COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio's annual tornado season might have begun in April, but if history is any guide, June is the month to be on guard.
According to information on the website of the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) (http://www.weathersafety.ohio.gov), in the 70 years between 1940 and 2010, Ohio experienced a total of 215 tornadoes during the month of June, compared with next-highest totals of 174 total in May and 167 in July.
"April through July is Ohio's peak season for tornadoes," said Aletha Reshan, program coordinator for Emergency Management Planning and Education in Ohio State University's Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. "But they can occur any time -- historical records show that Ohio has had tornadoes in all 12 months of the year."
In the case of a tornado, the OCSWA encourages everyone to follow the DUCK principle:
- D: Go down to the lowest level.
- U: Get under something.
- C: Cover your head.
- K: Keep in shelter until the storm has passed.
In addition, Reshan encourages everyone to think ahead, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
"It's helpful to have a plan already in place, so you know what to do beforehand and don't have to make decisions right in the middle of an emergency," she said. "And practice, so it's not so foreign to you when you actually have to do it." Preparations include:
- Determine ahead of time where you and the family will gather when a tornado warning sounds. A basement is ideal. An interior room on the ground floor is next-best. "Put as many walls and barriers between you and the tornado activity as possible," she said.
- Keep a battery-operated radio in that location so you know what is happening outside.
- Take your cell phone with you, and be sure it contains emergency contacts so you can keep in touch with others.
- If you're driving and spot a tornado, seek shelter in a sturdy, well-constructed building if at all possible, or find a ditch or culvert to climb into, covering your head. Don't stay in your vehicle or seek shelter under an overpass, which is among the worst places to be if a tornado strikes.
- People in mobile homes need to get quickly to a nearby sturdy structure. Even if tied down, mobile homes offer little or no protection from tornadoes.
Reshan also strongly encourages everyone to sign up for alerts offered by county emergency management authorities. A list is available on the Ohio Emergency Management Agency website, http://ema.ohio.gov/ -- click on "Ohio County EMA Directors List."
And, people must pay attention when the alerts or tornado sirens sound an alarm. Those who frequently travel from one county to another should consider signing up for e-mail or text alerts for every county on their commute.
"All the warning systems in the world won't help if people don't pay attention to them," Reshan said. "It's human nature to become complacent if the siren goes off and nothing bad happens. But people need to be vigilant. It's not a waste of time to take precautions when a tornado has been spotted. If nothing happens, that's a good thing."
Interested community members may also want to join a local Community Emergency Response Team. These teams, which operate in communities across the country, educate people about disaster preparedness and train them in basic disaster response skills so they can support first responders and provide immediate assistance in their neighborhoods. To learn more, see Ohio's CERT website at http://ohioresponds.gov/cert.stm.