What Should I Do Before a Tornado?

  • Make sure that you review your Family Emergency Plan with your family and that everyone knows what they should do.
  • Make sure that your Emergency Kit is fully stocked and that your family knows where it is. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for several days, in the event of widespread power outages or disruption of public utilities.
  • Establish a safe zone in your home and place of work (preferably in the basement or in a small interior room or hallway) and make sure that everyone knows where to go.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio (a special radio that provides around-the-clock weather information) or an AM/FM Radio in your house that everyone knows how to use. Make sure that your radio is battery-operable and that you have a fresh supply of batteries on hand.
  • Monitor weather forecasts before you go on a trip or spend an extended period of time outdoors.
  • Learn tornado warning signs. Although tornadoes vary greatly in their appearance and can offer little or no warning, it can be helpful to be aware of signs that a tornado could be imminent.
    • A dark, often greenish sky.
    • A wall cloud, particularly if it is rotating.
    • Large hail. Although not always, storms that produce tornadoes frequently produce large hail as well.
    • A loud roar, similar to the sound of a freight train.
    • Tornadoes may occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm and be quite visible. They may also be embedded in rain and not be visible at all.

What Should I Do During a Tornado Watch?

  • Listen to battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio or television stations for updated information.
  • Be alert to rapidly-changing weather conditions. Watch for signs of a possible tornado.
  • Know where your family members are. Use this opportunity to review your Family Emergency Plan. Even if a tornado does not strike, there is still a likelihood of severe weather conditions.
  • Listen for warning sirens. This a series of all-hazards, outdoor sirens spread throughout the city. Because of the unpredictability and sudden appearance of tornadoes, it may not be possible to provide advance warning. However, if you hear the warning siren, immediately seek shelter and tune into a local radio or television station.

What Should I Do During a Tornado Warning?

  • Polk County Outdoor Warning Siren FAQ Video
  • Listen to your battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio or television stations for updated information. If the electricity should go out, you will still be able to receive emergency information on a battery-operated device.
  • If you’re at home, go to your pre-identified safe zone to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. If possible, seek shelter under a piece of large, sturdy furniture, such as a large table or workbench to protect yourself from falling debris or flying objects. Stay away from windows. Do NOT open them.
  • If you’re not in your home, seek shelter in the basement or an interior room of a nearby, sturdy building. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a low spot with your arms and hands protecting your head. Contrary to popular belief, seeking shelter underneath a highway or railroad overpass does not provide any measurable safety.
  • Remain in your safe zone or shelter until you have received an all-clear signal.

What Should I Do After a Tornado?

  • Continue listening to your local radio or television stations, and your NOAA Weather Radio for updated information.
  • Review your Family Emergency Plan and follow through with your communications plan. If all of your family members are not present, report to your family’s pre-designated meeting point, unless emergency officials direct otherwise.
  • Assess any damage to your home or immediate surroundings. Be aware of any potential hazards (ruptured gas lines, structural damage to your home, downed electrical lines, localized flooding, etc.) Immediately report any injuries or hazards via 9-1-1. Advise your family and neighbors as well.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Call 9-1-1. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Never enter any building that appears to have suffered significant structural damage, or that poses any other hazards.
  • Do not enter any disaster area. Your presence there will simply add to the confusion and may hamper emergency response efforts. A public message will be sent in the event that volunteers are needed.
  • Only use the telephone for emergency calls. Once you have notified your pre-identified emergency contact person that you are okay, let them notify other family or loved ones. Telephones are frequently overwhelmed in a disaster situation and need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.

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