Tornadoes, Tornadoes, Tornadoes: Preparation is the Key!
After the current unfortunate events in Joplin on Sunday May 22, 2011, I thought I should write about something that is on everyone’s mind: tornadoes. Tornadoes are like sunburns. You never really think about it happening to you until you feel the sting after-the-fact.
On May 24, 2011 a line of tornadoes made its way through the Oklahoma plains, as well as parts of Kansas, Texas, and Missouri. Lucky for my neck of the woods, we had plenty of warning of what was heading our way. However, there was a lack of precautions by many even with the large warning.
I work at a large independent living facility. The facility has at least two hundred patients and not many staff. I am a home health aide, so my job entitles only taking care of one of the two hundred patients. In addition, there were only four other staff members for the facility, four cooks and one front counter assistant. Two other home health aides were also present. The alarms for the facility did not go off until ten minutes prior to the tornado producing storm was to hit. If you consider this facility has four floors and only 2 elevators, this was not enough time.
To add salt to injury, there was not a plan in place for the facility. When I walked in for my shift, knowing there was some severe weather close, I asked what the residents were supposed to do. My only answer was that the residents should either stay in their apartments or go down to the exercise room on the second floor. That room holds only fifty people, and even that is a tight fit.
By the time that the sirens started, the limited staff and home health aides began running the floors to knock on doors and pulling people down to the designated second floor safe shelter. People were crapped to the max into the room, and then people had to begin being stored in other areas of the building that were less safe.
By the time we had everyone is safe spots, the danger was over. This really made me start to make me think that what if we were hit with a storm similar to that of Joplin and we simply were not ready, even with the large warning time frame. When the rotation was going over the building, we still had people on the third and fourth floor making their way down. So, with this in mind, I thought I would write a small hub about being prepared for these situations, for individuals and companies.
Some helpful tips:
· Don’t wait until disaster strikes to start thinking about precautions. Especially during tornado season, have writing instructions passed out to employees and posted on message boards. Families should have this conversation too and have a game plan should there ever be the threat of tornadoes. You want everyone to know where to meet and what they need to bring. Some employees may be in charge of taking care of certain things during the emergencies. You will also want to designate someone in the family to grab the emergency essentials.
· If forecast is calling for bad storms, have an emergency bag made up with everything you may need during the tornado. For those of you living in tornado alley with many tornadoes throughout the year, you should have one of these ready at all times. The bag should contain bottles of water and granola bars should you be trapped for a long period of time. The bag should also have flashlights, first aid kit, and a battery powered or wind up radio.
· Make sure to have your tennis shoes on during the storm. If you have to climb out of rubble, you want shoes that will keep your feet safe from nails and other sharp objects. Try to have on heavy duty material on, such as jeans and a heavy jacket. This will help protect you from flying debris. Also, the hood from your jacket can protect your head.
· Move pillows, blankets, and mattresses into your safe place. This is especially important if you do not have a basement because flying debris will be more likely.
· Don’t wait until the last minute to begin to take cover. This will only cause you to panic and not think clearly while trying to find cover. Watch the weather throughout the day, especially if a line of storm producing tornados is heading your way. Keep children calm as well. Try to make them understand that taking cover doesn’t mean that you will get hit. Tell them it is like wearing a helmet while you ride your bike or buckling up in the car, you are doing it just in case something bad happens.
· Don’t ever stay in your car with a tornado in the area. Get out ASAP and get into a building or a ditch. Many of those that were killed in the Joplin tornado were killed while in their cars. Also, evacuate mobile homes! They are like being in a car and will easily be sucked up and thrown.
Just a few tips to try to help keep those safe that may be experiencing some deadly tornadoes in the next couple of weeks. Keep those who have already been affected in your thoughts.