Have you been enjoying the ridiculously warm spring weather? I certainly have. However, all that sun and warmth comes at a price. As you can see by this graph from the National Climatic Data Center, the majority of tornadoes occur between April, May, and June, just in time to ruin your spring. However, tornadoes aren’t the only disaster that can damage your apartment, other natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes also cause millions of dollars in damage every year. Even though natural disasters cause huge property losses, nothing can price the loss of life. For that reason, we want to give you an overview as to what you should do in case you wind up in a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado.
Tornadoes and Hurricanes
Preparing for tornadoes and hurricanes is very similar, but hurricanes give you more warning before affecting your neighborhood. As for tornados, and other disasters that happen suddenly, the National Weather Service will issue a “watch,” which means conditions are favorable for the event happening in your area. However, if they issue a “warning,” this means the tornado or hurricane has been spotted or is currently taking place, so take cover immediately.
The first thing you need to do is designate an area to be your safe place. If you are in a high-rise apartment, designate a windowless room on the lowest floor possible. Basements and underground parking garages are good choices. Also designate a second spot within your own apartment in case you don’t have time to get to a lower level. When picking your safe spot make sure it is as centrally located as possible and has the least amount of windows possible. Interior hallways, closets, and bathrooms are excellent choices.
One other thing that I would highly recommend is purchasing a weather radio. Many storm fatalities occur at night when people are sleeping and do not hear the storm. I have personally been in a tornado where my family was awakened at night by the weather radio and we were able to make it to our basement before the tornado damaged our house.
Now that you have designated a spot to take shelter in, you should prepare a disaster kit to use during the storm.
Your kit should include:
- Battery powered radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Nonperishable food
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Extra cash or a credit card
- Extra keys to car, home, etc.
- List of phone numbers and places you could go after the storm
- Other possible needs depending on your situation that include baby supplies (formula, diapers, etc.), prescription medication, glasses, walking aids, etc
- Food and supplies for any pets you have
After the storm has passed, do not forget to check for fallen power lines or other objects such as tree limbs and debris that could fall and harm you. Sometimes the storm being over doesn’t necessarily mean that harm is out of the way.
There is a lot of controversy about what to do if you are caught in a car during a tornado. Some will tell you to try and get out of the way of the tornado, and others will tell you to get to a low lying ditch and find cover there. The one myth I would like to bust is DO NOT get under an overpass. Many people die trying to get under the overpass and are either sucked away through the wind tunnel or the overpass can collapse.
On whether or not you should get out of the way of the tornado or get in a ditch, Weather.com has a great article that discusses the positives and negatives of each option here.
Unlike a tornado or hurricane, earthquakes come without warning, which makes designating a safe spot wishful thinking. Do not try and escape the building when an earthquake starts, as this could just result in you getting injured by falling objects. What you need to do is know what type of place to look for when the earthquake begins. Try and immediately find a sturdy piece of furniture that you can take cover under and hold on to the furniture, bracing yourself. If you are not near any sturdy furniture, try and make your way to an inside corner of the building and cover your face and head with your arms.
Just because an earthquake occurs without warning doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself beforehand. Just as with a tornado or hurricane, a disaster kit can help make your situation after the disaster a lot easier. Your hurricane and/or tornado disaster kit that you have can easily double as your disaster kit for earthquakes. Make sure you know where your disaster kit is located so after the earthquake you can retrieve it and use any items that are needed, and that you periodically check expiration dates for items within it. Don’t try and make a run for your disaster kit during the earthquake, but wait until the shaking has stopped and then you can leave where you have taken cover.
Natural disasters are something that we are all at risk for. Having a plan, a disaster kit, and safe spot(s) can not only help save you some stress but also save your life.