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Stampeding between 10 and 70 miles an hour. Thundering in the ears like an oncoming locomotive. Obliterating durable structures in potentially mile-wide paths. Spinning winds up to 250 miles per hour. Turning blunt objects into deadly projectiles. And changing direction without cause or warning. This is a tornado. Is your organization prepared?

Tornado season is upon much of the southern and gulf coast United States. Where will they touch down and what will they ravaged? It’s like weather roulette. No one knows, that’s why everyone must be prepared.

And don’t assume because your facility is far enough removed from the infamous ‘Tornado Alley’ that you shouldn’t consider the twisting weather phenomenon as a threat. Tornadoes have roared trails through locales and seasons far removed from their common tracks.

“A 1967 outbreak of 32 tornadoes in parts of northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, northern Missouri and eastern Iowa included an F4 in St. Louis.”1

Your enterprise’s degree of preparedness for a tornado directly affects the degree to which you can shield your employees from harm and minimize organizational loss. And “loss” of course, encompasses more than just physical assets. There’s much loss in operational downtime, too. If a tornado hits your office or critical facility and disrupts operations or services, you’re on the path to revenue and customer deprivation.

“The current average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes.”2

Checkout the following useful tips to help your business reach optimal tornado preparedness:

Tornado Prep Tips

1. Institute a Response and Recovery plan

If you do not have one already, develop and document an emergency response and disaster recovery plan. Be sure to update it regularly. An out-of-date plan can be as bad as no plan at all.

2. Establish Emergency Communications

Do you have plans in place to connect with employees and others when regular modes of communications may be down? An emergency communication plan is one of the most critical elements of your overall emergency prep. Ensure that your plan is documented, up-to-date, and includes contingency communications should your first methods also fail. A dedicated emergency notification system can also help you streamline and organize your plan, powering you with valuable capabilities.

3. Develop Accountability Protocols

Do you have an emergency notification system or alert process to notify employees to take cover or that it’s time to take action? Do have a protocol to know who is on premise and to account for all workers’ whereabouts?

4. Determine a Shelter or ‘Takeover’ Area

If the situation is too dangerous to evacuate workers to their homes, you should have a shelter or safe cover area for personnel to go, such as a basement. If a below-ground location is not an option, then select deep interior room of a sturdy building, within the lowest building level – with no windows or excessive amounts of unstrained items that could become airborne and cause injury or death.

5. Designate Alternate Work Site

Should a tornado render your facility or unusable or inaccessible, arranging and preparing an alternate site to carry out critical business operations is imperative to mitigating downtime. Also be sure that you can quickly and easily commence operations at location. If your necessary components must be brought in from unreachable distant storage areas or if the process is too complicated, you will defeat your purpose.

6. Know the Warning Signs

Unlike other storms, tornadoes blow in with little-to-no warning. Educate your employees about the signs to watch for: dark, low-lying clouds; a sky with a greenish cast; large hail; and approaching cloud of debris; and an increasingly loud rumble, reminiscent of a train.

7. Understand Your Community’s Warning System

Most community’s have a two-tier tornado alert protocol: 1) a tornado watch; 2) and a tornado warning.
Tornado Watches: Citizens should be on the alert for possible tornadoes in the area and ready to act should the alert be elevated to a warning. The warnings can range form parts of states to several states.

Tornado WarningsA tornado has been detected or touched down. There is an imminent risk to life and property. Immediate action is required to take cover. Warnings usually involved smaller geographic areas.

Also sign up for alerts for mobile and radio alerts from forecasting systems, such as the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other weather service providers.

8. Practice and Test Your Plan

Practice makes perfect. Reviewing and testing your plan is the best way to ensure all processes actually work as planned, identify and remedy for weaknesses, and ensure your employees understand all aspects of the plan. Don’t wait until a tornado is bearing down on your business to find out your plan has holes and that your personnel are confused.

Shelter from the Storm

Storm winds can funnel into a frenzy in seconds to form a tornado. They’re one of Mother Nature’s most unpredictable and powerful forces. For those organizations operating within tornado hotspots, planning and preparation are imperative. But even those that reside outside those locals would be wise to develop a tornado response plan. No enterprise suffers greater loss and damage from being prepared.

For more helpful tornado fact and preparations info, check out NOAA’s Tornado 101 guide and FEMA’s tornado checklist.

For more great industry information, check out our free whitepaper:

Free Whitepaper - Leveraging Emergency Notification Tools to Improve Organizational Resiliency


Topics: Business Continuity

Angie Longacre

Written by Angie Longacre

As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.

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