Tornado Checklist

I grew up in Washington, Illinois. In November of 2013 a huge tornado devastated a large part of my hometown. In the days and weeks following the tornado I talked with some survivors and modified my tornado preparedness plans.
Tomorrow 27 April 2014 Washington will again be under severe risk for tornadoes. Hopefully these tips will be helpful and comforting to “my people”.

But this checklist isn’t just for Washington, it is for everyone… look at these bullet points and take a Moment To Ponder YOUR tornado preparedness.


  • Tornado Watch (Ok a TORNADO WATCH has been issued for your area, DON’T PANIC it just means that Tornadoes COULD form in the area.  That being said let’s get ready so we aren’t rushing around at the last minute)
  • Gather essentials and place in Bug Out Bags (check clothes for sizes in kids bags, Check freshness of food/water/toiletries/etc.)
    • Wallet
    • Keys
    • Printed Emergency Plan
    • Cell Phone (on person / CHARGED)
    • CCW (on person)
    • Backup HDD (You do have an external drive or thumb drive backup of your data right?)
    • Dog Food + Water (Dog BOB) (PUPPIES!)
  • Closely monitor WX
  • Police / Fire / Weather Spotter Scanner (on and ready)
  • Check WX radio (Have information ready)
  • Turn on the TV and monitor local weather situation
  • Do you have HAM Radios?  Even if you are just listening this is what the weather spotters use, GREAT information on warnings
  • Prepare your Safe Room.  Preferably in basement, in center of house, farthest away from windows.  Under a sturdy structure like a workbench or table.  One of my acquaintances was saved by a piano, NOT by being under it, but by being next to it.
  • Place Bug Out Bags in Safe Room
  • Place shoes for each person by bag – Plenty of people weren’t wearing shoes, they regretted this once their house was gone and they had to walk around.
  • Get dressed in reasonable clothes (Jeans, sturdy shirt)… you might be walking around and jammies aren’t very protective (or flattering)
  • Water Bottles – Have essentials and snacks available in the safe area… you never know how long you will be in there
  • Does your safe room have a TV in it to monitor?  If so check TV to be sure it works

Tornado Warning (OK a Tornado has either been spotted OR is indicated on radar, this is the real thing)

  • Move to Safe Room
  • Put shoes on (they will get sucked out of the house and you may never find them if they aren’t on your feet, get them on you may need them soon)
  • Put Bug Out Bag on. (Why, it can help provide further protection from things falling on you, also less likely to get sucked up off the floor next to you and take a 150 mile trip somewhere)
  • Put leash on Dog (or dog in crate if that is your thing)
  • Shelter, mattress over head or under sturdy structure.

Tornado Emergency Declaration (Ok these are BAD, it means there is a REALLY HIGH likelyhood of tornadoes and probably a bunch of them. In this case I would prepare a bit more.)

  • Prepare as above, but more.
  • Put some supplies (clothes mostly) in cars and move one several blocks away. (most tornadoes are less than a mile wide and move from West to East or South West to North East, If you were to park your car a mile or so away in a North or South direction you would have a pretty good chance of not loosing both of your cars in one tornado.)

Post Tornado Checklist

  • If damage to house (Assess if the following actions may be needed, with major damage you will probably want to do all of them)
  • Turn off ELECTRICITY (if possible) – Learn how to turn off your electricity, in my house the main breaker is in the basement and the breaker is at the top of the box.
  • Turn off GAS (if possible damage to gas system or smell of gas is observed) – Zip tie or wire a wrench to your gas meter to facilitate this.
  • Turn off WATER
  • Check all people for injury
  • Address all injuries and determine next steps.
  • REPORT to police, HAM, etc – Let responders know your status, get help on the way.
  • Inform relatives etc status (Ask to distribute status to others) – Text / Email / Call / use social media… get your status out to family and friends, and ask for them to re-distribute that information to others so you aren’t burning your time and battery.

Determine Next Steps (What Now?)

  • Stay in Place?
  • Utilize disaster plan for Hotel etc.?
  • Contact Insurance
  • Recover property
  • Assist Neighbors (TURN OFF GAS)

Ok here are some Amazon links to items that might be useful…

  • Uniden Home Patrol Scanner, not the cheapest police / fire scanner out there but clearly the easiest.
  • Baofeng UV-5R Ham Radio – Check out the intro to HAM radio post HERE to learn more… this is the cheapest and best VALUE in HAM radios.  There are better radios for sure but NOTHING comes close in the ~$35 range
  • You DO have a weather radio right?  NO, or need another? Try a Midland, they work great.

Other episodes that may be helpful

Good luck and be safe everyone.

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