5 Things to Grab When You Hear the Tornado Sirens


‘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.


2. Shoes

Unless you follow the Flylady’s advice to “get dressed to the shoes” every day, you’re likely sitting at home wearing only socks or slippers — or you’re even barefoot. If you run for the basement when the tornado sirens go off, you may not think about grabbing shoes since you’re not going outside. But if the worst happens and your home is damaged or destroyed, imagine climbing out of your basement and picking through the rubble in your fuzzy slippers. While the Red Cross and other relief organizations usually do a great job of providing for the needs of disaster victims, wouldn’t you rather have your own shoes in the initial days and hours after a violent storm? Grab a pair of sturdy sneakers or work boots on your way to shelter.


3. Medication

This is essential if you rely on your medications to keep you alive, but it can also be important for those who suffer from conditions like migraines or anxiety. In the event that your pharmacy suffers storm damage you may have difficulty gaining access to your prescription medication in the days immediately following a violent storm, especially if there are extended power outages. Take an extra minute (if you can safely do so) to swipe your meds into a large ziplock bag so that you will have them (and your prescription numbers) in the event of an emergency.


4. Purse or Wallet

While you should have copies of your important papers (as well as the identification and credit cards you carry in your wallet) stored in a safe location, having the originals with you will make life significantly less complicated if your home is damaged in a storm. There are a number of situations in which you may need to show identification and insurance cards if your home sustains property damage or a family member is injured. You may also need access to credit cards and debit cards for unexpected expenses. It will also bring you peace of mind to know your ID and credit cards are with you and not hanging in a tree 14 miles downwind from you home if your belongings are blown away.


5. Car Keys

In the event there is an emergency but your car is mercifully spared (and the roads are passable), you’re not going to want to want to go searching for your car keys. It’s hard enough to find them in the normal chaos of life, let alone in a stressful situation where your home may have sustained damage and the keys could be displaced from their normal location. Take an extra second to grab the keys on the way downstairs or to you shelter.

Is there anything else you grab on your way to the storm shelter?