Tornado Safety Recommendations

Posted: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:28pm Updated: Fri, 02/22/2013 - 2:50pm

From: Michael Zukunft zukunftm@usa.redcross.org
Updated: February 25, 2003

I am the State Disaster Specialist for the American Red Cross. During this month, Indiana schools have been preparing for and practicing tornado safety drills. Some schools have looked to the American Red Cross for guidance. Below are the instructions given to Red Cross chapters in Indiana to relay to schools when requests are received.

Please feel free to pass along this information to your staff and school systems. The brochure, "Tornadoes: Nature's Most Violent Storms" (ARC 5002) can be requested by schools from their local American Red Cross chapter. If you have inquiries or questions that you wish to discuss, please contact me.

Tornado Safety Position

Recently several calls and e-mails have asked for verification of the correct tornado safety position for children to take during drills (and actual tornadoes) in schools.

The correct tornado safety position is like the one illustrated in the "Tornadoes: Nature's Most Violent Storms" brochure (ARC 5002). The child should be sitting/kneeling FACING the wall, with his/her hands over the back of his/her head and neck, tucked into a ball.

There was concern from some people that this leaves the child's back exposed and therefore subject to spinal injury. Over 50 years of statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Public Health Service, indicate that NO children have been injured by a tornado when they are in this position. Contrarily, data indicate that there have been some injuries to children when they are facing the other way. The injuries those children received were abrasions, cuts, and contusions caused by flying debris; and severe eye injuries (including two children blinded, one in Illinois in 1982)... children can't help but want to try to look up and thus get debris in their eyes. The other major problem with the face-forward position is, once again as kids can't resist trying to "sneak a peek," there are documented cases of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children who observe damage while it is happening.

So, please use the brochure for the explanation and illustration of the correct tornado safety position, and use the above information to dispel concerns about potential spinal/back injury.