The key to surviving a tornado: PMA.

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We enlisted the help of our Facebook community for today’s Answer Journal. Our own Priscilla Wood McCarthy asked, “If a tornado may arrive after bedtime, do you prepare? Or go to bed? Or stay up and Google weather?”

The key to surviving a storm can be summed up using the letters PMA: Prepare, Monitor and Act. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests everyone take the following actions before, during, and after a tornado.

1) PREPARE – What to do before a tornado.

Know what you would do in advance of such a storm. Depending if you live in a house, apartment or mobile home, your options are quite different. Take the time to look at http://www.ready.gov. Here you will find recommendations for all sorts of disaster preparedness, including tornadoes.

Having an NOAA Weather Radio can save your life. Weather Radios are available at many retailers and websites, including electronics, department, sporting goods and boating supply stores. They can alert you immediately of danger. If you choose to sleep and don’t have a weather radio, leave a TV or radio on low in the background to a station with a strong weather commitment. This could alert you to the path of the storm. Many local TV stations also now offer weather apps and alert sign-up services, which can send a notice immediately to your phone or tablet – sign up now.

2) MONITOR – Be alert to weather conditions. It is crucial that everyone know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are right for tornadoes, and tornadoes are possible. Remain alert: both watch the sky and tune into NOAA Weather Radio, internet radar, commercial radio, or a local television station in case a warning is issued.

A Tornado Warning is serious. This means that a tornado or severe activity was spotted by the human eye or seen on radar, and is moving directly toward the warning area. Take shelter immediately.

Be your own sky watcher. While it is helpful to monitor to NOAA Weather Radio or tune into a local media for the latest information, this alone is not enough. Look for the following danger signs: a dark, unusually greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if that cloud is rotating), and a loud roaring noise that is similar to a freight train. These signs mean you could be in the direct path of an oncoming tornado.

If you choose to be a first responder, the disaster reporter feature in the FEMA App (available on Android & Apple) allows you to take GPS photos in a disaster area and upload them to the agency to help monitor and document both storm and tornado activity.

3) ACT – Know what you will do during an actual tornado.

When a tornado warning is issued for your county or city, seek shelter immediately! Know exactly where you would go and discuss this with members of your household. Don’t grab priceless heirlooms or stop to get all fancy. Be prepared to act immediately.

If you live in a house, head directly for the basement or the most interior room of the ground floor. Often a bathroom or laundry room makes a suitable shelter area because the water pipes re-enforce the walls, providing a more sturdy structure. If you live in an apartment or condominium, head to your pre-designated shelter area that could be a basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If you live in a mobile home, know where is the closest secure building where you can go in case of an emergency.

4) What to do after a tornado passes? 

Take some precautions when you leave your tornado shelter. Be careful, since there might be unseen damage waiting for you on the other side of doors. Should your home been hit, walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and general structural damage. Leave the premises if you either smell gas or if floodwaters exist around the building.

Call your insurance agent immediately and take cell phone pictures of the damage to your home or vehicle. If the destruction is extensive, don’t panic. Authorities know how to react. The American Red Cross and other volunteer agencies will arrive with food and water, and FEM will designate temporary housing.

While PMA may stand for a positive mental attitude, it can also help you remember the steps to prepare, monitor and act in cases of severe weather.

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