Tornadoes do occur in southern New England almost every year and knowing what to do when they approach is essential.

Tornado Watch
A tornado watch is issued by the storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma, whenever atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. This is your initial word that dangerous weather is possible.

Tornado Warning
If your local national weather service office, in Taunton Massachusetts for example, issues a tornado warning, immediate action should be taken to protect life and property. A tornado warning means that a severe thunderstorm is in progress and that a tornado has either been sighted or is imminent based on Doppler radar imagery.

Your first tornado preparedness rule should be to have a means of receiving the word that a watch or warning is in effect. A NOAA weather radio, which can be purchased from various electronic stores, has an alarm feature that will activate whenever a severe weather watch or warning is issued. It can wake you up at 3 o'clock in the morning and thus is a valuable notification tool. Local radio and television stations will also broadcast the warning, sometimes accompanied by an emergency alert tone. The warnings scroll across the screen on the weather channel on cable TV. However, you need to be watching or listening in order to receive the warning via commercial radio or TV. That's why NOAA weather radios are so valuable.

The greatest dangers from a tornado are from flying debris and from the collapse of the roof and/or wall structure of a building. If you are in a building, you should move to the basement underneath the staircase. If there is no basement, seek shelter in a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor. Stay away from windows and exterior doors. Do not open the windows. If possible, place something to cover your head such as a coat or blanket for extra protection. In schools, avoid the cafeteria, gymnasium or auditorium because of the wide-span roofs that can collapse. You should go to the interior hallway outside of the classrooms.

Do not stay in a mobile home or any type of temporary shelter. Seek shelter in a sturdy structure. If none is available, take shelter in a ditch or nearby ravine. Take a protective position on your elbows and knees with your hands over your head. Never attempt to outrun a tornado in a vehicle since they can easily become airborne. In 1995, 3 people were killed in Great Barrington, Massachusetts when their automobile was lifted up into the air and smashed back down to the ground. Do not try to seek shelter under an overpass. The structural integrity of overpasses is unknown.

After Tornadoes
After the storm, if a tornado has struck your neighborhood and if you are able, please report it to local law enforcement officials who will then relay the report to the National Weather Service. Turn off the gas at the main switch to your building. If live electrical wires are down, turn off power at the main switch. Instruct people not to touch loose electrical wires. Food, clothing and shelter will become available at American Red Cross shelters.

Source: National Weather Service, Taunton, Massachusetts