By Chad Engle, Loss Prevention Manager and Safety Specialist

The last week of March was National Severe Weather Awareness Week.  Many of you may have participated in the annual statewide tornado drill that was held at 10:00 a.m. Central on Wednesday, March 29th.  Those of us who work at the NIRMA office use this as a reminder to perform our annual fire drill as well.  When the tornado alarm is sounded, we carry out our tornado drill and proceed to the severe weather shelter.  From there, we perform our annual fire drill simulating an evacuation due to a fire and gather at our designated assembly point next door. This way, we kill two birds with one stone, and meet our annual requirement for both drills.

The first two months of 2023 represent one of the most active starts to “tornado season” in the last 10 years.  You may have seen the devastation caused by a recent tornado in Mississippi that killed at least 25 people.  According to an article by Brian Lada, a meteorologist, and staff writer for AccuWeather, 2023 is forecasted to be right around the historical average for tornadoes.  I was quite surprised by the fact that each year the United States experiences about 1,225 tornadoes. They can occur during every month of the year. Unfortunately, tornadoes are common in Nebraska, especially during the spring and summer seasons, so knowing what to do in the event of a tornado can possibly save your life.

If your county has experienced any turnover with the recent elections, it is even more important to be sure everyone knows where to go when they hear the tornado siren sound.  Now is a great time to review and update your EAPs and make sure everyone has been trained on what to do in the event of severe weather.

FEMA recommends the following protective actions:

  • If you are under a tornado warning, find safe shelter right away.
  • Go to a safe room, basement, or storm cellar.
  • If there is no basement, get to a small, interior room on the lowest level.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • If you can safely get to a sturdy building, do so immediately.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge.  You’re safe in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

Knowing where the safe shelter is in the workplace is vital. Pease take the time to hold a tornado drill so that your employees are able to find it quickly.  Your drill should also cover how to deal with customers in your offices when the tornado sirens sound.  You have a duty to help them to the safe shelter as well.

Accountability is a consideration as well.  Are you able to account for all your employees once the dust has settled?  Some may be working in the field while others headed home when they were told of the impending severe weather.  It is important to establish some way of determining that all employees are safe and accounted for.

For additional information on severe weather safety, you can visit: