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5 Tornado Safety Tips for a Chicago High Rise Building

by Patti Althoff - Siwicki | Jun 12, 2019 | Property Manager, Facility Manager, Emergency Service, Emergency Repair | 0 Comments

Tornado Safety Tips for a Chicago High Rise Building

How prepared are you in the event of a tornado? The standard advice when a tornado warning has been issued or the tornado warning sirens are blaring is to move to the lowest floor of the building and take shelter in an interior room. If the building has a basement, it is best to go all the way down to the basement. However, this advice isn’t necessarily ideal if you live or work in a high-rise building in Chicago.

High-Rise Buildings Were Built with High Winds in Mind

When it comes to high-rise buildings, residents, property managers and employees can rest easy knowing that these buildings were engineered and built to withstand high winds, even the winds produced by tornadoes. This means that a tornado is unlikely to destroy a high-rise condo, apartment building or co-op. However, the windows may still break. Therefore, individuals who live or work in the building should move to an interior room or closet with no windows during a tornado.

Understanding Tornadoes and Tornado Threats

Tornadoes are rotating columns of wind that usually occur during severe thunderstorms. They can have winds of 250mph or higher and cause devastating damage and destruction that can rip off roofs, destroy homes, overturn cars and rip trees out of the ground. Tornadoes tend to follow a path, which can range from a few miles up to 60. Tornado widths tend to range between 100 yards to two miles. However, there have been a few tornadoes larger than two miles wide.

When you receive an alert on your phone or TV or from a meteorologist, you’ll typically either see the words Tornado Watch or Tornado Warning.

  • Tornado Watch – The conditions are favorable for a tornado but no tornadoes have appeared yet. Individuals should remain vigilant in monitoring the news. It’s also a good idea to locate flashlights, weather radios, first aid kits and other safety items in case moving to a shelter or safe room is needed.

  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been spotted in the area and individuals should take shelter immediately. It’s important to bring a weather radio with fresh batteries a flashlight and other first aid supplies and safety equipment to the shelter area or safe room, if there is time.

Tips for Tornado Preparedness and Safety

When it comes to tornado preparedness and safety in a high-rise building, it’s important to prep, have a plan and know the fastest route to the designated safe rooms.

1. Make Sure Your Building Has a Tornado Safety Route and Safe Rooms that Are Clearly Marked

In an emergency, your residents will need to take shelter in the closest, safest location. When there isn’t time to move from the unit, your residents should be prepared to take shelter in an interior room or closet that does not contain any windows. When there’s more time available, your residents should have time to leave their units and walk to a safe room, like an interior room in the building, the basement if they live on the bottom floor or a stairwell. In order to help residents find the safest rooms in the building, it’s important to post evacuation routes with safe rooms clearly marked in the event of a tornado. The safe rooms should also have easily readable nameplates on the doors. If needed, you may also want to post the messages in additional languages and in braille.

2. Encourage Your Residents to Prepare a Tornado Safety Kit

Early in the season or prior to any severe weather, it’s important to encourage your residents to prepare a tornado safety kit. This safety kit should allow for survival for a few days, assuming utility service and water service has been disrupted.

At Home Emergency Kit

Your at-home or at-work emergency kit should be stored in a book bag or a bag that is easily portable to a safe room or interior closet.

  • Non-perishable food for humans and pets

  • Several bottles of water

  • A manual can opener, multi-tool and pocket knife

  • Any needed medications, including those for high blood pressure and diabetes

  • OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, like Tylenol and Advil

  • A first aid kit with medical gloves, bandages, antiseptic cream, etc

  • A flashlight and battery-powered or hand-cranked weather radio

  • Cash in smaller denominations, including $20s, $10s, $5s and $1s, because ATMs and credit card machines may be offline due to power and Internet outages

  • Personal documents, including drivers licenses, birth certificates and passports

  • Any other essential items you or your family must have to survive

Mobile Emergency Kit if You Are in Your Vehicle During Severe Weather

If you are inside your vehicle when severe weather hits, you should immediately pull off the road. If possible, you’ll want to pull off into a parking lot with a building where you can take shelter. However, if there is no time, pulling off on the side of the road and getting out of the vehicle to lay in a ditch is acceptable. Whatever you do, do not attempt to outrun the tornado in your car.

  • Non-perishable food and bottles of water

  • An extra set of tennis shoes, sneakers or hiking boots, especially if your work of errand attire requires heels or dress shoes that can’t be worn when walking long distances

  • Extra prescription and OTC medications

  • A complete first aid kit for taking care of minor cuts, scrapes and punctures until you can see a doctor

  • Flashlight, battery-operated weather radio, multi-tool and pocket knife

  • Whistle or air horn for signaling help if you get trapped under rubble

  • Cash in smaller denominations

  • Any other items that may be essential for your safety and survival

3. Know Your Safety Route or Safe Room

Prior to the onset of severe weather, it’s important to encourage your residents to inspect the tornado safety routes and to find their closest safe room. Knowing the route and where the nearest safe place is can save time when evacuating individual units. For some residents, this may be a stairwell. Residents on the top floors should not attempt to go down to the basements as they may not have enough time to get from their high-rise unit to the basement of the building.

4. Prepare Your High-Rise Before the Storm

Once you know there is severe weather in the forecast, it’s important to prepare your building. This may include sending alerts to residents via their cell phones, if possible, or by putting severe weather notices on their doors. You will want to have your employees and maintenance team remove anything from outdoors that could blow away in severe wind. This includes tables, chairs and planters. You may also want to take pictures of the interior and exterior of your building as before shots to show your insurance company if your building does incur storm damage. If you are not sure what your commercial property insurance policy includes, you should call your insurance agent.

5. Prepare a Plan for After the Storm

Getting ready for the storm is only half the battle. You’ll also want to prepare a plan for after the storm. How will you check on your residents after the severe weather has passed? Who is going to assess the damage caused by the storm? If anyone needs medical attention after the tornado, who will you call? How will you handle an extended power outage or boil water advisory? Knowing how to react to these situations can save lives and help post-storm cleanup run more smoothly.

Getting Help with Mechanical Equipment and Critical Systems After Severe Weather

Severe weather can damage mechanical equipment and the critical systems in your building. If the storm has damaged electrical wires, interior or exterior lighting or your rooftop HVAC system, you can count on us to come out and repair these systems once your power has been restored.

To learn more about our mechanical repair and replacement services, call us at 800-225-2443.

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