Wilderness Medicine, First Aid, and Outdoor Skills
Tornado Safety

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US Army First Aid Manual
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Appendix A: First Aid Case and Kits, Dressings, and Bandages
Appendix B: Rescue and Transportation Procedures
Appendix C: Common Problems/Conditions
Appendix D: Digital Pressure
Appendix E: Decontamination Procedures
Appendix F: Glossary

Growing up in southern Illinois, I have had my fair share of encounters with tornadoes. Since the creation of Survive Outdoors, I have had numerous questions asked of me regarding tornado safety. As a child, I was taught to open windows to equalize the pressure in the event of a tornado. This is of a myth. If a tornado is that close, whether or not a window is open will make no difference.

What is important is finding a predetermined location for your family in advance of a storm, preferably surrounded by concrete, such as a basement. It is helpful to have 3-4 four mattresses to lie on top of yourselves, as flying debris causes many injuries. I also recommend a radio. There are relatively inexpensive radios that are hand charged and generated by turning a crank. These are excellent, as many of us, including myself, forget to exchange the batteries or have battery replacements. Fresh water in jugs as well as canned goods are essential to have on hand. If you only have canned goods, it is a good idea to have a can opener in the same container. Large plastic pans with sealable lids in which to place your perishables as well as your emergency equipment, is helpful. You can label the outside with a cross with pieces of red tape. Some basic medication, bandages and medical tape are important for taking care of basic wounds.

Next, let’s not forget about our pets. They should be in the same area as you, tethered so they don’t run. The majority of tornadoes frequently move from a southwesterly to a northeasterly direction. Finding a position in a southeastern corner of the home or basement would be ideal. Less debris is going to be blown your way. Do not stay in mobile homes. These are tornado magnets, even if tied down, and a tornado can definitely take you for a good tumble in a mobile home, causing severe injury. If camping outdoors, find a low area in which to lie. It is not uncommon for tornadoes to skip over these areas. Try to stay away from large trees to avoid lightning strikes and trees falling down on you.

In recapping, some basic food and water is a must. A radio is very beneficial, but not essential. Mattresses are essential and important to protect you from falling debris. A small basic medical kit is essential. Please review Survive Outdoors’ medical kit for further details. If you have pets, bring them to your predetermined area in your home and tether them with leashes.

After a tornado has passed, be cautious! Should there be any damage to your home, be aware of potential gas leaks. Do not strike a match or use a lighter. Leave the home immediately if there is any odor of gas. Other dangers include the debris, specifically glass and nails that may puncture the skin, especially the feet. If this occurs, be aware of your Tetanus status and update, if necessary. Following storms, I have treated many individuals with splinters and fractures from trimming trees or removing fallen branches, as well as imbedded glass shards, because appropriate care was not taken.

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