While tornadoes cannot be predicted as early as hurricanes, current weather forecasting technology will often tell us when atmospheric conditions are right for their formation. By sticking around the homestead during a tornado watch, you can help protect yourself from the tremendous damage twisters can cause. Tornadoes come in all sizes, and while most are relatively small, some have been reported half a mile wide or wider. Don’t take chances with these terribly destructive storms.
A direct hit from a funnel cloud can turn a wooden home into a pile of chopsticks, toss a minivan around like tumbleweed, and knock trees down faster than Paul Bunyon. So if you live in a tornado-prone area, you might be wise to invest in an underground shelter, ala the Wizard of Oz. (You can use it as a root cellar or nuclear survival shelter as well.) Underground tornado shelters are the best way to protect life from a killer tornado.
If you live in an area not known for tornadoes, but suddenly one is bearing down on you and an underground shelter is not available, your next-best bet is the basement, preferably in the corner closest to the direction of the tornado. If the structure does not have a basement, head for an interior room, preferable with no windows, and close the door. If a table or other sturdy structure is present, get under it.
If you are in a mobile home, trailer or a vehicle, get out of it and head to a more permanent shelter. If no such shelter is available, or if caught in the open, head for the lowest ground possible and lie down with your hands above your head. Even lying in a drainage ditch is better than nothing, as long as you do not drown!
The old advice of standing in a doorway or hiding in the closet or under a table is better than running around panic-stricken, and it may just save your life. But there may also be a better way.
The best advice is to get down to your hand and knees in a controlled manner within the first three seconds of a quake, cover up and hold on. Once on your hands and knees, protect your head, neck and chest from falling debris by ducking your head and wrapping your hands and arms around your neck and head. If you can, crawl away from shelves and cabinets where things can slide, fall or be tossed off onto you. If there is a large heavy sofa or chair, hunker down next to it or under a heavy table and hold on. The heavy furniture may stop something from hitting you as it falls or collapses, and can block flying glass, which can fly up to 20 feet during a severe quake. You should also duck your head and cover with your hands and arms which may protect you from serious injury from shattering glass or falling objects.
Remember, the majority of deaths from earthquakes are caused by injuries to the head, neck and chest. Many quake-related injuries are caused by falls caused by the undulating floor in an earthquake. So get down before you fall and seek cover or cover yourself up. After the quake, fire is the greatest danger and many injuries are caused by people who step on broken glass or otherwise damage themselves due to a hasty and ill-conceived flight immediately following the quake. So don’t panic, keep your wits about you and move with caution and consideration.
If you live in an earth-quake prone area, prepare for it by ensuring your home meets current building standards and you have plenty of food and water stashed away for use after the quake. Consider fastening heavy furniture to the floor. Secure appliances to the floor and or wall, including your hot water heater.
If you live through the few minutes of the earthquake, and your house hasn’t collapsed, the greater damage may be yet to come. Broken gas lines can cause fires and your house may be condemned, leaving you homeless. Plan for such contingencies by having a plastic (non-sparking) wrench available to turn off your gas main and including a good tent and sleeping bag with your bug out bag. If your house looks like it has suffered serious damage, turn off the electricity at the box and turn off the water where it enters your house until your systems have been checked out and approved for use.