10 tornado safety tips

March 14, 2014  

This is part of series of articles discussing safety and security for Purdue's West Lafayette campus.

1. Take part in the Purdue's tornado drill at 10:15 a.m. March 20 as part of the Indiana's Severe Weather Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Weather Service. Ask your building safety committee or building deputy to coordinate a drill. Get everyone into the building's designated safe location. Is it large enough? Is there Internet access? Is the Wi-Fi signal strong? Does someone have a weather radio, and does it work? Now's the time to find out.

The sirens will be sounded across the county at 10:15 a.m. and 7:35 p.m. that day.

2. Sign up for PurdueAlert. The all-hazards outdoor warning sirens are not meant to be heard indoors. If you have signed up, the University will send a text message letting you know when a tornado warning has been issued and when to expect an all clear. If this changes as the event unfolds, you'll receive follow-up texts. There will not be time, however, to send an emergency email to the campus or to post a notice to the Purdue home page. Sign on to your career account and then click on the "Emergency Contacts Information" link.

3. Talk to your students. Suggest they sign up for PurdueAlert texts. If they are in class when the warning is issued, you may want to keep them in the classroom, if it's in a basement, or take them to the shelter-in-place location. Please let them know in advance that if they aren't already in class they should not attempt to get to class until after the warning is lifted.

4. Know where to go. Check your buildings' emergency plans, not just for your office but also for the facilities you are in frequently, to see where your shelter-in-place areas are located. Just ask your building deputies (PDF) for a copy.

5. Location, location, location! During a tornado warning, stay near the innermost walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Stay away from windows, doors and mirrors.

6. Avoid buildings with roofs having wide spans and insubstantial shelters. Shopping malls, gymnasiums, auditoriums, mobile homes, vehicles and similar kinds of shelters are the least safe. At the first sign of hail, strong winds and/or heavy rain, find more substantial shelter.

If there's no building around, lie flat in a depression on the ground. Do not seek shelter under a highway overpass. If you do stay behind the wheel, don't try to outrun the tornado. Instead drive at a 90-degree angle away from the storm.

7. Cover up. Most people who are injured are struck by flying debris. When possible, take cover under sturdy furniture. Protect your head and chest by crouching, face to floor, with your hands behind your head. Cover yourself with blankets, pillows or coats.

8. Make sure your building has at least one weather radio. There currently are about 220 weather radios on campus, many with building deputies. More can be purchased online. Look for those using specific area message encoding (SAME) technology. Make sure the radio can run on batteries and that batteries are replaced annually. Test it ahead of time to see where it will work best in your safe place.

9. Take battery-operated radios, laptops, iPhones or iPads with you. Power is vulnerable in severe weather, so don't count on it. Battery-operated devices are helpful, but test to be sure they can receive a radio or Wi-Fi signal in your safe place.

10. Attend one of three free tornado awareness workshops offered at 1:30-2:30 p.m. March 26, April 2 and April 9 at the Purdue Police Department's conference room in Terry Memorial House (TERY), 205 S. Martin Jischke Drive. To register, contact Mary Stair at 49-41424. Direct questions to Ron Wright, director of university emergency preparedness, or Tom Cooper, tncooper@purdue.edu.

Additional all-hazards training can be found by signing up for an All Hazards Awareness Training Session. The training will provide reminders on what constitutes an all-hazards emergency event and how faculty, staff and students in the classroom or elsewhere on campus should react in such a situation. Emergency preparedness officials will explain how the campus community receives emergency notifications through the multilayered Purdue Alert system, what "shelter in place" means and how to respond when they see the phrase in alerts sent out; evacuation procedures; what they can do to prepare; and available tools and resources. Sign up at https://www.itap.purdue.edu/apps/training/physicalfacilities/training.

Source: Ron Wright, 765-494-0446, rdwright@purdue.edu

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