Now that we are at the peak of tornado season, it’s important to be prepared in case of an event in your area. North America has more tornadoes than any other part of the world. They usually occur in the spring and the fall as weather changes, but are also caused by summer storms and can be spawned by hurricanes. Even though the Midwest is known as “tornado alley,” there’s really no place that’s immune. Tornadoes can happen quickly, and being prepared can help businesses keep their employees safe. Planning To prepare for a tornado, businesses should develop an emergency plan. Your plan should identify where to take shelter, define policies to ensure all personnel are accounted for, and procedures for dealing with any hazardous materials that may be at the workplace. Planning includes knowing and monitoring your community’s warning system; know the definitions and actions for alerts such as: Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are likely to occur in the designated area. Be ready to take shelter quickly. Monitor radio and television stations for more information. Tornado Warning – Imminent threat – A tornado has been reported in the area or has been seen on radar. Take shelter immediately. Consider obtaining additional equipment or resources such as emergency supply kits and a NOAA Weather Radio. Identify a shelter location; ideally this should be an underground area, such as a basement or storm cellar, but if that isn’t available, consider the following:
- Interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor possible
- Avoid places near doors, windows, or outside walls
- Look for rooms made of reinforced concrete, brick or block without windows
- Avoid large open rooms that have flat, wide-span roofs.
Accountability Procedures Businesses should establish procedures to help ensure the safety of personnel if a tornado occurs. These should include: • Have a system for knowing who is in the building • Create an alarm system to warn workers and test it often • Identify communication methods for personnel with disabilities or who do not speak English • Account for all personnel when they arrive at the shelter by using a prepared roster or checklist, and taking a head count • Assign specific duties to workers; create checklists for each responsibility. Identify and train alternates in case the assigned person is not there or is injured Training and Exercises All workers need to be trained and practice what to do in the event of a tornado. Employers should hold regular exercises, especially at the beginning of tornado season, to ensure workers are prepared. This includes knowing:
- Shelter locations
- Assigned responsibilities
- Evacuation procedures
- Assembly points
- Emergency contacts and procedures
When defining tornado preparedness procedures consider using the S.T.O.R.M.S approach:
- Shelter: Know where to find shelter.
- Time: Get early warnings. If you wait until you hear sirens, you’ve waited too long.
- Others: Know how to communicate with coworkers and first responders in case of injury or of property damage that requires official assistance.
- Resources: Make sure you have everything you need, from immediate supplies to good insurance.
- Medical: Prepare now to save the injured later. Get first aid training and have first aid kits available
- Sweeping Up: After a tornado workers may face considerable hazards during clean-up following a tornado. These include subsequent storms, downed electric lines, and sharp debris.
o Even if you think the power is completely out, stay away from downed power lines. o Stay alert for the sound or smell of a broken gas line. o Dress for the weather, but still dress to protect. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, a hat, and heavy work gloves. o The clean-up work can be physically demanding. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly, and take frequent breaks. When dealing with tornadoes, preparedness can prevent problems.
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