I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. Tornadoes are something that happen when Spring rolls in each year. Something that can have deadly consequences if ignored.
The most important aspect of tornado safety with kids is to have a plan. Some locations are safer than others, so make sure your plans match the weather forecast. You don’t want to plan to eat out for dinner on a day when thunderstorms are expected.
Check the Weather Forecast. Every Day.
The number one aspect to tornado safety when you live in Tornado Alley (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and Minnesota) is to be aware of the weather forecast. Check the forecast every day during the months of March, April, May, and June.
I use two sources for checking the weather. The first is weather.com. I first look at the Hourly Forecast page to review today’s weather, and then I check the 5 Day Forecast.
As an example, in the image to the right, you can see that I will need to pay particular attention to the weather next Monday as Thunderstorms are predicted. Sunday night I will check the hourly forecast in order to see approximately what time of day the thunderstorms are expected.
My second source for weather is a weatherman named Aaron Tuttle. He is based in Oklahoma City, which is west of where I live. Since thunderstorms tend to move from west to east, this is very convenient. I follow him on facebook (check him out at Aaron Tuttle Meteorologist if you live in Oklahoma also) so almost every morning I get an update of what the weather forecast is for the next few days. I have chosen to see his posts first in my news feed, so when he posts something it is always at the top.
National Weather Service Alerts: Pay Attention To Them
The National Weather Service is the organization that issues various watches, warnings and advisories to keep people informed of applicable winter season, severe weather, or flooding activity.
Many cell phone carriers push text alerts with a loud alert on your smartphone. My carrier doesn’t, so I use Aaron Tuttle’s app called ATsWeatherToGo. In addition to the NWS warnings, this app gives you three additional useful warnings which occur up to 15 minutes before an NWS warnings are issued: a ‘Twisting Storm Approaching’, ‘Dangerous Storms Approaching’, and ‘Storms in Area’. If you decide to use this app, make sure you follow the instruction in order to activate these alerts. They are not turned on by default.
Where To Be During Severe Weather
Now that you know some options to being weather aware, how does this help you? The main benefit is to ensure that you are in a safe location. It is is generally dangerous to be outside, in a mobile home or in a vehicle during a tornado watch. If you stay weather aware, you can avoid these situations. For example, if I know a thunderstorm with tornado potential is due to hit town around 6pm, then I will leave work a few minutes early in order to get all of my kids picked up and get home before then.
If your kids are in school, they do tornado drills and should know where to go when sirens sound. On a day when severe weather is expected, you can remind your kids to follow the drill they have learned and tell them you will pick them up when it is safe.
Because of the topography of our city and where our house is in relationship to the river, we have rarely had the tornado sirens sound. On the rare occasion when it has, my husband and I quickly lined up the various toddler/crib bed mattresses in the hallway. We moved each kid into the hallway (our designated safe place) and they all just stayed asleep.
A few weeks ago though, we had a tornado go through about 30 minutes north of us. We were under a tornado watch which prompted our burglar alarm system to emit its warning beeps during dinner. This had never happened before, so we explained to the kids about the tornado but explained that it was ~30 miles north of us.
When my daughter R (age 4) heard this that is was a tornado warning, she got a bit anxious. She has a friend in her class that had his family’s home completely destroyed last year by a tornado. We explained that when the sirens went off, that we would all go to the hallway. She was a little bit unsatisfied with the simplicity of the routine, so that is partially what inspired this post. We needed to formalize our plan a little bit to help us feel more prepared.
The Tornado Drill Plan
As I mentioned, I am working on a more detailed plan to talk about with our kids. I have outlined the beginnings of our plan below:
- When A Tornado Watch Is Issued:
- Adults get their smartphones with weather app installed and keep it close by.
- Have each person put their shoes in the hallway.
- Check that the flashlight and weather radio is in the hallway.
- See my post Two Great Hand Crank LED Flashlights For On The Go for our multi-tool that combines both functions.
- When A Tornado Warning Is Issued (When Sirens Sound)
- Go to the hallway and close all of the doors.
- Remind kids that they cannot leave the hallway.
- Use arms and neck to protect head.
What do you include in your Tornado Drill Plan? If you have something in your plan that I am missing, please leave me a note in the comments below.
After A Tornado
I haven’t been through a tornado, so I will need to do some research on what to do after one. Sometime in the future, I will write about tornado clean up and will come back here and post a link to that post.
Have you been through a tornado or other natural disaster? If you feel comfortable sharing, please share your experiences in the comments below.