Tornado Warnings – Why you MUST Take Them Seriously, and How to Prepare for Them

Tornado Warnings – Why you MUST Take Them Seriously, and How to Prepare for Them

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Having lived through 2 tornados as of yesterday, and losing 2/3rds of the roof on one house, and everything in the back yard during another tornado, I’ve learned to take the warnings seriously. People laugh at me, but I literally watched as the tornado touched down, and made its way straight to my house, hurling our sheds, trampoline, and our huge Costco play structure through the air, over the fence into the neighbor’s yard in a loop-de-loop.

After that first one, I decided to work on putting together 72-hour emergency backpacks for myself and the kids. When the warning came to my cell phone yesterday, we followed our routine, which is well-practiced by now with all the warnings we’ve had in the past 2 years, and grabbed our backpacks, bedding, and water and headed for the basement.

This time all our neighborhood got was strong winds and a few downed trees, but about 5 minutes away, what you see in the above image from CBC News occurred. This was the neighborhood my soon-to-be daughter-in-law lives in. We went over after it was over last night, and wow, what a wild drive. I’ve never driven through the city with all the power out (it destroyed the local power station). It was so dark, and the streetlights were barely visible, so people would fly through intersections (and I almost did too!) without realizing they’d run a light if there was no cross-traffic. It’s crazy how your brain expects traffic lights to only be lit up, and how hard you have to focus when you’re going through a lot of them when they’re out. Fortunately their house was unscathed, but the neighborhood – what a mess. A gas station had been demolished, and the light pole next to it had gone right through the neighboring house’s roof.

This is the important bit. You may be thinking ‘well everyone who lives in a Tornado zone should be prepared!’ Here’s the catch – we don’t live in an area where tornados normally occur, but there have been more and more warnings and tornados over the past few years, and locals still don’t take these warnings seriously.

Here are some tips to prepare:

Set Up 72-hour Emergency ‘Bug-Out-Bags’

A Bug-out-bag (BOB in prepper speak) is simply some type of bag that has all the essentials in it in case you need to get out. Here’s what’s in our bags (i use small backpacks):

-2 waterproof flashlights, 4 glow sticks, 2 candles
-multiple batteries
-fire-building supplies (waterproof matches, 2 lighters, flint & striker, fire-starter sticks, cotton balls with vaseline on them in a ziploc)
-Cliff bars and Icebreaker Sours (in case we want to freshen our breath)

I have RZ masks for all of us after the wildfires in Alberta (*note you can get these from Amazon as well, as the RZ site doesn’t ship filters to Canada) They come in a wide varietey of colors and patterns, but you definitely want this version of the mask. *note: I get a small percentage of sales from Amazon if you order this product by clicking on the image here. **SPECIAL NOTE! If you go straight to the RZ site they are having a sale on fall color themed masks in red, orange, maroon, and green using the code FALL25! (no, I don’t get any kickbacks from their site, but I’m sharing the info because I love you guys that much!)

An Eton FRX5BT All purpose weather alert radio with bluetooth – this handy little device has lights, a flashlight, a USB port to charge electronics with, can be charged via wall plug, solar panels, or hand crank (for 15-20 minutes of radio play). It can also run on triple-A batteries, or run off an already-charged device like your computer. It gets AM/FM/S.A.M.E. and NOAA radio stations to keep you up to date. This model is water resistant and can handle being dropped.*note: I get a small percentage of sales from Amazon if you order this product by clicking on the image here.

A water-filtering ‘straw’ with collapsible bottle, and water purifying tabs, & 2 bottles of water (I only have one of the ‘straws’ as they last a really long time, and I have a few of the bottles, one for each kid and one for me – but I believe you can use your own collapsible bags. *note: I get a small percentage of sales from Amazon if you order this product by clicking on the image here.

-work gloves, winter gloves, toque, rain poncho, silver ‘blanket’
-survival knife (only 6″ long, but with a rough edge on the back to make kindling for fires)
-a padlock (in case we go to a school where we can store belongings in a locker)
-Fox 40 whistle (work even when wet or cold), flashing light for clothing so we’re visible
-small wet bag (for keeping things like electronics dry)
-KFS (knife, fork, spoon)
-vaseline (to moisten chap lips, cheeks etc.)
-first-aid kit

Make an Emergency Plan

It’s really important for your family to know what to do when that dreaded emergency broadcast signal comes on your phone and other devices. There are recommendations here on how to build an emergency plan for you and your family, as well as lists of what you should pack in your emergency bag and a vehicle emergency bag. Make sure you at least practice what your plan is ahead of time – we have a ‘stay-put’ plan for tornados, which entails moving our bedding to the basement (pillow & blanket) and bringing down the emergency bags and our meds. We also have a ‘ditch’ plan, which entails throwing the kid’s scout bags (which stay packed) in the car along with my sleeping bag, and the bug-out-bags, and going to a shelter or leaving town if necessary. 

Stay CALM

My kids still remember the tornado that destroyed their beloved outdoor equipment, and the very severe damage it did a few streets over (tearing houses in half, tearing whole roofs off strip malls and houses), and they’re terrified when that warning system goes off. So once we get to the basement (as calmly as possible) we break out a board game, and start playing something to keep ourselves distracted. Turning on the radio intermittently (between games) helps us stay apprised of the situation, and lets us know when the warning is over if we get caught with dead cell phones (yesterday, both mine and my son’s cells were at around 10-15%, so they died). Distraction is the key, and we make it into kind of a ‘fun’ time, even though everyone is still inwardly tense. The less we talk about it, the better it is for them.
Wherever you live, if the emergency broadcast system warns you of an unlikely weather event, take it seriously. You never know when your house will be affected.

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