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Dealing with a tornado or thunderstorm

Plan ahead.  Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of a tornado warning.

Know the safest location for shelter in your home, workplace and school.  Load bearing walls near the center of the basement or lowest level generally provide the greatest protection.

Know the location of designated shelter areas in local public facilities, such as schools, shopping centers and other public buildings.

Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, flashlight and a supply of fresh batteries, first-aid kit, water and cell phone.

Make an inventory of household furnishings and other possessions.  Supplement it with photographs of each room.  Keep in a safe place.

What to do when a thunderstorm approaches your area:

Seek safe shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning.  Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder.  You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds.  Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder.  Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall!

When you hear thunder, run to the nearest large building or a fully enclosed vehicle (soft-topped convertibles are not safe).  You are not safe anywhere outside.

If you are boating or swimming, get to land and shelter immediately.

Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity.  Unplug appliances not necessary for receiving weather information.  Use plug-in telephones only in an emergency.

What to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area:

Quickly move to shelter in the basement or lowest floor of a permanent structure.

In homes and small buildings go to the basement and get under something sturdy, like a workbench or stairwell.  If no basement is available, go to an interior part of the home on the lowest level.  A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible.

In schools, hospitals and public places move to designated shelter areas.  Interior hallways on the lowest floors are generally best.

Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.  Broken glass and wind blown projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than collapsed buildings.  Protect your head with a pillow, blanket or mattress.

If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.  If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter you should immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.

If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.

As a last resort, stay in the car with the seat belt on.  Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.

If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

If you are boating or swimming, get to land and shelter immediately.

After a tornado/thunderstorm:

Inspect your property and motor vehicles for damage.  Write down the date and list damages for insurance purposes.  Check for electrical problems and gas leaks and report them to the utility company at once.

Watch out for fallen power lines.  Stay out of damaged buildings until you are sure they are safe and will not collapse.  Secure your property from further damage or theft.

Use only approved or chlorinated supplies of drinking water.  Check food supplies.

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