan, follow it in an orderly way. Do not panic.
- Southwest corner of the house is the safest place. In fact, if the tornado is approaching from the southwest direction, then reaching the southwest corner of the house means that you are directly standing in its path. In case you know the direction from which it is coming, avoid hiding in that direction of the house.
- Opening the windows of the house will equalize the pressure in the house with that outside. If a tornado is close to a house, its strong winds will pull open the windows itself. By opening the windows, you would in fact make it easier for the debris flying outside to enter the house.
- Highway overpasses are safe places. By reaching a highway overpass, you would in fact expose yourself more, as you would be above the ground level.