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5 Things to Grab When You Hear the Tornado Sirens

Don't forget these essential items you'll need if a tornado strikes.

Paula Bolyard


May 20, 2014 - 11:00 am
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‘Tis the season when those of us in the Midwest are serenaded by the tornado sirens on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Whether you head for shelter the minute the sirens go off or wait until you see the funnel cloud heading up your street, it’s important to think about what items you should grab on the way to safety. While you hopefully have emergency supplies like water, non-perishable food, self-powered flashlights and radio and a first aid kit in your basement or storm shelter, what other items will you need in the minutes and days immediately after your home is destroyed? What should you grab as you are heading for shelter?

Here are five things you can grab quickly and drop into a small bag as you’re running to safety — things you’ll be very glad to have in the event your home sustains significant damage:

1. Cell phone and charger

While most people will instinctively grab their cell phones on their way to the basement or shelter, it’s also important to grab your electric phone charger or, even better, a battery (or solar) operated charger. At the first sign of an impending storm, charge all of the family’s cell phones (and extra batteries if you have them) so you’ll be able to connect with first responders, other family members, and insurance companies in the event of a true emergency. If your home is damaged and you’re forced to relocate to a shelter or a hotel, you’ll likely have access to electricity, but chargers specific to your phone may not be available.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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It's a good idea to have a WX radio with an alert function and to take that so you can keep up with the status. A regular AM radio is the alternative, and one that will receive both WX and AM and has both battery and AC power is the best of all. You can get one for maybe $50 or less.

When I lived in Oklahoma, I got my amateur radio radio license and always had a radio that could receive the frequency used by local ham radio operators to report storm situations. I eventually got a portable two radio radio and used it to check into that net and report storms. At my apartment complex I often ended up surrounded by a small group of my neighbors, listening to the storm spotters when the tornadoes approached.

A tornado did extensive damage to our apartment complex not quite a year after I moved there, and there were numerous other close calls.

And of course a flashlight is a good idea, too.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a good list. I haven't thought about 'flylady' in years but I still use her sink rule as a standard for how I'm managing my house. Some days, not so well...heh.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
A "watch" is not the same as a "warning."

Ya'll know this.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Family heirlooms such as scrapbooks that can be easily carried into and out of the shelter.

The latest tornado safety rules for home, business and school are here:

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Scrapbooks cannot be easily carried when the sirens are howling.

Better to keep the hard-copies in a safe location.

Your portable drive thingies should be in your purse.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget to keep your cat locked in a small room when a watch is announced. When the warning is given and sirens start, shove teh kitteh into the carrier. There's nothing like trying to drag a frightened cat out from under a piece of heavy furniture when time is of the essence.

And, if you have jewelry you can't replace (I'm talking about unique pieces or things you don't keep in the safe but would hate to have to buy again even though insurance would pay), put it into a leather case when the tornado watch goes into effect, and shove it into your go-bag when the warning is givien.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
With the exception of prescription meds, almost everything on that list should already be in the basement.

Seriously, how difficult is it to keep a spare set of keys keys, spare cell phone charger, and spare pair of shoes (with socks if that's how you roll) in the basement/cellar? Furthermore, since most of the "important" papers are rarely accessed, just keep them (or copies) in a fire safe / safe in the basement as well. Include spare glasses/contact lenses if necessary.

Then all you need to do is grab the phone, wallet and meds and skeedaddle. Of course, if you don't actually have a basement, but rather your plan is to beat feet elsewhere to a shelter, then follow Wintermute's advice and have a go bag. You can even keep an extra phone down there, just do a "family plan" or a burn phone.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Very good advice – especially about the medication…you can always borrow a neighbor’s cell phone, charger, shoes, etc. The same isn’t true with your meds…especially if you are on something uncommon.

I was always one of those people that kind of grouped everyone with emergency supplies in the “Doomsday Prepper” category, as I was born and raised in the inner city where power outages were always measured in hours at worst. But I’ve come around…one should always have a go-bag, emergency supplies and emergency water and food. You don’t need a stocked military bunker, but you never know when a tornado or ice storm or earthquake will knock out power for a week.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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