Friday, June 11, 2010

There’s no place like home: Encountering a tornado while away

Today’s guest blog is by Mighty Fine, MPH, a health analyst at APHA who works on the Association’s Get Ready campaign.

If emergency preparedness were a class, I’d ace it. I’m talking summa cum laude status. I have a stockpile, an emergency plan and I’ve even practiced living off of bottled water for two days. If a disaster were to occur while I was at home, I’d be prepared. The problem is I don’t always stay at home.

Like many people, I travel a great deal for work and play. I’m usually so focused on my reason for traveling that I don’t give emergency preparedness much thought. However the recent tornado activity in the U.S. Midwest forced me to think more about preparedness on the road. I had a trip planned there, and after watching the news coverage of the twisters roaring through these communities I was a little worried about my travel. It’s not like once I got there I could click my heels three times and return to the safe haven I call home. My best bet was to be as prepared as possible while at the hotel.

I usually pack light so I can carry my bag on the plane to avoid checked baggage fees, but this time was different. I packed a flashlight, a small radio and some extra batteries, which preparedness experts recommend to carry if you are a frequent traveler. My flight there was a little bumpy so I expected that a storm was on the horizon.

Upon checking into the hotel, I asked the clerk about the tornado warning procedure and evacuation expectations. I even took a tour of the shelter area. Once I got to my room, I checked out the emergency exit diagram on the back of the door and committed it to memory. Not long after I checked in, I could hear the rain pouring down on the roof above me. I watched the sky change from blue to gray within moments.

From my hotel room, I heard the hallway doors close automatically and moments later the tornado warning siren rang loudly, signaling that it was time to go to the shelter area. I hopped up with my radio and flashlight and exited my room. As I was familiar with the evacuation route, I knew where to go, and since I had my preparedness supplies, I was more at ease. I was able to help direct other people to shelter. Luckily, the tornado did not hit the hotel, and my fellow guests and I stayed safe.

My experience with sheltering from a tornado in an unfamiliar place could happen to anyone who travels. If you are traveling to a tornado-prone area, pack emergency supplies, and familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and shelter areas. Pay attention to the weather and listen to the radio. If the sky becomes threatening, head for shelter right away. Remember that it is important to be prepared, no matter where you are.

Photo credit: A tornado in Kansas, May 2008. Photo by Chris Foltz, courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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1 comment:

nellieb said...

I have never thought abut disasters whiel on vacation. Good idea to highlight this. Scary photo!