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Tornado Preparedness and Clean-Up

Canada experiences as many as 100 tornadoes reported per year.

While the characteristic “funnel cloud” is unmistakable, waiting until you see it to act is too late. Sometimes tornadoes can develop so fast that you’ll have no advance warning.

However, generally you will have time to react. If a tornado warning or watch has been forecasted in your area, pay attention to news updates and, if instructed to do so, evacuate immediately. If a tornado does hit, recovery after the storm may seem overwhelming but here’s where you can start.

For more information, please download PDF:

You won’t always know when a tornado is coming but here are some signs: a dark, often greenish or yellow sky and/or a large low-lying cloud that can begin rotating.

When it’s very close, you may experience stillness in the air and hear a loud roar advancing toward you. Ideally, you should have evacuated well before this occurs. But if it happens suddenly, it’s critical that you find shelter immediately. You may need to move fast, so have your disaster plan and kit ready and accessible.

Helpful Products Checklist for Tornado Preparation:

  •   Emergency Preparedness Kit
  •   Batteries and Chargers
  •   Caulking and Sealant
  •   Duct Tape
  •   Concrete, Cement and Masonry
  •   Construction Adhesive
  •   Extension Cords
  •   Flashlights
  •   Insect and Mosquito Control
  •   Plastic Sheeting
  •   Plywood
  •   2x4s
  •   Portable Generator
  •   Roof Coatings
  •   Roofing Caulk
  •   Roofing Felt and Underlayment
  •   Roofing Shingles and Tiles
  •   Circular Saws
  •   Cordless Drills
  •   Screwdrivers
  •   Hand Screwdrivers
  •   Hammers
  •   Pliers
  •   Saw Blades
  •   Saw Horse and Workbench
  •   Utility Knives and Blades
  •   Nails
  •   Wood Screws

Is your Family Disaster Kit ready?

FAQS About Preparing For a Tornado

What can I do around the house so I am prepared in case of a tornado?
    • Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Make trees more wind-resistant by removing diseased or damaged limbs, then strategically remove branches so that wind can blow through.
    • Remove any debris or loose tree limbs in your yard. Branches and firewood can be dangerous as they may be tossed around at high speeds during strong winds.
    • Consider installing permanent shutters to cover windows. Shutters can be closed quickly and provide the safest protection for windows.
    • Strengthen garage doors. Garage doors are often damaged or destroyed by flying debris, allowing strong winds to enter. You may need to create temporary bracing to reinforce them. Attach a 2x4 to the floor with masonry anchors to use as a base for two or three vertical support beams. Connect each of the vertical support beams to the wall above the door. Be sure to disconnect the door operator before you put the bracing in place. If you’re buying a new garage door, look for one that’s reinforced or that offers extra bracing that can be added to the closed door.
    • Install storm doors to help protect main entry doors.
    • Create a Family Disaster Plan and Kit.
What should I include in my Family Disaster Plan?
    • Create an evacuation plan with your family. Discuss how you would reach each other from school, work or home. What routes would you take? How would you communicate if cellphones are not working? How will you reach and transport pets?
    • Include children in your plan: Prep them for potential emergencies and scenarios, teach them to dial 9-1-1 and reassure them that this plan is “just in case.”
    • Plan for two scenarios: Remaining in your home after a disaster or evacuating to a safer location.
    • Identify more than one evacuation route from your residence. Draw a floor plan for each storey of your house and circle escape routes.
    • Familiarize yourself with the nearest shelter and evacuation routes.
    • Choose designated meeting places nearby and far away in case you get separated. Choose a friend who lives in another region or province to be your “check-in contact.”
    • Keep a list of key phone numbers by each phone in the house, stored in your cell phone and in your Family Disaster Kit. Include each family member’s cell phone number, your check-in contact and emergency resources including your doctor, the nearest emergency room, and the closest shelter or local emergency support such as the Canadian Red Cross.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your house, especially in the kitchen. Read the instructions ahead of time so you know how to use one.
    • Ensure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that comply with your building code (at least one on every floor of your home and in sleeping areas.) Replace any that are more than 10 years old.
    • Check smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm batteries regularly to ensure they are working.
    • Make sure your property is clearly marked with a visible street number so emergency rescue workers can easily locate you.
    • Store all important records, including passports, health and insurance records in a waterproof container.
    • Regularly check fuel-burning appliances to ensure they’re properly installed, ventilated and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Make sure all family members know where your Family Disaster Kit is stored.
What should I include in my Family Disaster Kit?
    • Every family should have a Disaster Kit ready, be it for a flood or any other unexpected occurrence.

