When a tornado strikes, there is often minimal warning and little that one can do besides shelter in the safest place possible (see more here). After a tornado, the damage to one’s home and possessions can be devastating, and help may be inaccessible.
If you live in tornado country, you need to be prepared for whatever might be thrown at you. The best way to prepare for the catastrophic effects of even a minor tornado is to preemptively accumulate a tornado emergency kit that can help you deal with the storm’s aftermath.
If your home or neighborhood is seriously damaged by a tornado, you’ll need some essential supplies for your immediate survival - plus you should also consider the longer term impact of things like power or water are out.
To help you decide what you need, we’ve created this tornado supply list. Let’s get to it!
Communication and Power Devices
After a tornado, you’ll want to be able to communicate with loved ones and emergency personnel. When the power goes out, you may not have access to the internet, so you’ll need alternative ways of getting information and communicating with others.
Radio (Immediate Survival Need)
If the power and telephone lines go down, you might not have access to landline phones or cell phone signal. A battery-powered radio will work regardless of the power situation in your area and can be a very useful way to get critical information regarding emergency services and local shelters.
You may also want to consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio, which can provide crucial pre-storm information to inform people of impending dangers. Many of these radios are designed to work with external devices for people who have visual impairments or for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Personally I love my Running Snail Solar Crank Radio (review here).
External power bank
If you do have cell coverage and need to use your phone, you’ll likely need to charge it at some point, so you don’t run out of battery. External power banks are an affordable and effective way to keep all of your USB-compatible devices charged and ready for use in an emergency.
If you have any alkaline battery-powered device, you’ll also want to stock up on batteries. We recommend an assortment of different sizes, so you can power up any device in an emergency.
Small, portable solar panels can be indispensable tools in the aftermath of a natural disaster. They can be used to power devices and rechargeable power banks for weeks after a disaster, if need be. Check out this review of the Goal Zero Nomad 7 for information on one of our favorite panels.
Diesel- and gas-powered generators are incredibly useful for powering part or all of a home when the power goes out. A generator is most useful if your house is not seriously affected by the tornado, but can be great for keeping critical electronics, air conditioning, and heat running in your home if necessary. Don’t forget an adequate supply of fuel, too. These inverter generators are great options (link).
Tornadoes can be incredibly violent and debris from homes, cars, trees, and the like can cause serious injury to people and pets. A well-stocked tornado first aid kit has an extensive selection of trauma supplies for both children and adults.
It’s worth having supplies and equipment for treating pets, too. Don’t forget to have at least a few day’s supplies of prescription medicines for people in your family in your kit.
Food and Water
After a tornado, you may be completely cut off from any food and water sources. Thus, it’s important to stock up on supplies to help people survive until help arrives.
For food, you'll want at least a 3 day supply, but preferably more, if you have space. Non-perishables are key, so you might opt for canned and boxed foods. Backpacker freeze-dried meals are also an option but are more expensive and require boiling water. Keep specific dietary requirements in mind so that everyone in your household has something to eat. I have one of these 30 day food supply buckets for each person in my house (review).
Be sure to stock up on water for at least 3 days. One gallon per person per day is an absolute minimum and more is certainly better, especially if you live in a very warm location. Five-gallon water jugs are a great option as they are refillable and easy to store at home. Here is a great post on how to store water for the long term (link).
If your water supply is still active after a tornado, you’ll want to take precautions against water-borne illnesses. Boiling water is the only sure-fire way to kill viruses and bacteria, but this does require a stove. Other effective options include iodine tablets and water treatment solutions such as Aquamira and PolarPure.
If your home is destroyed, you may need to improvise shelter for you and your family until help arrives. Traditional camping supplies can be incredibly useful in this scenario.
Tents that can house all of your family members and pets are critical for keeping people warm and dry after a tornado. You can opt for one big tent or multiple small tents. Sturdiness and waterproofing are the most important tent qualities here.
If you do want to boil your water to prevent water-borne illnesses or if you want to cook food, you’ll need a stove. A small single burner that can boil water rapidly is a great option that doesn’t take up too much space. Remember that you’ll also need some pots, pans, and cutlery to use the stove, too.
Sleeping bags and mats
A collection of sleeping bags and mats is important for keeping people warm and dry, especially if they are injured. Blankets and warm clothes are also good alternatives.
This is important for sleeping out and for searching through debris. A good, strong, and reliable headlamp or flashlight can be indispensable after a tornado. Don’t forget batteries!
If you have kids, stuffed animals, books, and games can be a great way to comfort them in difficult times.
Emergency contact information
You should have a complete list of relevant local emergency services in your tornado emergency kit. These numbers should include local police, fire, and ambulance squads as well as family doctors, poison control, veterinarians, and reliable family and friends who can be a source of important information from outside the tornado zone. It is also useful to have contact information for neighbors and family/friends who live locally so you can check in on them, too.
Copies of important information
It can be useful to have copies of individual’s ID cards and health insurance information in the event that they need to go to a hospital for medical treatment. A list of family member’s allergies, medications, and other pertinent medical information can also be useful to give to a doctor or first-responder in an emergency.
A small digital camera is important for documenting damage to your home and possessions when making insurance claims. Make sure the camera has a time-stamping function and that you take pictures of the damage as soon as it is safe to do so. Have your insurance agent's phone number handy, too.
Be Prepared for a Tornado BEFORE it Strikes!
Tornado emergency kits contain all the items you need after a tornado. It’s important to maintain a well-stocked kit and to be sure that all food and medical supplies in the kit aren’t expired. Whatever you choose to put in your emergency kit, it’s important to have the supplies that work best for you and your needs.