What Do You In a High Rise During a Tornado?


Being in a high-rise apartment during a tornado can be a terrifying experience. This is especially true if the high rise is directly in the path of the tornado. It is therefore really important to know what to do to keep yourself safe until the tornado passes and dissipates.

If you are in a high rise when a tornado hits, try to make your way to the lowest room in the building, such as the basement. If this is not possible, make your way to the innermost room in your apartment.

Tornadoes can be extremely destructive and even lead to loss of life. Their destructive power lies in the wind speeds. If you find yourself in a high-rise building during a tornado, this article will help you figure out what to do before, during, and after.

Preparing for a tornado

Today, information is a way of life and a necessary tool for survival if used constructively. To be prepared fully, you need to access information on when the tornado will occur, its strength, path, and duration.

Luckily, institutions have been set up to facilitate the smooth flow of such information. For instance, in the Americas, these institutions include the NOAA. This is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The administration has been tasked with providing crucial information on weather patterns. Other than that, they are also responsible for providing guidelines on safe ways of navigating the oceans.

NOAA has a weather radio station that frequently remits information about the weather including tornados. Tornados are however difficult to monitor as they occur suddenly. The institution, therefore, issues two types of alerts; tornado watches and tornado warnings.

A tornado watch alerts to the possibility of a tornado happening. It, however, is not area-specific. If a tornado watch is issued in your area, it gives you leeway to prepare accordingly for an actual tornado.  You need to fast track your preparations before an actual tornado warning is issued. Before the warning, you need to prepare in various ways:

  • You should visit your local stores to get essential supplies. As the destructive ability of the tornado is yet unknown, you need to cover all possibilities. You need to also ensure that you can survive before local emergency response services are deployed.
  • You will need to stock up on battery powered items like mobile phones, portable TVs, and flash lights. When the tornado strikes, power lines may be struck down and lights may go out. With battery powered items, you will not be cut off from the rest of the world as you will need information concerning the tornado. You, therefore, need to have an inexhaustible pack of batteries that may last you as many as three days.
  • Other items you should procure include nonperishable food and fresh water. Canned foods are preferred as they have a longer shelf life. This is because, in the event of a tornado, infrastructure may suffer some damage. This means that supply chains will be cut off. Items such as foods and water will immediately be in low supply or may even be destroyed. Therefore, equip yourself with supplies to last you a day or two before rescue arrives.
  • You should also procure medical supplies. You may need to perform some basic first aid. Most fatal injuries in a tornado occur as a direct collision with flying debris. Should injuries be sustained in the wake of a tornado, you will need to treat them and prevent infections before medics arrive.
  • You should keep all these supplies on a secure but an easy to reach place. Should the tornado block access to some parts of your apartment, you still need to have a mental map of where everything is and how to easily access them.

If a tornado warning is issued then you will be required to take even more extreme measures. A tornado warning is much more specific and may highlight the potential areas a tornado will likely occur in. You will, therefore, be required to make the apartment a tornado proof bastion.

  • There is a myth that leaving windows open will allow an easier flow of the winds through the apartment thus minimizing damage. This has however proven not to be the actual case. Opening up the windows will only let the strong winds through that may end up causing a stir to your internal supports.
  • The destructive power of the tornado is not necessarily from the wind speeds rather the debris picked up by the wind’s strength. You will, therefore, have to seal all orifices that may let the wind in. In your apartment, every day harmless items may prove to be dangerous projectiles during a tornado.
  • You should board up the windows in your high rise to prevent wind from coming in. Get plywood from your local store and ensure all windows are tightly sealed. If plywood is unavailable, plastic sheets can be used instead. You may also choose to use a more expensive but durable impact resistant windows or storm shutters.
  • Hammer down all items that might be blown off by the wind. This includes furniture around your apartment. In the event of a tornado, a bed hitting you at 60 miles per hour will cause the same damage as a car hitting you with the same speed. To prevent this, ensure they are anchored down.

What to do in a tornado

Once the tornado makes landfall and is heading directly towards your apartment, you should move to the safest room in your apartment. Preferably, you should go to the lower areas in your high rise such as the basement. If this is not possible then get in the innermost room of your apartment.

  • For most high rises, this should be your bathroom. If you have a bathtub, enter and cover yourself with a blanket or thick clothing. Be facing down while you cover your head with your hands. This will act as a cushion or a barrier and will protect you from the full force of a collision with a flying object. The clothing will also keep you warm and protect you from the elements.
  • If the bathroom is unavailable, go into the closet and face down while wrapped around in heavy clothing. If this is not possible, you can hide under much sturdier materials such as under a heavy bed or table. The aim is to be shielded from potential debris.
  • Tune in to your local weather radio station or online reports to get more information about the tornado. News reports will also enable you to know when it is safe to leave your high rise. It will also highlight areas that have been damaged by the tornado to avoid these places.
  • To remain calm and collected, you can use your mobile devices for entertainment and distraction. It is fair to say that a tornado occurrence can be life changing and leave a psychological mark in your life. You, therefore, need to ensure you come out of it much better mentally.
  •  If you have children in the high rise, devise ways of keeping them calm. This is where mobile devices can come in handy. These will also remove the element of boredom as the kids will be focused on their favorite programs or online games.
  • If you have pets in the apartment, put them on a leash, and carry them with you to your hiding place. Try and keep them calm as they too will be terrified by the loudness of the howling winds. You can do this by holding them close and stroking their fur gently to create a sense of calmness and reassurance.

What to do after a tornado in your high rise

  • After the tornado has passed, you should put on protective clothing before you survey the damage. Wear protective shoes and even a helmet. This is to protect you from sharp debris on the ground and any potential debris overhead.
  • Do not go out immediately as multiple tornados can occur simultaneously. Listen keenly to weather reports before you decide to venture outside. If none are forthcoming, observe the weather and only come out once the thunderstorms and the winds have dissipated.
  • Take pictures of the apartment to highlight the damages. This is in the case of insurance reimbursement. Remember to help your neighbors as you exit the building especially the young and the weak. You should give first aid to those in need from your emergency supply kit.
  • Clean up spills and minor damages such as shuttered glass from the floor. You should also reorganize the apartment. This is only if you have not suffered a direct hit. Otherwise, exit the building immediately if you detect the smell of gas or any other flammable substances.

Final Thoughts

Tornados are very unpredictable weather phenomena and may appear to be standing still when in fact they are hurtling towards you. You cannot outrun them in a car; that’s a myth. You should, therefore, avoid being caught in a car during a tornado as it can be blown away if the winds are strong enough.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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