Tornadoes are one of nature’s most violent storms and can cause death, injury and destruction within seconds. Protecting your staff, volunteers and shoppers is an important responsibility. But it takes planning and practice to react quickly and make the right decisions when there is severe weather.
Each year, there are an average of 800 tornadoes in the U.S., and wind speeds can reach 250 mph or more. Tornadoes develop in a matter of seconds and can stay on the ground for more than an hour.
An early warning system is the biggest factor for protecting life and property during a tornado. Make sure that you have some method of being notified if a tornado watch or tornado warning has been issued by the local weather authorities.
- A tornado watch means that tornadoes are possible in the area, and you should remain alert for any approaching storms.
- A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted by trained spotters or indicated by weather radar.
Environmental clues can also warn you of potential tornadoes, with common signs including:
- Dark and often green-tinted clouds and skies
- Wall clouds
- Large hail
- Funnel clouds
- Roaring noises
Preparing for a tornado emergency takes a combination of planning, emergency equipment, team training and exercise drills. Here are some quick tips to help you prepare:
1. Ensure your Emergency Action Plan  is up to date and that all contact numbers are current so that everyone can be accounted for in an emergency.
2. Designate a severe weather shelter in the ReStore. Notify staff of its location and post signage for customers. If you are on the jobsite, consider sending volunteers or employees home before severe weather hits or locating a storm shelter near each jobsite.
3. Implement an employee alarm system to give yourself the ability to communicate with occupants of the ReStore quickly to seek shelter. Communicate with volunteers and employees via call or text if the workday needs to be postponed due to severe weather.
4. Obtain equipment that can receive emergency bulletins to seek shelter, such as a weather radio or cell phone, and keep it charged and in good working order.
5. Create a “power down” kit that can be taken into the shelter. These kits can include:
- Emergency blankets
- First aid kit
- Battery powered radio
6. Hold training sessions and practice emergency drills with staff to ensure everyone understands the emergency process.
After a tornado, safety risks can remain. Be especially careful of:
- Damaged roadways
- Nonfunctioning traffic signals
- Flash flooding
- Fallen tree limbs
- Downed power lines
- Debris with nails and glass
Depending on the amount of damage, structural, electrical or fire hazards may exist. Make sure everyone is accounted for and sheltering in a safe area and continue monitoring emergency weather bulletins.
Severe weather can be worrisome and costly. But with the right severe weather plan and insurance coverage  in place, you can protect your employees, customers and store in the event of a tornado.