How can I prepare for a tornado?

This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo shows a fully formed tornado touching down in Oklahoma.

Tornadoes are one of Mother Nature's most devastating forces, but there are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself.

If you live in the Midwest (sometimes called Tornado Alley) then you should have a “tornado box.” This should be a small box with some key items kept in an area where you can grab it quickly.

For starters, you should have a battery-powered weather radio. This will be your connection to the outside world. You DO NOT want to be looking out a window to see what's going on.

You're also going to want some flashlights and extra batteries for them. Power outages in tornado destruction areas are very, very common. If your flashlight is one of the older single-bulb models, you should consider upgrading to the multibulb LED style.

I would also suggest a couple of glow sticks. They don't produce a lot of light, but they are visible from a distance. If you find yourself trapped or in need of assistance, you can hang them as a way to signal rescue workers.

Your box should also have bottled water and food that can be eaten without cooking. Cereal bars, dried fruit and military-style MREs are all good choices. Avoid salty foods that will make you thirsty.

Your storm box is also a good place to keep a water-proof container with important paperwork. This should include passports, birth certificates and a copy of your homeowners insurance policy. If your house is leveled in a storm, having these items readily available will make your life a little bit easier.

Finally, I suggest having a Trucker's Friend in the box. If you've ever seen a picture of a house damaged by a tornado then you know that getting out won't be as easy as walking down the hallway and out the front door. With its ax blade and pry tip, the trucker's friend is just the tool you'll need to make your way to safety.

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