The United States has more tornadoes than any other country in the world--about 1200 a year. Most of them occur in the spring but they can occur any time of the year when conditions are right, and they have occurred in every state.
In light of the recent storms in Oklahoma, Hoosiers can feel afraid and hopeless. Instead of worrying, they can put that nervous energy to use prepping for such a scenario.
The following picture essay points to ways of getting ready for such a storm. Do you know what to do before a tornado warning? What are the signs of an impending tornado? What should you do afterwards? What about your children's safety?
Remember: there is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado. Freak accidents can happen above ground as we can see from the recent photos in Moore, Oklahoma. Violent tornadoes can level houses and kill occupants. While most tornadoes are actually much weaker, all tornadoes can be survived by being prepped with the safety information in this list.
Know where you can take shelter in seconds
Scott and Julie Lewis placed these crosses in front of where their house used to be in memory of the seven children from Plaza Towers Elementary School who lost their lives in the tornado. As the tornado approached, Scott Lewis drove to the school and picked up his son, Zack, who attended 3rd grade at Plaza Towers, and brought him to their storm shelter. Most of the children who died at the school were classmates of Zack.
There is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado.
But a storm shelter inside a home or outside under ground increases your odds of survival. Basements are better than ground level, but a basement's ceiling can be blown off. Pictured: Dean Dye looks over a storm shelter in a home that was destroyed by a tornado on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The shelter is across the street from Dye's daughter's home which was also damaged by the tornado.
Store supplies in your storm shelter or basement. This way you can help your family and others. Churches and other non-profits will be overwhelmed during a disaster, and the more you can help yourself the better. In this photo Cassadee Pope (L), a contestant on 'The Voice,' helps unload donations at a distribution center setup for the victims at the First Baptist Church May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Prepare as if nothing will be left behind
Don't count on having anything left after a disaster, so plan and prepare accordingly. Lean Newbury holds up a picture of her father's home (rear) before it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Keep vaccinations up to date
Jennifer Dudgeon (L) of the Cleveland County Health Department gives Tim Jones a tetanus shot in front of his home, which was destroyed by a tornado, May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Injury from a tornado may result from the direct impact, or afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. According to the CDC, a study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup, and other post-tornado activities. Nearly a third of the injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines, or electrical systems and there is a risk of fire, electrocution, or an explosion. Promptly treat any injuries suffered during the storm and use extreme care to avoid further hazards.
Know the signs of a tornado
Those growing up in tornado alley learn to read the signs of tornado weather. Sometimes (not always) the air will have a dusky tint, and birds and animals become quiet. The wind may cease or increase (watch for motion of the trees) and it is usually quite humid before a tornado, but this can occur prior to thunderstorms as well. Some tornadoes are wrapped in rain and cannot be seen. Pictured: Two volunteers search through the rubble of a neighborhood on May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The two-mile-wide Category 5 tornado touched down May 20 killing at least 24 people and leaving behind extensive damage to homes and businesses
Get in shape: you will have to walk or run
There's no getting around it. If you're not in good physical shape when a disaster hits, you will suffer even more. You don't have to be an athlete. Make time for walking at least fifteen minutes a day. Walk longer if you can. The better physical shape you are in, the more you'll be able to help others and be self-reliant. Pictured: Insurance adjusters inspect damage to a vehicle that came to rest on debris of a collapsed strip mall along the I35 commercial strip after a tornado ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Get mass casuality training
Learn triage and how to get people out of rubble. Training is important because removing someone from rubble can put untrained rescuers and victims in more danger. If you aren't able to be a trained rescuer, then stock up on first aid supplies so that you can help the less-injured. Be available to walk the less-injured away from rubble and find them help. Pictured: an aerial view of destroyed houses and buildings after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of EF5 strength and up to two miles wide that touched down and killed at least 24 people and leveled everything in its path.
Have a plan for living without electricity
Stock up on batteries and plan on living without electricity. Pictured: Electrical crews begin to replace power lines after the May 20 tornado May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado of at least EF4 strength and up to two miles wide touched down May 20 killing at least 24 people and leaving behind extensive damage to homes and businesses.
Know your child's school tornado plan
Learn what your child's school plans to do in the event of a tornado. If there is time, and you have a storm shelter, will you bringing them home? Pictured: A single wall with a chalk board is all that remains of a classroom in Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Tragically, seven children died in the school during the tornado.
Review safety at school with your children
Anyone who grew up in tornado alley can recall doing tornado drills. Students line up and sit down against window-less, interior hallways with heads down and hands covering their necks. Remind your children to listen carefully to their teachers. Remind them to listen carefully to do exactly as they are told and to respond quickly should you arrive to pick them up. Pictured: Debris litters what remains of a classroom at Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Seven children died in the school during the tornado.
Advocate for school storm shelters
For school systems who struggle for every penny, it's tempting to forgo the $1 million price tag for storm shelters that they may never need. A public outcry of the deaths of seven children in the Moore, Oklahoma tornado has spurred legislators to find funds to help schools build shelters. Pictured: A child's art kit sits on the floor in a classroom at Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
At school: Follow the drill!
Class pictures still hang on the wall at Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Seven children died in the school during the tornado. The tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide touched down May 20 killing at least 24 people and leaving behind extensive damage to homes and businesses.
After the tornado: Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
Keep your family together after a tornado. Pictured: An aerial view of destroyed houses and buildings after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado two miles wide that touched down, killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
Don't count on the government
Community is key. Get to know your neighbors before a disaster strikes. Pull together resources and help one another. Government aid can be slow in coming due to red tape. Pictured: Debris litters a playground after a tornado ripped through the area on May 22, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide touched down May 20 killing at least 24 people and leaving behind extensive damage to homes and businesses.
Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. Stay aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass and take care not to touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company and always cooperate with emergency responders and public safety officers.
Protect yourself from mold
After tornadoes, excess moisture and standing water can contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home that has been flooded or rained on, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family. People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold. If you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building.
Expect delayed emotional reactions
David Lee Estep sits atop a rubble pile that was once a home he shared with his parents and waits for word about his parent's welfare on May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Estep had not heard from his parents since their home collapsed on the three of them after it was hit by a tornado. Shortly after this picture was taken aid workers arrived to tell him his parents were well and they were looking for him. Remember that your loved ones may not have symptoms of anxiety right away because they are in a state of emotional shock. If anxiety disrupts daily activities for any member of your family, seek professional assistance through a school counselor, community religious organization, your physician, or a licensed professional.
Arrange for backup transportation
Who will provide transportation for you if you survive a tornado? Arrange for loved ones to find you after a tornado. Consider buying an extra low-cost, used vehicle for such emergencies and store it elsewhere so it will be available if your own vehicle is destroyed. In this photo Ryan Saum removes belongings from his car that was thrown onto Briarwood Elementary School by the May 21st tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.
Accept help so you can give help
Accept the help that is offered. No one is an island. Disasters remind us that we need one another. Accept help so that you can heal and help others. Remember: what goes around comes around. Those who've lived through disasters can tell you this is true. Pictured: Heart to Heart International's 'Clinic In A Can,' a mobile medical unit in a shipping container provides free medical care to victims of the May 20 tornado May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.