While natural disasters do not happen to any one person on a regular basis, they do come to disrupt our daily lives. The recent storms that hit the East Coast and left some families still without power are just one recent example. The Colorado wildfires are another.
Livonia is rarely struck with earthquakes or hurricanes, but tornadoes and storms (and power outages) can and do strike the area. On March 20, 1976, a tornado struck the 13 Mile and Farmington area, killing one, injuring 55 and causing more than $50 million in damage. When natural disasters strike, it is best to have taken the few moments necessary to prepare for them than be caught by surprise.
Sit down and make plans on how you should react if you believe a tornado will strike. If you are listening to the radio or watching television and hear the words “Tornado Watch,” that means that weather conditions are capable of producing a tornado. A “Tornado Warning” means that a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted or radar indications suggest that a tornado has developed. If you look outside, watch for approaching storms that have the following danger signs: dark, often greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark low-lying cloud and a load roar. Keeping close tabs on weather channels will help you to prepare.
If you are inside a building, go to a pre-designated shelter area if there is one. In the home, go to the basement. If there is no basement, go to the lowest level, in an interior room, such as a closet or hallway. Stay away from windows, doors, corners and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head and neck with your hands. Never try to outrun the tornado, which has an average speed of 30 mph. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
If you are away from your family members after the tornado, get in contact with them to let them know your whereabouts. Damage to phone systems may have occurred so have a plan on where to head after a disaster. If phones work and you are unable to call each other, have an out-of-town relative designated as the one to call to get messages back and forth during an emergency.
Plan ahead that you may be in your basement or shelter area for a while during the storm. If damage to the house has occurred, you may be trapped until the weather clears. Keep a kit handy that has some necessities in it. A radio and flashlight, with extra batteries, are smart choices, along with drinking water, food and a game or some playing cards to keep occupied.
Tornadoes happen quite suddenly so don't take the chance on getting in your car and leaving the area. They can travel as fast as 70 mph.
Other natural disasters, such as hurricanes, can be spotted in advance and landfall can be predicted. This may allow time to pack up and leave the area. Tornadoes are not that predictable. Take a few minutes to plan ahead during tornado season, which is generally spring and early summer.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.