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10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe During a Tornado

A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornados can be deadly and so it's important to understand how to stay safe should one occur.

Tornadoes are more common in the United States than any other country in the world. While tornadoes have been documented in every state, some regions and states are far more prone to being affected. It's also important to remember that tornadoes can happen at any time of year.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever to be prepared for a tornado. Potential evacuation and displacement of already vulnerable communities has paved the way for one disaster to layer upon another. Here, our experts share tips to help families and communities stay safe when tornadoes strike.

PREPARE

  • 1. Talk about tornadoes. Spend time as a family discussing tornadoes. Explain that a tornado is a natural event, like rain, and not anyone’s fault. Use simple words that young children can understand.
  • 2. Know the signs of a tornado. Tornadoes can form quickly, and often before an official warning can be issued. Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds; large hail, cloud of debris or funnel clouds; roaring noise. Teach these signs to your children.
  • 3. Learn about caregivers’ disaster plans. If your child’s school or childcare center is in an area that could be hit by a tornado, learn its emergency plan. Review these details with your children.
  • 4. Practice tornado drills. As a family, practice what to do in a tornado. Have everyone go to your safe place as quickly as possible. Practicing what to do helps reduce the time it takes to respond in a true emergency.

DURING A TORNADO

  • 5. Seek shelter. The safest place in a tornado is in the interior part of a basement. If possible, get under something sturdy, like a heavy table. If you do not have a basement or storm cellar, consider an interior room of your house without any windows, such as a bathroom or closet. It’s important to stay on the lowest floor of your home.
  • 6. If outside, seek cover. If you are outside, in a vehicle or live in a mobile home, take shelter. Seek a safe place in a designated shelter or nearby sturdy building. If there is no safe building nearby, life flat in a low spot on the ground and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • 7. Wear a helmet for extra protection. Families should always go to a tornado shelter or safe room first. But, if one isn’t available and you must take cover outside, wearing a helmet may provide additional protection.

FOLLOWING A TORNADO

  • 8. Stay informed. After a tornado, continue listening to the radio or TV for updates and instructions.
  • 9. Involve children in recovery. Once it’s safe and the tornado has passed, include your children in clean-up activities (if it is safe to do so). Knowing that many communities have already been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you can also help others in your community to recover by donating to a local food pantry or providing support to first responders.
  • 10. Listen to children. Encourage your child to express feelings of fear, and listen attentively when they do so. Show understanding and offer reassurance. Tell your child the situation is not permanent and provide physical reassurance through time spent together and displays of affection.
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