Safety

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Tornadoes are one of the most destructive storms that households have to manage. These funnels can sustain extremely high wind speeds that may destroy an entire building in the course of a few minutes. It is not surprising that pets find this type of storm particularly stressful to experience.

Fortunately, families have many ways that they can prepare to minimize damage to their homes and the threat to themselves, their families, and dogs. Planning before a natural disaster can provide a better source of shelter for everyone.

Quick action during the event helps to keep all members of the household calm and safe. Understanding the common types of damage people might see after a tornado makes it easier for households to protect their dogs from injury or displacement.

Here are a few things you should know about creating a tornado preparedness plan that includes your dog.

Before The Tornado

Walking the dog in yellow raincoat on rainy day. Female person and staffordshire terrier dog on a leash stand on pavement in urban park in bad weather

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In some parts of the country, tornadoes are a regular part of life. Families with dogs in these regions need to stay alert for the possibility that a tornado may come to their street.

Much of a household’s ability to remain safe during a tornado depends on the actions they take in the months before it strikes. These tasks help households determine what they can do to create a structure ideal for safety, and how to prepare for a tornado.

Reinforce Your Home

During a tornado, the home usually provides a place for shelter. However, it can only offer protection as long as it is able to sustain high winds or flying debris.

To prevent harm to people and their pets, households should consider the following home improvement tasks:

  • Maintain and repair the roof regularly
  • Trim trees away from the home
  • Use high-impact glass for windows
  • Reinforce doors with longer screws
  • Install wind-resistant siding
  • Use storm-ready garage doors

Upgrading to new materials may not need to be done more than every five to 15 years, depending on the product. As such, proper maintenance is key. Loose siding or roof shingles can easily become a projectile in strong winds.

Stay Informed

Sisters in room with radio and dog

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Even with the best data, knowing where a tornado will strike and how much damage it will create can be difficult. Families should arm themselves with as much information as possible so that they can protect themselves, their families, and their dogs.

Although tornadoes are more common in some parts of the country than others, almost any place could have one if the conditions are right. People should look for typical signs of a tornado, including:

  • Severe thunderstorms in the forecast
  • High winds
  • Rotating, funnel-shaped clouds
  • Clouds of debris in the distance
  • Loud, roaring sounds

People should keep an eye on the weather forecast. For up-to-date information, they can use various alert systems, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

Regions where tornadoes are frequent may also have sirens as an alert for people outside. Parents should teach family members to listen for and heed the sound.

Practice Your Tornado Safety Plan

In an emergency, people and pets tend to revert to their old habits. This means that families should create and practice a tornado evacuation plan long before they ever need to use it.

People who live in places with frequent tornadoes may only have a few minutes from the time they receive the notice until the storm arrives. In this time, they should:

  • Quickly close exterior doors
  • Gather family members and pets
  • Go to a safe room or tornado shelter
  • Confirm that everyone is present
  • Put dogs in crates

In order to instill a calm sense of urgency, households should practice the routine until everyone in the house can complete it with ease. Everyone in the home must be involved in the drill, especially pets and young children.

Dogs may need a lot of repetition before they understand what is expected of them, and they usually need households to perform regular drills to keep the habits fresh.

During The Storm

Dog Looking Away While Standing On Field Against Cloudy Sky

(Picture Credit: Xavier Caspall / EyeEm/Getty Images)

As most people who live in tornado regions know, these storms do not tend to last very long. In fact, the entire experience from the first siren or warning to the aftermath may be less than half an hour.

The average tornado lasts less than 10 minutes, although there may be another storm coming in its wake. This means that households and pets do not have a lot of time to act, nor do they have to wait a particularly long time.

What they do in the moment makes a big difference for their safety.

Get To Your Designated Safe Area

Families who live in regions where tornadoes are rare may benefit from simply scoping out a few safe places to go if one hits.

People who go through multiple tornado warnings every year need to set up a safe room or shelter on their property. This may be a bathroom or a closet.

Whatever room or space is chosen, make sure that any materials or cleaners that may be harmful to dogs are stored away and out of reach. As a general rule, the safe space should be:

  • Underground or on the lowest level
  • Large enough for every resident, but not much bigger
  • Uncluttered and furnished minimally
  • Located away from windows or exterior walls and doors
  • Stocked with supplies and important information for everyone in the house

If people do not have a safe area in the home, they need to identify a local area that will provide adequate shelter.

For example, manufactured homes are not considered an appropriate shelter for tornadoes, in part, because they are not permanently attached to a foundation. In these and other cases, households may want to construct an alternative tornado shelter, or talk to neighbors about sheltering with them.

The storm itself may only last for a short time. Dogs may need a distraction during this time and a safe place to shelter, such as a crate.

