Be Prepared for Disaster – Tornadoes Close to Home

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This past week, we have been in the middle of significant tornado activity!  The tornado sirens sounded yesterday, May 25th here in Overland Park and we spent an hour and a half sheltered in the concrete stairwells of our ten story office building.  Our facility management team conducts fire safety drills on a regular basis and we all know what to do.  However, they do not perform tornado safety drills and it was a confusing process in the middle of a scary situation.  We weren’t sure where to stand or how far down the steps to go.  We weren’t supposed to block the ground floor stairwell.  With ten floors, there were people lining the stairs most of the way up the building and the human instinct was to get down and out. We had heard that a tornado funnel had formed at 135th and Metcalf… just 20 blocks south of us.  Keep in mind this was on the heels of the tragedy that happened in Joplin, Missouri on May 22nd where more than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured during a tornado.  (More on the Joplin tornado here)

As a result of how things went during the tornado warning, we have educated ourselves on the process and are better prepared to deal with a tornado scare next time.  But what if this had been the real deal?  We have learned our lesson and are thinking more proactively about what to do in the event of an emergency.  Take it from us…  don’t wait until you get a scare to educate yourself on what to do in the event of a disaster.  You owe it to yourself, your family, your friends and your staff to be prepared.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)  has a list of disasters and how to protect yourself and your loved ones during such an event.  We recommend that you review what to do before, during and after a tornado so that you are better prepared.  Whether you are in an office building, a school, or your home, it is your responsibility to know what to do in case a tornado develops and starts doing damage.  The FEMA web site has an easy way for you to learn what to do located here.

Here is an excerpt from the FEMA site on what to do during a tornado.

If you are in: Then:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building) Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Video of the Twister in Joplin