    • Baby wipes or moist towelettes
    • Backpacks or wheeled totes to carry essentials in case of evacuation
    • Batteries and chargers (phones, flashlight, radio, etc.)
    • Battery-powered or crank radio
    • Bottled water, 3-day supply
    • Camera to document damage
    • Can opener
    • A change of clothes, especially sweaters and raincoats
    • Duct tape and/or rope (to secure tarp)
    • Dust masks
    • Emergency candles
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlights
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Household essentials including leashes, etc. for pets
    • List of emergency contacts including local authorities and your “check-in contact”
    • Map showing routes to shelters and emergency contacts
    • Non-perishable food, 3-day supply
    • Prescription medications (check regularly to ensure they don’t expire)
    • Re-sealable plastic bags
    • Sleeping bags or blankets
    • Tarp or tent (makeshift shelter)
    • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • Utility knife
    • Water purification tablets
    • Waterproof matches in a waterproof bag
How do I know when a tornado is coming?
    • Listen to local news reports and verify conditions with Environment Canada, either by way of its Weatheradio program or on its Weather website.
    • To learn more about dealing with tornadoes in your area, visit the Government of Canada’s Get Prepared website.
A tornado is approaching. What should I do?
    • Listen to your local weather report on the radio or television, or view Environment Canada’s online Weather Alerts for updated information. Keep a battery-powered radio on hand so you can receive emergency information even if the electricity goes out.
    • Keep all windows and doors closed.
    • Seek shelter in your basement or storm cellar. If you don’t have either, go to the lowest level of your house and stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
    • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls. Wide-span roofs are frequently damaged or destroyed in tornado winds, providing less protection and more risk of injury.
    • In your safe place, position yourself under something sturdy, such as a heavy table. Hold on and stay there until the danger has passed.
    • If you’re outside, in a car or mobile home, go immediately to the basement of a nearby sturdy building.
    • If there is no building nearby, lie flat in a low spot. Use your arms and hands to protect your head from being hit by flying debris. Tornadoes blow debris around at dangerously high speeds.
    • Never try to out-drive a tornado.

Your first step after a tornado is to ensure that everybody is safe and that anyone injured is attended to.

Studies show that as much as 50 percent of tornado injuries occur during the rescue period, so it’s important to be aware of dangers in the aftermath. Safety must be your first concern so approach any structures with caution and avoid debris. Dangers you should be aware of include fire, electrocution, falling structures and debris on the ground including rusty nails and broken glass. Tornadoes often result in flooding afterwards, so ensure you are prepared for floods as well.

Helpful Products Checklist for Tornado Clean-Up:

  •   First Aid Kit
  •   Work boots
  •   Work gloves
  •   Workwear
  •   2x4s
  •   Air Purifier Filters
  •   Broom
  •   Buckets
  •   Caulking and Sealant
  •   Cleaning Solutions
  •   Duct Tape
  •   Concrete, Cement and Masonry
  •   Construction Adhesive
  •   A Desiccant
  •   Dust Masks
  •   Extension Cords
  •   Exterior Paint and Stain
  •   Interior Paint
  •   Paint Brushes and Rollers
  •   Plastic Sheeting
  •   Insect and Mosquito Control
  •   Ladder
  •   Mould and Mildew Cleaners
  •   Plywood
  •   Plywood
  •   Portable Generator
  •   Pump
  •   Rags, Cloths and Sponges
  •   Roof Coatings
  •   Roofing Caulk
  •   Roofing Felt and Underlayment
  •   Trash Bags
  •   Water Heater
  •   Wet/Dry Vacuum
  •   Circular Saw
  •   Cordless Drills
  •   Screwdrivers
  •   Hammer
  •   Level
  •   Measuring Tape
  •   Pipe Wrench
  •   Wood Screws
  •   Nails
  •   Pliers
  •   Saw Blades
  •   Saw Horse and Workbench
  •   Utility Knives and Blades