The supplies help to provide protection in case the home or nearby properties sustain serious damage. Families should plan to keep at least a few days’ worth of food and water for people and pets.

Since even shelf-stable foods and water have an expiration date, households should plan to check and cycle out their supplies at least once every few months.

Use Training To Get Dogs To Safety

French bulldog looking up while standing on steps at home

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Training pets to go to the safe room is the best way to ensure that they will be able to do this during an emergency.

The biggest reason that families need to involve their pets in tornado safety routines is to help counteract their natural instincts. Animals, people included, tend to hide in the place they think is the safest when they sense danger or get scared.

The problem is that with a tornado, there are many hiding places that are not safe.

Dogs with sensitive hearing may become frightened or agitated, particularly if there are loud sounds like a tornado siren. Families should remain calm and follow the routine to assure their animals that they are in control.

Large families or people with young children may prefer to teach their dogs to go to the safe room through the use of a specific word or whistle.

Act Quickly After A Tornado Warning

Quick thinking and action can save lives during a tornado. On average, people have less than 15 minutes after a tornado warning to take shelter before it arrives. As soon as they hear the warning, they should alert everyone in the house to follow the safety plan.

Once they gather everyone and go to the safe room or shelter on the property, they should put dogs inside crates. Placing the crate under a table or in a closet can help to protect against falling debris.

From this position, everyone can wait as the storm passes. Children should be instructed to avoid letting dogs out of their crates until an adult in the house says that it is safe to do so. Families may prefer to offer a distraction, like a toy or snack to help with stress or anxiety about the tornado.

Managing A Tornado’s Aftermath

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 07: A dog stands in the left behind by a tornado on February 7, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to the weather service, 25 people were injured in the aftermath of the tornado.

(Picture Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Although the tornado itself is the most dangerous aspect of this experience, the aftermath poses a number of threats as well. Households should be aware of common problems that arise after their area sustains damage after a tornado.

With proper attention to hazards and an understanding of how pets act after a disaster, they can minimize the likelihood of harming or losing their dogs.

Confirm The Storm Is Over

It can be difficult to tell when the storm has passed. Tornadoes often have strong winds coming before and after them, and sometimes even other tornadoes. This means that people may think that they are in the clear when they are not.

During a tornado warning, people should keep close track of the local weather updates. National and local emergency alert systems can provide useful information about the status of a tornado or weather system.

Families should plan to keep everyone in the household in place until they are confident that the storm is done in their area.

Identify Potential Dangers

LONGMONT , CO - JUNE 5: Brandon Scott, with his dog Baxter, salvages what he can in the living room of his home that was destroyed when a tornado ripped through it at 15763 North 83rd tree in Longmont, Colorado hard on June 5, 2015. The duo along with Scott's 75 year old grandfather survived the tornado by staying in their basement as it roared through the area.

(Picture Credit: Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

Once the storm has passed completely, families should temporarily leave pets and children with an adult in the safe room. This will allow them to inspect the damage, identify hazards, and plan to take action for the immediate future.

They should look for the following signs of danger:

  • Debris blocking entrances and exits
  • Downed power lines
  • Exposed pipework, leaking water, or sewage
  • Open storm drains or manholes
  • Wild animals exposed by the storm
  • Trees that may fall from damage
  • Open pools of water, particularly around electrical sources

Pets should not be allowed to roam freely outside after a storm. It is too difficult to keep them from eating or drinking hazardous substances or treading into dangerous areas.

Instead, dog owners should keep them in their crates or on a short leash until they can go to a safer place.

Make A Plan For Lost Pets

Prior planning can often help families avoid losing their dogs in the first place, but it still happens on occasion. Dogs who cannot be brought to the safe area during the tornado may find shelter elsewhere.

If the neighborhood takes a lot of damage during the storm, familiar landmarks and scents can throw dogs off-course. They may not be able to find their way back home because they no longer recognize the landscape.

In this case, households should be ready to look for their pets and make them as easy to identify as possible. Local animal shelters and rescue organizations will often provide information about dogs and other animals they find after a disaster.

Dogs who are microchipped and have identification tags will be easier for animal control professionals to identify and notify their owners. Owners should have relevant information about their pets, including pictures, to show others during the search.

Tornadoes can be frightening to people, but even more so for dogs. Animals often don’t understand what’s going on, beyond knowing that there is a threat. Developing a regular routine to prepare for tornadoes will make it easier for people and pets to know what to do and perform their tasks quickly and safely.

By following these tips, families can reduce the chances that their dogs will be at risk before, during, or after a tornado hits their area.

Do you have any other tips for preparing your family, dogs included, for a tornado? Have you and your pups ever been through one of these storms? Let us know in the comments below!

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