It has been a year since a massive tornado cut through Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The storm killed 25 people and injured more than 300 others, and did more than a billion dollars’ worth of damage.
We at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm want to make sure that no one is ever in the position of being unprepared for a tornado again. That is why we have created this guide for tornado preparation, to give us all the best possible chance of staying safe during these extreme weather events. We have taken the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Ready.gov, American Red Cross, and the National Weather Service to create this guide.
Identifying the warning signs of a tornado
Tornados can be unpredictable in the places they start and the paths they take, as Nashville and Cookeville learned last year. Tornados can be caused by other storms, too (like hurricanes on the coast, or thunderstorms here in the central part of the country), which can further reduce the amount of time you have to seek shelter.
However, according to the CDC, there are a few weather signs which indicate the approach of a tornado:
- A dark or green-colored sky
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud
- Large hail
- A loud roar that sounds like a freight train
If you see the signs, you should seek shelter immediately. If you are under tornado watch, then it is time to prepare your home and do your best to get to safety.
Preparing your home for a potential tornado in Middle Tennessee
There are some proactive steps you can take to prepare your home, family, and pets in the event of a tornado. The Red Cross recommends the following actions:
- Create a tornado plan for your family, which includes:
- Discussing safe places to go in the event of a storm, including emergency shelters
- Learning emergency evacuation or shelter protocols for your place of business of children’s school(s)
- Having a pet carrier stowed in an easy-to-find location
- Building an emergency kit/ go bag
- Signing up for emergency alerts for your town, county, and/or state
- Make a checklist of items to bring inside, and then follow that list.
- Keep your landscaping tidy by removing dead limbs and trees and keeping debris out of your yard. If you have an outdoor fire pit, make sure the wood is stacked neatly and away from the home. (Bonus: this discourages pests from moving from the wood pile and into your walls during cold months, too.)
- Install permanent shutters over your windows. If you cannot install shutters, you can board them up or, at the very least, use masking tape to create a giant “X” over the glass, which may reduce the risk of shattering.
- Reinforce your garage doors. Per the Red Cross, “Garage doors are often damaged or destroyed by flying debris, allowing strong winds to enter. As winds apply pressure to the walls, the roof can be lifted off, and the rest of the house can easily follow.”
What should I put in my emergency kit?
An emergency kit can be a lifesaver during any extreme weather event. It should contain the following:
- Bottled water
- Shelf-stable, ready-to-eat foods like granola bars, dried fruit, and cereals
- Hand sanitizers
- A wind-up radio
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Plastic bags
- A first aid kit with antibacterial scream/spray, bandages, gauze, and other essentials
- Gloves, socks, masks, and safety glasses (to wear after the storm is through)
- A cellphone charger/ battery pack
- Copies of your homeowners’ insurance policy and deed to the house
Preparing your car for a tornado
Every single source says to avoid being in a car during a tornado, as attempting to outrun a tornado is a bad idea. However, you should prepare your car, anyway, in case a tornado hits and you are unable to seek shelter in time. Roger Edwards of the Storm Prediction Center of Norman, Oklahoma says that if you are in a moving vehicle with no place to go, the least dangerous move is to “drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado.” If that is not possible, he suggests:
If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible – out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
These suggestions are echoed by Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management.
You should also keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Make sure this second go-bag includes road flares, so that you will be visible when emergency services come through.
Creating an escape plan
Part of your family’s tornado plan should include an escape plan: how to get out of your home and into shelter quickly, and where to meet if you are separated when the warning comes.
At this time, there are no specially designated tornado shelters in Nashville, but such information should be announced over the radio, either as part of the emergency broadcast system, or by the National Weather Service. You can also follow the Service via Twitter: @NWS.
Part of your plan should also include teaching small children your name, your telephone number, and the family’s address. This way, if the children are sheltered away from you, the adults can contact you after the event.
What to do if you’re stuck in your house during a tornado
If you cannot leave your home, you need to find the safest place in the home in which to shelter. Per Ready.gov:
- Go to a safe room, basement, or storm cellar.
- If you are in a building with no basement, then get to a small interior room on the lowest level. Often, this is an interior bathroom, closet, or even an interior hallway (make sure to pull down any wall hangings).
- Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
The CDC further recommends “For added protection get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench). Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress. Protect your head with anything available.”
What if I get hurt during a tornado?
If you are injured before, during, or after a tornado, you should seek medical attention ASAP. Make sure to always have a copy of your insurance card with you, so that you can give that information to your doctor or to the hospital. Remember that even if your injuries are the result of a vehicle crash, you can still use your health insurance to handle your bills. If your insurance company denies your claim, or if you are struggling to get the help and treatment you need, our Nashville personal injury attorneys are ready to fight for you.
We hope that Tennessee avoids the tragedy that comes with a tornado, but at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we believe it pays to be prepared. If you have questions, we are here to get you answers. Please call 615-425-2500, or fill out our contact form, to schedule your free initial consultation. We have offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Clarksville, but we also have the resources and capabilities to handle remote consultations, and to keep your claims moving through the justice system. We fight for you!