Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter

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Tornado Safety with Mista Twista: Watch our video

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More about Mista Twista

Who is this whirling, rhyming ball of twine? Mista Twista is the Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter's tornado preparedness puppet. Every year, he visits local schools and teaches kids how to stay safe during severe spring weather. (He's not so intimidating in person!)

To request a Red Cross puppet show for your school, click here. Our free, age-appropriate puppet shows cover a variety of youth health and safety subjects.

Quick tornado facts

Spring can bring severe weather, such as flooding, tornadoes and thunderstorms. Tornadoes are born in severe thunderstorms and are often accompanied by lightning, heavy rain and hail.

Tornadoes can be nearly invisible, marked only by swirling debris at the base of the funnel. Some are composed almost entirely of windblown dust. Still others are composed of several mini-funnels. Most tornadoes rotate cyclonically, which is counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise south of the equator.

On average, the United States experiences 100,000 thunderstorms each year. About 1,000 tornadoes develop from these storms. Although tornadoes occur throughout the world, the U.S. experiences the most intense and devastating tornadoes. Central Illinois knows this well.

Tornadoes produce the most violent winds on earth. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tornado winds can approach speeds as high as 300 miles per hour, travel distances over 100 miles and reach heights over 60,000 feet above ground. About four dozen people are killed each year because of tornadoes, says the National Weather Service.

Before severe weather hits, heed these Red Cross tornado preparedness tips.

Prepare your home

  • Consider keeping insurance policies and other valuable documents in a safe-deposit box.
  • Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased or damaged limbs.
  • Secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind and become a projectile.
  • Install permanent shutters on your windows and add protection to the outside areas of sliding glass doors.
  • Strengthen garage doors and unreinforced masonry.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit, containing …

  • First Aid kit and essential medications
  • Canned food and a can opener
  • At least three gallons of water per person
  • Protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bags
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infants and elderly or disabled family members
  • Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so (remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on)

Create a home tornado plan

  • Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
  • Practice your family’s tornado safety drill so that your children feel confident about what to do in a real emergency.

Tornado Safety Tips

Prepare your business

It’s extremely important to protect your employees during a storm. Preparation saves lives. For instance, Woodford County business owner Bob Parsons had the foresight to prepare his plant for severe weather. In 2004, an F4 tornado ripped through Woodford County and hit Parsons Manufacturing (see picture above). The tornado was so strong, it picked up employees’ cars and tossed them into nearby cornfields. But thanks to Parsons’ storm shelters and strong construction, there were miraculously no fatalities.

  • Have a disaster supply kit on hand, including a weather radio.
  • Keep phone lists of key workers and customers with you, and provide lists to workers. 
  • Back up computer data frequently and keep a backup tape off-site. 
  • Use UL-listed surge protectors and battery backup systems. 
  • Consult with your insurance agent about precautions to take for disasters that may directly impact your business – including business continuity insurance. 
  • Develop a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and conduct regular disaster drills

Stay tuned for storm warnings

Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information, and know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING mean.

A WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
A WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area.

What to do if a tornado warning is issued

At home ...

  • Go to the basement. If you don’t have a basement, go to the lowest floor in your house and into a bathroom or closet in the center of the building, away from windows.
  • If you live in a mobile home and there is no substantial shelter nearby, get out immediately and head to the nearest building for safety. If you are outside and there are no buildings, lie flat in a low-lying area or ditch and cover your head with your arms and hands.

At work ... 

  • Employees in office buildings should stand in an interior hallway on a lower floor.
  • Factory workers should move quickly to the section of their plant offering the greatest protection, in accordance with advance storm plans.

Outside or in the car ...

  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, tornado shelter or sturdy building.
  • If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
    Contrary to folklore, it is NOT safe to seek shelter underneath a highway overpass.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
    Now you have the following option as a last resort:
    --Stay in the car with the seat belt on.
    --Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
    --If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

    Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

After the storm passes

If your area has been under a tornado warning, be cautious after the warning expires. The American Red Cross advises you to watch out for fallen power lines and use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.  

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Tornado Safety Checklist

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