Looking for More Tornado Preparation Checklists?

FAQS About Cleaning-Up After a Tornado

What do I do once the danger has passed?
    • Do not return to your home or property until you have permission from authorities to ensure that it’s safe.
    • Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage.
    • Evaluate your home for signs of structural damage. Stand back from the house and look to see if the ridge at the peak of the roof appears straight. A sagging or irregular ridge may be a sign of damage to the roof framing or to load-bearing walls. Do not enter your home if there are any signs of structural damage.
    • If it can be done safely, walk around the house and examine the exterior walls. Use a level to ensure walls have not shifted. Look closely at the area where the walls meet the foundation for any shifting that might have occurred. Also, check for cracks in brick walls and foundations, particularly near the corners and around windows and doors.
    • Parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged. Approach entrances carefully. Ensure that porch roofs and overhangs have all their supports.
    • If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a nearby window and leave the house immediately. Turn off the main gas valve outside if it’s safe to do so and keep away until a professional inspects both the electrical and gas systems.
    • If it’s safe, it’s a good idea to turn off the main breaker to your house. Do not attempt to do so if you are standing in water. Always use something nonconductive (wood, rubber, non-conductive gloves) to turn it off. If it’s not safe, notify your utility company so they can turn off damaged lines.
    • If there appears to be no structural damage and you’re able to go inside, watch for sagging ceilings, loose plaster and other objects that might fall. Check to see that doorways are square and look for cracks in the drywall or plaster.
    • If the electricity is out, use flashlights instead of candles for safety.
    • Take pictures and videos of any damage to your property, including any buildings and contents, for insurance claims.
      • Learn how to safely deal with electricity during and after storms by reviewing these Electrical Safety Tips.
      • Review Fire Prevention Canada’s fire safety tips for the home.
What are some common repairs that need to be made after a tornado?
    • If the roof of your home has been damaged, temporary repairs should be made as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
    • For immediate roof cover, use tarps. Extend the tarps over the roof ridge or under the top layer of shingles so water won’t be able to run under it. Then nail the sides of the tarp down with pieces of scrap lumber or capped roofing nails.
    • If there’s no obvious damage, such as missing shingles or damaged plywood decking, it’s still a good idea to look for broken or cracked shingles, particularly around the edges of the roof.
    • If you have a metal roof, examine the nails or screws that hold it in place and repair any that have pulled loose. Cover any missing or damaged windows and doors with plastic, tarps or sheets of plywood to help keep the weather out.
    • Learn how to repair your deck.
    • Watch our how-to video to learn how to repair a fence.
My power is out. Should I run a generator?
    • Even if your home hasn’t sustained major damage, you could still be without power. Running a generator is a great idea, if you know how to do it safely. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
    • Generator engines give off poisonous carbon monoxide gas so generators should only be operated outside in the open and at a safe distance from any homes.
    • Never hook a generator to the wiring of your house unless a special power transfer switch has been installed by a licensed electrician. Instead, plug appliances and other items into an extension cord which leads to the generator. Avoid any standing water.
    • The total wattage of all the electrical devices combined should never exceed the rated capacity of the generator or the extension cord.
    • Make sure the generator is properly grounded and don’t touch it if it’s wet or if you are wet.
    • To prevent fires, turn the generator off and allow it to cool before refilling it with fuel.
    • To easily find the ideal standby generator for your home, consult our generators buying guide.

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