Tornado Awareness for Seniors and How to Be as Safe as Possible

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Donna Mae Scheib

Tornado Awareness for Seniors and How to Be as Safe as Possible

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on August 07, 2019

Tornado Awareness for Seniors and How to Be as Safe as Possible

Did you know that the typical time for tornadoes to strike are during the spring and summer months, but technically tornadoes can actually occur at any time of the year? Even though you might not live in one of the top geographical areas of the United States where tornadoes are routinely spotted like in the Midwest or Southeast, it is still important to know some simple tornado safety tips in how to prepare for a tornado and what to do if there is a tornado warning or watch.

With wind speeds of well over 200 miles per hour and often striking without advance warning, these intense funnels are really nothing to ignore or treat lightly. In fact, approximately 1,200 tornadoes touch down every year somewhere in the United States alone. But rest assured, there are several important actions that you can take to keep your loved ones safe if you are a caretaker or a family member of a senior.

How to Prepare for a Tornado – 6 Simple Steps

1. Determine a designated safe area at home

Find a safe area in your house. A basement, storm cellar, or small room on the ground level like a bathroom or closet that is away from outside doors, outside walls, any corners, and glass windows are ideal. Also, be cognizant of where any community shelters are located just in case you are away from home.

2. Inform neighbors of the senior

If your loved one lives independently, you might consider talking with several neighbors ahead of time so they can offer assistance if you are not available when it is needed. This extra precaution would also be helpful especially if the senior has any physical challenges that limit their mobility or if they have memory impairments that may prevent them from following through on the planned action.

3. Practice a simulation drill to ensure safety

Go through a practice drill to practice what to do if there is an actual tornado. It is recommended that you have a monthly drill to help build a memory of the process. Start with an alert (this can be a verbal explanation of what to expect) and then direct the senior to go to the designated safe area. Remember to take your cell phone (if you own one) and your pets (if you have any) with you. Turn on the battery-operated radio (see tip #3 Assemble a safety kit or box). Stoop down and cover your head with your arms. Hold this position for a few minutes before ending the drill. Then discuss and review the entire procedure and what was done well and what could be improved.  

4. Assemble a safety kit or box

Put together a tornado safety kit or box to include a flashlight and working batteries, a few candles and matches, assorted first aid supplies, water bottles for drinking and enough non-perishable food for approximately three days, medications also for approximately three days, ample spare clothing, warm blankets, a cell phone charger, common toiletries, spare keys to the house and car, a battery-operated radio, a whistle, credit card(s), and cash. In addition, if you have any pets, they will need sufficient food and containers used for feeding and any other necessary items to adequately care for them. Keep the safety kit/box in your designated safe area. Each month during the drill, you can check the kit/box and change out the non-perishable food and pet food when necessary and update the medications as needed.

5. Write out the important contact information

Prepare a list of emergency contacts complete with current addresses and phone numbers. If you use a cell phone, add this information to your contact list on your phone. You may want to consider including the fire department, police department, personal doctors, the local hospital, and any relatives, friends, and neighbors that may need to be called for assistance. If you have pet(s), add the pertinent veterinarian information.

6. Know the tornado warning or watch alerts

Do you know what the tornado warning or watch signs are for your community? Is there a television or radio alert? Or is there an outdoor siren or some notification sent to a personal phone? Maybe there are additional warnings that are utilized. Find is information out by contacting the City Hall or police and fire departments. Then verbally review the alert(s) used during the monthly drill for your respective city. In addition, understand the physical characteristics of a tornado. What are the observable signs? Usually, there is a mixture of these visual descriptors: a rotating funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching low-latitude cloud of debris, and a greenish sky. In addition, there might be a loud roaring sound similar to a freight train. There may also be large-sized hail accompanying strong winds.

What to Do if There is a Tornado Warning or Watch

1. Go to the designated safe area that was practiced

First, go to the designated safe area. Take your cell phone and any pets with you. If you are away from home, outside with no cover, or in a mobile home, go to the nearest community shelter. Do not try to outrun a tornado. If you are in a moving vehicle and cannot get to your home or to a community shelter, pull over to the side of the road and cover up with a coat or blanket.   

2. Be cautious and safe

Always be aware of any flying debris, exposed nails, and broken glass so as to avoid as much injury as possible. Also, be wary of any downed power lines and objects that may have come in contact with them. Remember to cover your mouth with a cloth or piece of clothing to avoid breathing any excess dust, etc.

3. Get the help you need

If anyone is injured, use the first aid supplies in your safety kit or box and, if necessary, call for emergency assistance (e.g., 911, the local hospital, fire department, or police department). Never try to move the person if they are seriously hurt as this may cause even more pain and injury to the individual. Likewise, if you or someone else is trapped, bang on a nearby wall or metal pipe, yell out, use a whistle (see tip #3 Assemble a safety kit or box), or reach out to family, friends, and neighbors via a phone or text message.

In Conclusion

Tornadoes can be a frightening experience for anyone but especially for the senior population. Since seniors tend to be physically less mobile and often quite frail, it may be quite difficult for them to respond as quickly as needed. And also, the help they want (and planned for) may not be available when needed. However, by being as prepared as possible and knowing what to do if there is a tornado warning or watch, the elderly will be more able to confidently and successfully deal with the situation if and when it should happen any time of the year.

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