Eastern Michigan University

Environmental Health & Safety

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A tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornado intensities are classified between the ratings of F0 (weakest) to F5 (strongest). Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees and hurling objects through the air. Although severe tornadoes are more common in the Plain States, tornadoes have been reported in every state.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues several statements to notify the general public of potential and imminent weather-related hazards. These advisories are typically posted and announced on television, radio and internet and are specific to individual counties. Departments should have a portable radio available and listen to the local station (WEMU 89.1 FM) for watches/warning issued for the area.

The following watches/warnings may be issued:

  • Tornado Watch: A watch issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) that weather conditions are favorable for possible formation of tornadoes. When a tornado watch is issued, EMU Public Safety will monitor the National Weather Service for updates.
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted or that Doppler radar indicates a thunderstorm circulation which can spawn a tornado. When a tornado warning is issued, Washtenaw County will sound a three-minute continuous outdoor warning siren.

Remember, tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorms watch or warning is in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.

During A Tornado Watch

Tornado on lake

  1. Stay tuned to local media, WEMU radio (89.1FM), and other sources for weather alerts and emergency information.
  2. Be prepared to take shelter. Get together supplies you would want to take to a storm shelter area if a tornado warning is issued.
  3. If you see any rotating funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by telephone to EMU Public Safety at 734.487.1222.

During A Tornado Warning

If Indoors

  1. Move to the shelter areas in your building. These areas are posted in most buildings and are listed in the Building Emergency Plan.
  2. If you do not know the designated tornado shelter area, go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level of the building.
  3. If a basement is unavailable, get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table on the ground level of the building. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  4. If time permits, take a flashlight, first aid kit, radio, and your personal belongings (laptops, purses, book bags, etc.). DO NOT delay going to shelter in order to search for these items.
  5. Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, theater style rooms, cafeterias, large hallways, or gymnasiums.
  6. Stay away from exterior windows and doors as well as display cases, shelving, or wall mounted audio visual equipment that could collapse on top of you.

If Outdoors

  1. If you are outside when you hear the warning notification, seek inside shelter, preferably in a steel framed or concrete building.
  2. If you cannot reach a building, then you should lie flat in the nearest depression such as a ditch, curb, or ravine away from power lines, buildings and trees.
  3. Be aware for the potential for flash flooding.

If in a Vehicle

  1. If you are in your automobile and you see a tornado coming, don't try to out-run it.
  2. If no building is available, get out of the car and get in a low area such as a culvert, drain pipe or ditch.
  3. Do not get under a bridge or overpass; people have been killed from flying debris funneled through the opening under the bridge.
  4. If you are staying in your car, attempt to drive at right angles to the tornado to get out of its path.

After A Tornado Strike

  1. Remain calm and listen for information and instructions from emergency personnel.
  2. Give first aid when appropriate. Don't try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call EMU Public Safety at 734.487.1222 or 911 for assistance.
  3. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity.
  4. Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.
  5. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time.
  6. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby.