Survival-Pax Blog: Oklahoma 2013 Tornadoes - Would you be prepared?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oklahoma 2013 Tornadoes - Would you be prepared?

A man carrying a child away from a damaged school in Moore, OK. 
source: Associated Press
Today, I write this blog post in sorrow and grief. The news reports, pictures, stories and body counts of Oklahoma and Midwestern U.S. have been steadily updated since the deadly tornado outbreak began on Sunday, May 19th. The most devastated of these areas is Moore, Oklahoma, which was hit by a F5 tornado on Monday, May 20th.

We stand in solidarity with the victims of this disaster. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their lives and for the families who grieve them. We pray for those who are still missing and for those who have lost everything.

The path of a tornado in Moore, OK.
source: Associated Press

Beware. This event, and others like it, must not move into the “Out of sight, out of mind” realm once the media discontinues their reports. The towns and people affected by these tornadoes will be rebuilding for months and years to come. Their lives have now been changed. Teddy bears, pots and pans, shoes, pillows, cars, homes, schools, jobs, hospitals, neighborhoods. Gone. These people are without the “everyday” that they had just a few days before. They are now dependent upon others who reach out to help them. The amount of volunteers and aid that has arrived is staggering and honorable. If you can contribute aid in any way, please do. The people that you see here are not actors. This is not a movie. This is life, and we are all in this together.

Heather - Survival-Pax Team Member

How to Prepare

Events like this are very tragic, but they are also learning opportunities. A few years ago, our local community was hit by a rather small tornado. Only a few homes were damaged, and power was out for a day or two, so it wasn’t anywhere near the devastation of the Oklahoma tornadoes.

We put together a blog post back about Severe Weather Preparedness that you can find here

I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a moment and think about how to prepare for next time, because a tornado may hit a community near you.

Tornadoes can hit almost anywhere, in all 50 states, so no matter where you live, it is a good idea to at least think about preparing for such a disaster. However, tornadoes are most commonly formed in the Midwestern United States in a geographical area known as Tornado Alley.

Tornado activity in the United States.
Tornado Alley is the Midwestern Area in orange and red.
source: Wikipedia

Tornado Alley spans portions of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Tornadoes in this geographical area normally form during the springtime, such as what happened recently in Oklahoma. A simple way to prepare for tornadoes would be to move to a geographical area where tornadoes are less common. Alaska, for example, has only had 2 recorded tornadoes since its existence as a U.S. state: once in 1959 and once in 2006, both being weak F0 Tornadoes.

But that might not be so simple. For those who do live in an area prone to devastating twisters, here are some preps that you would want to have:

Safe Room

The #1 prep that I would recommend having would be a safe room. Almost any above-ground structure can be blown down, given enough wind-speed. The main cause of death from tornadoes is from structures falling down and crushing people. Since a tornado is above ground, having a reinforced room that can with stand the weight of your house falling down on top of it could save your life in the event of such a storm hitting your home. 

For everyday use, you can use the safe room as a storage room for emergency supplies. With a secure door, it can even serve as a vault for your valuables.

Food & Water

Since a Tornado is a localized disaster, having a large supply of food to prepare for one isn’t particularly necessary. (Although having a large supply of food is a good idea to prepare for other emergencies!) Local stores may be swamped with people purchasing supplies in preparation for or in response to a storm, so it would be a good idea to have at least 2 weeks worth of food on hand, along with 2 weeks worth of water.

Generator & Fuel

One of the most common utilities to disappear after a storm is electricity. This is due to the delicate nature of power lines and the rest of the power grid. If you live in a temperate region where rainstorms are common, you can expect the power to go out at least once every year, often leaving you int the dark for a short while. It doesn't have to be because of a tornado. For this reason, having a backup generator with fuel to power it for several days is a very good idea.

A generator will keep food from spoiling, keep the lights on, and allow you to use any other household appliances that you depend on for survival.


A flashlight is a staple emergency preparedness item. In an emergency, a good flashlight is critical because being able to see when it is dark out is essential. I would recommend a high-quality LED flashlight with at least 100 lumen output, along with an ample supply of batteries. Have enough batteries on hand to replace the current set 3 times over, at least.

For a great introduction to flashlights, check out our blog post on the topic, found here.

Chain Saw

Part of what makes tornadoes so dangerous isn’t so much the high winds, but the objects that the winds can blow over, pick up and throw. One of the dangers that tornadoes present are trees and branches falling down. While little can be done to prevent a tree from falling, have a chainsaw for tree cleanup will be very useful. Do not forget to have enough fuel for it, as well!

Bug Out Bag

Sometimes, it may be necessary to leave your home. Whether it be before a storm or after, having a Bug Out Bag or Emergency Kit ready to go can be a great thing to have. It's foolish to think that, in an emergency, you will have the presence of mind to grab all necessary supplies to be able to comfortably leave your home and still be survive comfortably.

This wouldn't be a kit that you would necessarily be surviving off of, but rather a kit with things to help you live comfortably for the next few days while you rebuild. Spare clothing, hygiene essentials, some food/water and basic tools (knife, multi-tool, flashlight) would be the types of items in this kit. It would mainly be focused on leaving your home, but being able to stay at somebody else's house or at a local shelter until things are safe to come back home.

Strong Local Community

There is no better prep for any emergency than building a strong local community. No matter how much food, water, fuel and supplies you might have, you do not have the manpower to overcome every possible difficulty. That is why, ultimately, you could succeed or fail based on whether your local community succeeds or fails. You should not underestimate the importance of a strong local community.

We will look into ways of building up a strong community in future posts.

Will you be ready if you see a storm like this outside of your home?

So, how prepared are you if a tornado or severe storm were to hit your area? Do you have any other preps that you think are necessary that we haven't mentioned in this post? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Take care guys!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

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