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Red Cross director urges public to be prepared in case of tornado

Nick Shepherd • May 5, 2013 at 1:54 AM

After devastating tornadoes hit parts of Greene, Washington and Sullivan counties in recent years, many people were asking: what could I have done to better prepare myself and my family?

There are many steps that can be taken to prepare for a tornado, and one step should be done before all others.

“The best thing we can do is prepare ahead of time,” said Glenda Bobalik, Northeast Tennessee executive director of the American Red Cross. “When we hear there’s a watch, we need to look at what our plan is and check our supplies.”

One of the most important things is to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning, and to have a plan in place for both.

A watch means conditions for a tornado are favorable while a warning means a tornado has been spotted.

If a tornado warning has been issued, Bobalik recommends going to the lowest level of your home and to the inner most room. If the home has only one level, go to the innermost room.

“You want as many walls between you and the outside as you can,” she said. “Like in my house, I live in a split foyer, so if I go in the center on the lower level, I’m actually at a straight shot to the front door, so that is not a good place.”

The reason is because flying debris could penetrate outer walls. The Red Cross also recommends staying away from all windows and outer doors.

Typically, bathrooms and closets make the best spots if a tornado hits.

If you would feel more comfortable going to someone else’s home in the event of an emergency, make plans for how to get over to that person’s house. It is not recommended to travel if there is a tornado warning.

Another key to preparing for a tornado is to have plenty of water on hand. Bottled water is good, but old soda bottles or milk jugs filled with tap water will work as well.

A battery-operated radio should be an essential item in a tornado supply kit. A radio would help keep track of all the latest developments with the storm and also prevent you from feeling isolated, Bobalik said.

Another important item is a flashlight. The Red Cross doesn’t recommend candles because of the chance for a house fire. If you take regular medications, make sure all of the medication is stored in one spot for quick access in an emergency.

A tornado can strike at any time, but the most severe weather that could lead to a tornado will happen between now and around June because of the changing weather patterns, Bobalik said.

If a tornado does strike, the Red Cross will be there to help.

“Our primary role is to make sure the people affected have shelter, have a place to stay, so we open shelters,” Bobalik said. “We make sure people have food so we provide meals, and we work with other agencies and groups to make these happen.”

For more tips on how to prepare yourself for a tornado or to make a plan for other disasters, visit the Red Cross’ website www.redcross.org.

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