Aftermath of December 26, 2015 Dallas tornadoes / Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Recently, I gave a weather safety presentation to a group of seniors and someone asked a question that gave me reason to pause.
I have been giving weather safety talks for over twenty years to a variety of groups ranging from private industry, to community groups to schools. A cornerstone of those presentations involve reviewing some of the basis of emergency preparedness.
I’ve shown people how to build a survival kit containing things like bottled water, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. Then I usually review “where” to go in the case of a tornado warning. The advice has almost become a litany: “Go to the lowest floor, a room without windows, like the closet or bathroom.”
Yet the question I was asked challenged me to think a little harder as well as to rethink that standard answer. This group of people in their sixties and seventies live independently in a complex composed of three-story apartment buildings.
A lady in the audience asked, “I’m in an apartment, so where is my safe place?” At first, it seemed as though the standard closet/bathroom response would suffice. Others in the audience disagreed.
“Between the mirror and the glass shower door, there’s a lot of glass in those bathrooms.” Good point. Someone else wondered if the closet really was the best since there was an exterior wall that was part of a breezeway on the other side of that closet. Finally, someone else wondered what they should do if they were on the top floor.
Let’s take the last one first. When you hear of a tornado warning, it is advisable to get to a lower floor, if possible. Make friends with your first-floor neighbors; you may need a favor in an emergency. Since weather conditions change rapidly, however, it might not be prudent to leave an upper-floor dwelling and venture outside during a storm. This is why it is so important to get early and accurate warnings and act quickly.
A closet adjacent to an outer wall does run the risk of failure, but only in extremely high winds over 150 mph or so. Lesser winds could hurl objects through that wall as a projectile. Of course, when a storm is bearing down, you likely won’t have a way to measure that. So an interior closet, in the middle of the room is preferred.
As for that bathroom – unless it has an exterior window, shouldn’t be at much risk of breakage. However, that too is dependent on the storm’s strength.
One other piece of advice – keep a bike helmet handy and if you can, cover yourself with blankets or a mattress when you get into that “safe place”.
Find out how to get those early and accurate storm warnings from WeatherCall: www.weathercall.net.