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Meredith Garofalo
By Meredith Garofalo
Meredith Garofalo
Meredith Garofalo
Meredith Garofalo is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM) and Space and Science Journalist. She has 14+ years of experience in broadcast television and radio and serves as a member of the American Meteorological Society's Station Scientist Committee and Space and Satellite Professionals International.
Apr 18, 2022· 4 min, 45 sec

The Tornado Preparedness Guide for Businesses

This year, March saw a record-setting 210 tornadoes. According to NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, the preliminary total came in at just under 300. Of course, the final numbers will be much lower as sometimes reports are of the same storm, but even bringing it closer to 200 still highlights the need to be prepared at all times, anywhere, for these destructive and extremely violent storms.

What Is a Tornado?

By definition, a tornado is a powerful thin rotating column of air that can form between a thunderstorm and the ground. Each funnel is a combination of water droplets, debris, and dust. Research is still being done on these storms, but one thing we do know is that the worst tornadoes often spin up from supercells, which are systems that produce severe thunderstorms and feature rotating winds. On average, we can see roughly 1,200 tornadoes across the United States each year, and they can happen in any state during any time of day.

What Is a Watch vs. A Warning?

Before you put together any sort of preparedness plan, the first thing that’s important to make sure you understand is the difference between a watch versus a warning. In order to get either of those, you should always have multiple ways to get this information including an app on your phone that will alert you the minute one is issued.

If you are under a tornado watch, that is a heads up that you need to be prepared because conditions are favorable with the weather during a certain time frame that a tornado could form. When a tornado warning is issued, you need to take action immediately and get to your safe place or shelter. It means that a tornado has been sighted by storm spotters or shows up on radar and you are in the path of the storm. 

Prioritize Safety Above all Else

I’ve covered countless tornadoes in my broadcast career and every single time a watch or warning is issued, I stress again and again the importance that your and your employees’ safety comes first above anything else. A recent example that goes along with this was when a tornado formed overnight and moved through the town of Mayfield, KY, claiming the lives of eight factory workers in process. There was more than 20 minutes of lead time ahead of the tornado, but in a building that had no basement, many still wonder if there was more that could have been done to prevent this tragedy.

Here’s what your business needs to know to stay a step ahead of tornado season:

Questions Every Business Should Ask Before a Tornado

  • Shelter: Do you have somewhere underground or a tornado shelter that could withstand even the strongest of storms? This is especially important for companies based in “Tornado Alley” or locations that typically see more severe weather than other parts of the country. Remember, your safe place—and ways to get to your safe place—should be clearly labeled, far away from windows, and not in big open rooms such as cafeterias or auditoriums.
  • Communication: Does leadership have access to warnings and an efficient communications plan to reach all employees immediately? This can include automated alerts and/or a loudspeaker on every floor to share the latest information. If you have remote technicians or drivers that work in the field, do you have a way to get real-time information safely to them if they are in the path of the storm? Make sure to have a way to rely that information quickly and in a calm manner that won’t be a dangerous distraction but bring a sense of urgency of the actions that need to be taken.
  • Materials: Do you have safety kits on hand that’s packed with essentials such as battery-operated flashlights and first aid kids to help get your staff through the aftermath of a storm? Here’s a good reminder of some things to make sure are in each one that you have.
  • Asset Management: Do you have up-to-date photos of all aspects of your business? From vehicles to buildings to multiple job sites, make sure you’re financially protecting your company by having a full assessment ahead of the storm so if there’s damage, comparing that with photos you take afterwards will aid in your insurance claims. Do you have all your data backed up on a daily or weekly basis? Cloud storages or other ways to access important information virtually if a tornado wipes out a building is something that should also be part of your preparedness plan.
  • Business Continuity: If you lose power or your business takes a direct hit from a tornado, do you have a plan in place to keep the company up and running remotely or with backup locations? Even temporary shut-downs can have long-term effects so make sure you know what to do after a storm that’s both effective and scalable.
  • Technology: Do you have the right tools to prepare for the impact of extreme weather in advance? Listening to the forecast is only one piece of the puzzle. Weather intelligence technology like allows organizations to generate automated Insights based on weather conditions at a hyperlocal level. In doing so, you can monitor parameters in advance to better protect your employees, business, and community.

Remember, it only takes one storm to cause significant threats to your employees’ safety and business’s security. Understand your risks ahead of time in order to take proactive action before the next storm hits.

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