Published in the August 23, 2016 edition.
WAKEFIELD — As Monday morning’s tornado in Concord proved, the devastating and violent storms can and do happen here. With that in mind, Fire Chief Michael Sullivan shared some tips from the Wakefield Fire Department on how to stay safe during a tornado or severe thunderstorm.
Learn the terminology. Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches are issued when conditions likely to produce a tornado are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Listen to the media for updates. Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. When a tornado warning is issued in your area, you should take shelter immediately.
Be alert for approaching storm. Particularly a revolving funnel-shaped cloud. Other tornado warning signs include a dark, almost greenish sky, large hail, a large dark low-lying cloud and a loud roar similar to a freight train. Be warned that tornadoes can form rapidly with no visible advanced warning.
Be prepared to take shelter immediately. Avoid spaces with wide span roofs such as an auditorium, cafeteria, supermarket or shopping mall. Take refuge in a basement or storm shelter if available. If this is not possible, seek shelter in an interior hallway or room with no windows on the lowest possible floor. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. If possible, get under a sturdy table and use your arms to cover your head and neck. Do not open windows, go to the center of the room and avoid corners, which attract debris.
If caught outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Do not go under a bridge or overpass, you are safer in a low flat location. Remember, most fatalities and injuries from tornadoes are caused by flying debris.
Once the storm passes, be aware of the dangers from broken glass and downed power lines. Call 911 only if help is needed. Help injured or trapped persons if safe to do so. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or severe injury. Stay out of damaged building until they are deemed safe by authorities. Leave the area if you smell gas or chemical fumes.