Know the difference between watches and warnings

Watch: Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.

Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Watch for tornado danger signs

Ominous skies are an indication that a severe weather event is about to occur. Typically, a tornado emerges from a thunderstorm as a rotating funnel and extends to the ground. Watch for dark, green clouds, wall clouds, flying debris, large hail, funnel clouds or visible rotation and a roaring noise.

Stay informed about weather conditions

During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. Also, tune into local weather channels or internet weather sites to see the latest radar activity.

Know your community’s warning system

Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.

Designate a safe area within the community

Pick a safe room or area where residents can go during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Consider having the safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA web site.

Practice, practice, practice tornado drills

Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Just like in the event of a fire, residents should be prepared to evacuate their apartments in an orderly fashion.

Prepare the outside of the property for a tornado

Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees. Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

Prepare and maintain an emergency survival kit

Make an emergency safety kit and periodically check on it to make sure it’s ready to go in the event of a disaster. The American Red Cross lists a number of essential items in its survival kit, including having a flashlight, battery-powered radio, a first-aid kit, multi-purpose tool, cell phone with charger and non-perishable food and water.

The first step to surviving a tornado is adequately preparing your staff and residents.