Facility Prep 101: Severe Weather and Tornadoes
Preparedness tips from TASB Facility Services can help you get school facilities ready for severe weather and tornado season.
Are your facilities prepared for a season of tornadoes and severe weather? It’s best to be proactive and get ahead of the storm.
As is often the case with severe weather, storms can happen with little warning. Preparedness is key to being ready for tornadoes and severe weather. From identifying a safe shelter to monitoring your community’s warning system and establishing procedures to account for individuals in the building, here are some tips from TASB Facility Services to ensure you and your facilities are prepared for a tornado.
Keep up to date on weather reports and warnings in your area. You can use weather apps or local news stations to stay informed. A tornado watch means weather conditions are likely to produce a tornado in the watch area. Be ready to act quickly and take shelter, and check supply kits. Monitor radio and television stations for more information. A tornado warning communicates the imminent threat of a tornado. A warning means a tornado has been sighted in the area or has been indicated by radar. Take shelter immediately.
Have a Plan
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommend that the plan includes details on suitable places to take shelter and policies to ensure all personnel are accounted for. Also include where to go in the event of a tornado, how to communicate with co-workers and family members, and where to meet after the storm passes if you become separated from the group.
Identify Safe Spaces
Identify safe places that offer the most protection from a tornado. This could be a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest level. Avoid doors, windows, and outside walls; keep out of auditoriums, cafeterias, and gymnasiums that have flat, wide-span roofs. Stay in the center of the room and avoid corners as they attract debris.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Have a well-stocked emergency kit with items such as water, non-perishable food and can opener, first aid supplies, flashlights, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and batteries. Consider including other items such as a whistle to signal for help, a dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and wrenches or pliers to turn off utilities. Keep the kit in an easily accessible location in your shelter space.
Secure Your Property
Trim any loose or overhanging tree branches, secure any outdoor furniture and decorations, and check windows and doors to prevent them from being blown open.
Practice Tornado Drills
While schools perform regular tornado drills for students, it's just as important for facilities staff to practice periodically to ensure all workers know what to do in case of an emergency. Practice your shelter-in-place plans and update procedures based on lessons learned from exercises. Establish an alarm system to warn workers, test systems frequently, and have a way to communicate warnings to personnel with disabilities or who do not speak English.
After the Storm
Keep listening to your NOAA Weather Radio and local authorities for weather updates. If you are trapped, cover your mouth with a dust mask to avoid breathing contaminated air. Try to send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting. Phone systems are often busy or down after a disaster, so send texts or use social media instead of phone calls to communicate. Be sure to stay clear of fallen power lines, and do not enter damaged buildings until deemed safe. During clean-up, wear thick-soled shoes, protective clothing, and work gloves.
By following these tips, you can increase your chances of staying safe during a tornado and minimizing property damage.