Bracing for Impact: Tornado Preparedness Strategies for Businesses

By Sam Hihn on Mar 18, 2024
5 min read 4 Comments

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March 1 marked the onset of the severe weather season across the central United States, bringing with it devastation that has swiftly dominated news headlines.

With over a half dozen tornadoes reported across six states just in the past week, the critical importance of tornado preparedness has never been more evident. Particularly hard-hit were Ohio and Kentucky, where the impact was stark: three lives tragically lost in Ohio, alongside dozens of injuries and extensive damage to both business and residential properties. 

This alarming start underscores the urgent need for comprehensive tornado preparedness strategies to safeguard communities and workplaces alike.

So, what does tornado preparedness include in 2024? Here's a look:

Severe Weather and Tornado Season 2024 Forecast

Looking back to 2023, there were 1,450 reported tornadoes and 1,402 confirmed tornadoes. 

For the 2024 tornado season, AccuWeather is predicting 1,250 to 1,375 tornadoes, which is above the historical average of 1,225, but fewer than in 2023.

Aside from the predictions, the best anyone can do is review their tornado preparedness policy and be prepared.

If your business were hit by a tornado tonight, would your workers be safe? Here’s how to keep your workplace and employees safe.

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Tornado Season

While tornadoes can occur at any time and in any place in the U.S., most occur during the months of March, April and May, often referred to as “Tornado Season.”

In fact, 55% of annual tornadoes occur during these months. But it isn’t just the volume of tornadoes that makes this time of year so dangerous, the intensity is at its peak as well, resulting in more fatalities and damage.

Tornado Preparedness at Work

Oftentimes, tornadoes strike without warning making knowing all the signs and being prepared a must to help reduce the likelihood of employee injuries or fatalities.

Develop a Tornado Preparedness Plan

Unfortunately, most businesses do not have a “game plan” in their employee handbook for worst-case scenarios, like tornadoes. But without a disaster preparedness plan, it may mean negligence on your behalf, which equates to liability and possible lawsuits. Find out what to consider when creating your business’ emergency plan in this popular blog post.

  • A small, windowless, interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building (next safest option).

  • Stay away from doors, windows, and outdoor walls.

  • Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums or cafeteria-style rooms which usually have a large flat root.

  • Employees who routinely work outdoors or in a building that isn’t sturdy, should seek an underground shelter or sturdy building immediately upon warning and should never wait until they see a tornado. If they can safely drive to shelter, they should do so, but should never try to outrun a tornado.

  • If outdoor workers are unable to get to a sturdy building or shelter and have access to a vehicle, they should be advised to get into one, buckle up and put their head down between their legs, lower than the vehicle windows with both hands over the back of the head.

  • The National Weather Service advises travelers to lie down in the ditch with both hands over the back of the head. The idea is to be lower than the debris flying around as most tornado injuries are from being struck by flying debris.

  • When employees are traveling or working outdoors and weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes, a safe spot should be identified before the start of the workday.

Select a Safe Place 

Know where employees will go in all situations. While the safest place is in an underground tornado shelter or basement, sometimes it’s not an option. According to the Red Cross, other places to go when a tornado warning has been issued include:

Conduct Regularly Scheduled Tornado Drills

Employees should know what the alarm system will be, how they are notified, and where to seek shelter.

RELATED: When Disaster Strikes, Eight Steps to Prepare Your Business >>

Know the Signs

A tornado may be forming or approaching if you notice any of these signs:
  • Dark, often greenish-colored sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Cloud of debris
  • Large hail or heavy rain followed by a dead calm
  • Funnel cloud (visible rotation in the cloud base)
  • Roaring noise

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Monitor the Local Weather

If severe weather is predicted for your area creating conditions favorable for tornadoes, the local news or the National Weather Service should be monitored for watches and warnings. Employees should be regularly updated on weather conditions via email, text or other methods.

Always have a primary communication method and a secondary method.

Understand the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and Warning

  • Tornado watch: A tornado has not been spotted yet, but conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and near the watch area. Watches are generally issued for broad areas.

  • Tornado warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Go immediately to a basement, storm shelter, or interior room. Warnings are generally issued for highly localized areas.

Understand How Your Local Community Warning System Works

While community warning systems help to alert of a possible tornado, sirens should never be the sole warning system used by your workplace.

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How To Respond in the Aftermath of a Tornado at Work

  • Gather in a Safe Spot

    Once the tornado has passed, employees should know where to gather and how you will communicate with them.
  • Complete a Headcount

    Use a roster or checklist to account for employees, customers and/or visitors.
  • Check Employees for Injuries

    If a worker is severely injured, seek medical assistance immediately. Never move a severely injured person unless they would be in severe danger of further injuries if not moved.
  • Continue to Monitor the Local News and Weather

  • Wear Protective Gear

    Always wear adequate protective gear when handling or moving through debris.

  • Be on the Alert for the Smell of Gas

    Report possible broken gas lines to the utility company immediately.
  • Watch Out for Fallen Power Lines

  • Stay Out of Damaged Buildings

  • Photograph Damage for Insurance Claims

Workplace Safety

According to OSHA, employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace. Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with severe weather events, like tornadoes. 

Safeguard Your Workplace with Expert Risk Management Solutions

Severe weather poses an ongoing risk to any workplace environment. However, with Axcet's specialized expertise in risk management, you can ensure the safety of your employees. Our team of safety and risk management consultants is equipped to assist you in creating comprehensive fire and tornado drill plans.

Not only that, but we will actively collaborate with you to conduct practice drills, ensuring preparedness for any emergency. Prioritize the well-being of your workforce by partnering with Axcet. Discover how our expert PEO solutions can protect your workplace; schedule a consultation today.

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Written by Sam Hihn

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