Tornado Safety

Fair weather months are tornado time – be prepared
April is tornado awareness month, and Missouri ranks fifth among the states in the number of tornadoes that occur each year. Although tornadoes occur any time of the year, they happen most frequently from March to September.

Two levels of tornado weather conditions are issued. A tornado watch indicates that weather conditions are favorable for tornado formations. A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has actually been spotted or detected on radar. When a tornado warning is issued, St. Louis County will activate a tornado warning siren which consists of a steady tone lasting three to five minutes. People should take shelter and remain there until the danger has passed.

The Webster Groves Fire Department offers these tips for tornado preparedness:
  • Know a safe place at home, work and school in the event of a tornado warning, and identify local shelters.
  • Practice tornado drills at home and school.
  • Plan for family members to contact one another during an emergency. Establish an out-of-area contact, such as a relative or family friend, who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated. Make sure that children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.         
  • Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack. This should include a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and opener, at least three gallons of water a day per person, protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bag, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, and special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Keep written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you will need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)
When a tornado watch is issued:
  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions, such as blowing debris. Many say an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train.
  • When a tornado warning is issued.....
  • In a house or small building: move to the basement or storm shelter, or a lower-level room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway.
  • In a vehicle: get out of the vehicle and go to a shelter. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or another low-lying area.
  • Outside: move inside a shelter or other building with a strong foundation. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
  • At school: children should follow their teachers’ direction and the school’s tornado emergency plan (inner hallways on the lowest level possible, away from windows).

After a tornado, continue to listen to news and weather updates. Stay away from power lines and broken glass. Be aware of the possibility of broken gas lines and chemical spills. If you smell gas or chemical fumes, evacuate the area immediately and contact authorities. Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only after authorities have issued an all-clear signal.