Madeline Evans of Henryville, Ind., walks in the parking lot of her elementary school Saturday, March 3, 2012. The school and much of her town was devastated by a large tornado the day before.
ST. LOUIS — With the central and southern United States dealing with the devastation left behind from deadly severe storms this weekend and with the threat of potentially life-threatening severe weather here in the bi-state, the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region reminds everyone to prepare: Know what to do before, during and after the storm.
“Sadly, last night reminds us that severe weather could strike here at any time,” said Cindy Erickson, Regional CEO of the Red Cross. “We need to know what to do so we are ready.”
Severe weather tips
• Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.
• Invest in a NOAA weather radio to stay informed about watches and warnings.
• Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes.
Watch for tornado danger signs:
— Dark, often greenish clouds—a phenomenon caused by hail
— Wall cloud: an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
— Cloud of debris
— Large hail
— Funnel cloud—a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
— Roaring noise
• Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather in a tornado. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Keep this place uncluttered.
• If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
• If you have enough warning time ahead of a storm, prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees or yard; and secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that could be picked up by wind.
• Know what a tornado watch and warning mean.
• Assemble an emergency kit:
— First aid kit and essential medications.
— Canned food and can opener.
— At least three gallons of water per person.
— Protective clothing, bedding, or sleeping bags.
— Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
— Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
— Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you’ll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)
— Copies of personal, important documents.
— Cell phones/chargers. (at the ready)
• What to do if in mobile home or outside:
— Mobile homes are NOT safe – get to a safe structure immediately.
— If you are caught driving and see flying debris, pull over and park. Stay in the car with your seatbelt on, and put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
— If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
After a tornado
• Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated
information and instructions.
• If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
• Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
• Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
• Stay out of damaged buildings.
• Use battery-powered flashlights when examining buildings — do NOT use candles.
• If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get
everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.
• Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance
• Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
• Keep all of your animals under your direct control.
• Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
• Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.
The Red Cross urges everyone to download its free, official tornado app. It puts lifesaving information right in the hands of people who live in tornado-prone areas.
The Red Cross tornado app — available in English or Spanish — gives iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone and some tablet users instant access to local and real-time information. The app includes a high-pitched siren and warning alert that signals people when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued in their area — even if the app is closed. In the palm of your hand, the app also includes enhanced weather maps, suggestions about how to recover and be better prepared next time, and a toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm.
Users are also encouraged to download the Red Cross Flood app, which gives information about what to do when flooding threatens your area. All Red Cross mobile apps can be found here.
The Red Cross is part of the “All Ready” campaign, a unified effort among emergency preparedness experts in the bi-state region that focuses on the importance of individual preparedness. The campaign encourages the three critical steps of preparedness: Make a plan, Get a kit, Be informed.
Locally, the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region is a proud member agency of the United Way, which makes significant investments every year in Red Cross services.