Tornado SurvivalCrystal Calhoun
Tornado Survival is a regular part of an Oklahoma resident’s routine. Some have storm shelters on their property. Others, have identified either the basement or another well protected location inside their house in the event of a tornado. But what should be done if you are directly affected by a tornado? What do you do if your house and property has been devastated?
In 1979, I survived a tornado in Wichita Falls, TX. The family had huddled in the hallway, the most central part of the house. I distinctly remember the freight train sound as the tornado ripped apart our house. As things calmed down, my father insisted that we remain still and covered us up. He told us that it was just the eye passing. And sure enough, the other half of the tornado passed seconds later. When we got up, there was little left to recognize. Most of the house was gone. The roof had been removed and many of the walls were blown down. What I remember most, is the itching sensation of the fiberglass insulation that penetrated everything.
Protecting and providing for your family immediately following a tornado is challenging. Many of you have bags prepared with essential items to get you by in the event of such a disaster. In my Bug Out Bag list for Natural Disasters, I list a 5 gallon bucket. The bucket will provide an extra layer of protection from flying debris. When a tornado hits, debris penetrates everything. If you have a Bug Out Bag that has survived a tornado, IMMEDIATELY check the contents. Ensure that there is no insulation or other contaminants that has penetrated you or your family’s supplies. Drinking water and food will need to be checked very carefully. I distinctly remember finding our refrigerator and looking inside, the carton of eggs was still there. Upon opening it, not one egg was inside. The carton was full of debris. Outside, I found all 12 eggs lying on the ground as if someone had placed them inside an invisible carton; not one shell cracked or broken. I cracked open all 12 eggs looking for one that was not contaminated. All 12 had been infused with fiberglass and other debris.
After you have checked your supplies for debris and contaminants, begin to determine if you have a suitable place to stay. HOLD OFF ON THE PHONE CALLS until you have a place to stay. Everyone in the affected area and outside agencies are trying to use the phone system to determine what type of response is necessary. It is not unusual for the phone towers to be down or at least overwhelmed with activity. If you are in the near a facility with a tornado shelter, school, church, commercial building, attempt to go there first. Emergency responders tend to visit schools, churches and other designated tornado shelter before checking individual homes. Also, emergency aid utilizes these locations to setup first aid and supply centers.
If you have been injured in the tornado, attempt to remain as calm and clear headed as possible. It is very difficult to be rational after such an event. Most people are in shock. Attempt to determine what type of injury you have. If your family is with you, have them assist you. This applies to injuries you have or another family member has. Conduct the first aide basics, Start the breathing, Stop the bleeding. Most of your bandages may be contaminated, but using one is better than nothing. You can render better aid once help arrives or you get to an aide station.
Getting to help means you will most likely be on foot. If you have a vehicle, be aware that many streets may be blocked. Everything in the affected area will no longer look the same. Attempt to identify a land mark you recognize. Most of your navigation will be dependent on your ability to recognize cardinal directions; North South, East West. This is easier said than done if the sky is still overcast, or it is dark following a tornado. If you have a compass, use it. For those of you that have a hand held GPS, mark hospitals and schools as waypoints ahead of time. This will allow you to navigate toward them using your GPS.
Remember, preparing for a tornado is not just about putting your supplies in one place. It’s also about scenario rehearsal for what you and your family needs to do after one hits.