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Be prepared: tornado safety precautions

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- People have recently witnessed what a tornado can do to a town in Kansas. 

Tornado season officially started in March but people can never be too cautious to review tornado safety procedures. Before and during storm season, it is essential to have planned methods in place so families can practice what to during a tornado. A tornado can do a massive amount of damage in minutes; therefore it is vital to have a family tornado plan in place. It should be based on the kind of structure people live in. 

People should know where they can find shelter within minutes and should practice a family tornado drill at least once a year with a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. 

Flying debris is one the many dangers tornadoes present. Storing items that can act as protective covering such as mattresses, sleeping bags and thick blankets can serve as a quick shield that may save a persons life. 

When a tornado watch is issued, people should make sure all safety supplies are stocked and available. People should turn on a local television channel or National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. 

In public places, people should have knowledge where the nearest shelter or most interior room away from windows and outside doors are, as well as the quickest way there. 

If people plan to build or buy a house in the local Wichita area, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior "safe room". At McConnell all buildings have signs that will direct you to where the closest tornado shelter is. 

In houses with basements, people should protect themselves under sturdy protection such as a heavy table or work bench. They should know where heavy objects lay on the floor above such as refrigerators and furniture. During a tornado, housing structures can collapse and bring these objects through the floor which could crush them.
 
In structures without basements, in dormitories or apartment buildings, people should go to the lowest level of the structure towards a center room, under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. People should crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bathtub may provide shelter. 

The American Red Cross suggests a few items to have in a disaster supplies kit:
· battery powered radio
· flashlight
· spare batteries
· First Aid Kit
· canned and other non-perishable food items
· hand operated can-opener
· bottled water
· sturdy shoes and work gloves
· written instructions on how to turn off your building's utilities

If a tornado "watch" is issued in the area, there is a possibility of a tornado forming and people should remain alert for approaching storms. If there is a "warning" issued in the area, a tornado has been spotted and people should move to their pre-designated place of safety. 

After a tornado passes, people should remain calm and listen to local officials and emergency management personnel. Tornados have the power to move heavy objects, which can result in dangerous debris and downed power lines. After a storm people should use a flashlight, not candles, to inspect damage and check for any gas leaks. 

They should turn off gas valves and the electricity if there are any signs of gas leakage or live-wire sparks. 

For more questions on tornado safety please contact the readiness and emergency management flight at 759-3401.