Preparing Your Community for Tornado Season

Written by Jennifer Elliott

Tornadoes come on with little warning and can destroy communities in seconds. Learn to prepare your citizens for a tornado disaster.
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For many states across the country, spring means tornado season. These devastating storms can strike at any time, but generally tornado season in the United States tends to shift from the south to the north from late winter to mid-summer. Southern states, including the Gulf Coast, are most at risk from March to May, while the southern plains face the greatest threat from May through early June. Regardless of when peak tornado season typically occurs in your region, take the time now to start ensuring your local government is prepared with the tools and resources necessary to disseminate life-saving information if or when a tornado strikes.  

The Dangers of Tornadoes 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains a database of monthly and annual tornado deaths by state. Even for those living in regions prone to tornado attacks, the possibility of being impacted can feel slim. In reality, an average of 60 people every year are killed by 1,200 tornadoes while 1,500 others suffer injuries. In addition, tornadoes cause roughly $400 million in damages putting them on par with that of hurricanes. A tornado can strike quickly with little or no warning and may appear nearly transparent until the last minute. The only way for individuals to safeguard their loved ones and homes from these unpredictable and devastating storms is through early education and preparedness training. 

Awareness Education and Preparedness Training 

The best way to help keep your citizens safe from tornadoes is through education. Generating awareness about the dangers of tornadoes, and proactively disseminating safety information, will result in a much greater likelihood that citizens will know what to do and where to go when a tornado strikes. History also proves that prepared communities are able to recover from a tornado’s effects in less time than communities who are caught off guard.    

Promote Statewide Preparedness Session Participation 

A tornado can touch down anywhere, however only 20 states actively participate in preparedness efforts (up from 17 in 2016). If your state is one that coordinates an annual tornado drill and preparedness session, communicate the date and necessary participation details to your community. In 2017, state tornado preparation sessions will take place on the following key dates:  

  • Arkansas - March 1
  • Florida - January 25
  • Illinois - March 7
  • Indiana - March 21
  • Iowa - March 29
  • Kansas - March 7
  • Kentucky - February 28
  • Michigan - April 19
  • Minnesota - April 20
  • Mississippi - February 22
  • Nebraska - March 29
  • New York - May 4
  • North Carolina - March 8
  • North Dakota - April 26
  • Ohio - March 22 
  • South Carolina - March 8
  • South Dakota - April 26
  • Virginia - March 21
  • Wisconsin - April 20
  • Wyoming - April 12


Encourage citizens to take part in the annual preparedness session by educating them about the benefits of emergency training. Post information about the preparedness session on your website, send reminder emails to citizens several weeks in advance, and send text message alerts the day before as a final reminder. Be sure to also post information to your social media sites and encourage social sharing to help widen the audience for your message.  

Prepare Your Community to React 

To further prepare your citizens for the threat of tornadoes make sure your municipality has an emergency plan in place. Utilize your tools and resources to communicate critical and potentially life-saving information in the event that a natural disaster does occur. Ensure the following steps take place at the beginning of every year: 

  • Encourage citizens to build and maintain disaster kits in their homes and advise citizens to re-stock their shelves with supplies.
  • Hold storm spotter and weather safety training sessions in your community by teaching citizens how to spot the onset of a storm and monitor storm notifications.
  • Hold tornado drills to prepare your citizens with the necessary steps for tornado safety protocol.  
  • Designate safe shelters within the community to ensure citizens know where to go if danger strikes.

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan 

Make sure your staff knows what to do when a tornado touches down. In the event of a natural disaster, citizens will look to their local community leaders for guidance and information. By having communication tools and strategies in place in advance of a disaster, your local government will be prepared to quickly share the life-saving information needed to keep citizens safe. Consider the following best practices: 

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  • Prepare a social media communication plan to effectively reach a wider range of your residents.
  • Encourage citizens to sign-up in advance to receive your emergency notifications via email, phone or text message.

In the case of a tornado or emergency situation, every second counts towards saving lives. CivicReady® has provided communities across the nation with a centralized communication platform to disseminate life saving information in the event of any type of local emergency. With such robust features as a mobile interface, IPAWS connectivity, and conference bridge capabilities for internal staff, you can quickly prepare, respond and recover from a disaster. Click below to begin your self-guided tour of CivicReady.

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