Blog Post: Tornado Safety

By Sara Nelson, RPN, Emergency Preparedness

There are an average of 80 tornadoes reported in Canada each year, most between the months of May and September. Certain areas of the country are more prone to these violent storms, including southern Ontario. With recent reports of tornados in the area, some of our residents have asked if we can share some information about tornadoes and how to stay safe if one approaches. 

Most tornadoes occur between May and September each year. Tornadoes often appear behind a shroud of heavy rain or hail in a sky that is green, yellow or black. They descend as roaring funnel clouds that can move at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Very large thunderstorms can spawn multiple tornadoes or a single tornado with a number of smaller but intense vortices within it.

When there is a threat of high winds, as in the case of a severe thunderstorm or tornado, your first priority is to take shelter. If it is safe to do so, bring pets indoors, close all windows and doors, and secure loose outdoor objects or move them inside. You will want to put as many walls as you can between yourself and the tornado. Go to the basement or to a small interior room in the center of the house, such as a closet, bathroom or hallway, on the lowest floor of the building. If this is not an option, take cover under a stairway or sturdy table and use a cushion or mattress to protect your head. Stay away from all windows, doors and exterior walls, in particular those facing the storm, and avoid buildings with large, unsupported roofs such as arenas, supermarkets, and barns. Within Luther Village, moving into the main corridors on each floor would be best. In the Garden Villas, move to the most inner room possible or the basement or garage.

If you are caught outside, find a low area, such as a ditch, lie flat and cover your head with your arms.  Hang onto a small tree or shrub if you can.

Do not travel. If you are in your car and a tornado is approaching, open the windows slightly and park off the road with your emergency/parking brake set, away from tall objects and power lines. Leave your vehicle. Move at a right angle to the storm’s path. If this is not possible, find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, and lie flat, covering your head with your arms. Hang onto a small tree or shrub if you can.

Do not leave your car if there are downed lines nearby.

Knowing these tips ahead of time and monitoring the weather could save your life.

Luther Village on the Park’s Tornado Policy

Luther Village has a specific policy for managing a tornado/high winds situation. Here are the highlights of it. For more information or to view the policy, please contact the Front Desk.

The resident or staff who hears the tornado warning will notify maintenance staff, who will consult Environment Canada’s website, to confirm the weather warning and notify the Executive Director and Facilities Manager or designates.  If severe weather is deemed imminent, the Facilities Manager or designate will call the Emergency Fan Out List and establish a Control Centre. The Front Desk staff will be asked to secure a battery-powered radio in the event of a power failure. Precautionary actions will be taken to secure objects outside that might become missiles if blown by high-speed winds.

If a “Tornado Warning” is posted locally, this means that a tornado has been sighted and “Procedures for Taking Shelter” should be followed.

Procedures for Taking Shelter

Staff will be assigned to contact all residents door-by-door.  Depending on the imminence and severity of the weather warning, the staff will move from the top to the bottom of the building knocking on doors and opening doors when they are not answered. If possible and depending on the imminence of the weather, staff will ask residents to secure outside furniture. Using a reassuring and calm manner, staff will ask residents to move to the nearest interior corridor away from the windows.  It is not advisable to gather in the Atrium or other large open spaces. All staff will be available for assistance and to remain with the residents in the corridors, and will work to keep the residents focused and calm. 

The Facilities Manager or designate will direct some staff to alert the town homes by knocking on doors and entering units when they are not answered.  Staff will ask town home residents to seek shelter away from the windows to the middle of their unit or if possible to move to the crawl space in their town home.  Notification is of first importance and furniture storage is secondary.  Staff will be assigned to stay tuned to the weather reports to track the progress of the storm and report changes.  Where possible, at least one staff will remain on each floor until ALL CLEAR is announced.

The Executive Director or designate will prepare written communication to residents once the danger has passed. The Facilities Manager or designate will complete all necessary reports as required by Luther Village on the Park.

Procedures if Luther Village on the Park is Struck by a Tornado

If a tornado strikes Luther Village on the Park, a staff should call 911 and activate the fire alarm station if the system has not been damaged.  When a tornado touches down in a community the Police and Fire departments will be watching the storm and have knowledge of the affected areas.  Response should be immediate and knowing that help is on the way gives people affected by the tornado a sense of hope.  Staff should continue to reassure the residents, make an effort to keep them calm and not attempt to move them. The Facilities Manager or designate will work with the Police and Fire departments on evacuating the residents, requests for ambulances and other emergency procedures as necessary e.g. removal of live hydro wires, moving debris.  Staff will be assigned to help where needed and directions will be taken from the emergency personnel trained to react to the devastating results of extreme weather. 

Luther Village on the Park takes the safety of residents, guests, volunteers and staff very seriously. As severe weather is predicted to occur more frequently, we continue to train staff in emergency preparedness and keep residents informed, so we can all stay safe.