Preparing for the Worst During Tornado Season

It’s spring again! In the Midwest, this also means the anticipation of thunderstorms and the threat of tornadoes. tornado01

When the EF5 tornado hit Joplin, MO in May 2011, many people in Kansas City came to the aid of those devastated by the destruction. Wanting to help, I donated hygiene kits and diapers. As I dropped off those diapers, I headed home thinking of my own little guy still in Huggies.

That day, I decided I was going to start getting my family more prepared for emergencies. It was always something I had planned to do. So, with the devastation that the tornado brought to Joplin, a little wake-up call was brought to me. I started gathering items for my own 72-hour emergency preparedness kit.

I recommend starting with a backpack for each person in my family. Backpacks can be costly, which is why I purchased ours on clearance at Target.

Fill those backpacks with items to help get your family through three days. It’s a lot so just start where you can, and build your kits as time and money allow. There are things I still do not have in our kits (or, tornado bags, as my kids like to call them.) Anything is better than nothing!


What to put in your 72-Hour Kit

  • Water. The rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person, per day, readily available to you. For my family of seven, that means I need at least 21 gallons of water stored. I keep 2 liters of water in our backpacks, but also have gallons of water stored in the same area we keep our kits. Learn more about how to store water.
  • Food. Three days of non-perishable food for every person in your family. I pick foods that are somewhat healthy (dried fruits, granola), things that won’t make us more thirsty (avoiding salt), items that are protein-packed (peanut butter, tuna, nuts) and foods high in energy (hard candy). Also, make sure you have supplies to open cans, heat food and utensils. Don’t forget baby formula, bottles and extra water for your baby – yes, even if you are breastfeeding! Heaven forbid something happen to you and “the girls,” but you want to make sure your baby is taken care of no matter what.
  • Clothes – I use old clothes that I would normally donate or throw out – jeans with holes , old t-shirts from sports, stained shirts or jackets, etc. I also use old pairs of shoes that will still fit. Don’t forget several pairs of socks and underwear, as well as clothing or blankets.
  • Hygiene supplies. Shampoo, a bar of soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, washcloths, a comb. Don’t forget feminine hygiene supplies, toilet paper, and diapers for the baby; these things can also be useful to make make-shift bandages if needed.
  • First-aid kit. Include life-saving prescription medications as well as pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Storm radio. Powered by battery or hand-crank.
  • Flashlight. At this time of year, Costco sells – for about $20 – three-packs of small, heavy duty LED flashlights with an emergency strobe setting.
  • Candles and matches. A basic necessity should the batteries run out, and there’s still no power. I even have a pack of crayons in each of my kids’ bags, not only for entertainment, but because you can burn them as a candle.
  • Emergency phone. Yes, there is such a thing! The SpareOne emergency phone was an immediate buy for our kits when I learned of them. It’s “the only emergency mobile phone in the world powered by one single AA battery.” For $60, it’s worth the peace of mind.
  • Extra batteries. I keep both AA and AAAs on hand – sizes that would be used in our flashlights, radios and phones.
  • Copies of important paperwork such as birth certificates, insurance information, identification.

Kit Tips

  • Store and label supplies in plastic bags in categories so your supplies are organized and easy to find.
  • Don’t forget about your pets and what they will need to survive.
  • Keep kits where you would seek shelter in a storm.
  • Go through your kits every 6 to 12 months to check expiration dates, swap out clothes/shoes for items that fit, check equipment and test batteries.

And in case you are new to the area, and because it’s always helpful to have a reminder…

Tornado Safety Tips

  • Know the signs of tornadoes. Tornadoes are not predictable, but knowing certain weather conditions can help you be prepared to expect the possibility of a tornado. These kinds of conditions include: dark, often greenish skies; a strong, persistent rotation at a cloud’s base; whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base; large hail or heavy rain followed by an immediate calm or an intense shift in the wind; a loud, continuous roaring (similar to a freight train) that does not stop.
  • Listen to the TV or radio. The news will keep you up-to-date on any weather threats. Weather apps can also send you severe weather alerts.
  • Seek shelter. Being completely underground (basement or storm cellar) is the safest place during a tornado. After underground shelter, a reinforced safe room is the next best option. These safe rooms are specifically designed, reinforced shelters. If nothing is available, be as close to the ground as possible, as far inside of a building as you can get, away from as many doors, windows, and outside walls as possible, and in the smallest room you can find. Examples are a bathroom or closet, under a stairwell or in a hallway.
  • Get under sturdy protection (heavy table) or cover yourself with a mattress to protect you from flying debris.
  • Wear a helmet. Bike helmets protect little skulls from debris. I imagine the Wizard of Oz would have been a lot less interesting (and terrifying) if Dorothy had been wearing a helmet as she tried to find cover from the twister!


Meredith R.
Meredith is wife to Eric and mommy to Jackson (10), Wyatt (8), Logan (7), Cohen (5), and Piper (2). She moved to KC in 2005, after being born and raised in St. Louis. Having graduated from the University of Missouri, she still finds it really interesting, and a little unsettling, that KU gear is sold in the stores right alongside all of the MU gear! Meredith wears many hats; not only is she a busy mom shuttling her kids to and from cub scout meetings and soccer practices, but she runs her own photography business, meredithrae photography, blogs over at My 4 Misters And Their Sister, and is also a labor and delivery RN who recently hung up the nurse’s cap temporarily to concentrate on taking care of her family while her hubby travels the world on business. She also likes to cook, bake, sew, decorate, craft, and even swing a hammer from time to time.


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