Disaster Planning/RV Tornado Plan
QUESTION: Hi Heather, Is it okay to dig a fox hole or trench under my 36-foot motorhome to use as a tornado shelter? I really do not have any other alternative, so I need the "poor man's" guide to survival please. Thanks!
ANSWER: Hi Melanie
I know how scary and destructive tornados can be. I'm sure you know that you are not safe in your mobile home during any tornado. Here are the precautions I suggest you take:
1. Invest in a NOAA Weather Alert radio if you don't already have one. You can get these at practically any department, hardware or electronics store. They can be relatively inexpensive and could save your life. Keep this radio plugged in and set on alert so you have plenty of time to react if there is a tornado "Warning" in your area. If a warning is issued, you need to get out of your mobile home. IF they issue a "Watch" you need to pay attention for the "Warning".
2. Invest in mobile home tie-down anchors (available at farm stores, hardware stores and mobile home supply stores). Buy the large anchors (they look like a giant corkscrew), and install them as instructed. These will give the mobile home a better chance of not flipping over in a tornado. (this still doesn't make it safe to be in, but it may help keep it in place).
The best evacuation site would be a real storm shelter. Are there any sturdy concrete structures near your home? - Such as a public laundry room, etc? That would be the best place to go.
If you have no other alternative, an outdoor trench would be an option. The question is, how quickly could you get to it? Could you make it there in time? If you do decide to dig a trench, will it stay dry so you will use it, or will it fill with rainwater and be something you can't go in anyway?
If the trench is under the mobile home, it is possible that the mobile home could collapse in on top of you and you could be trapped.
I see the predicament that you are in, and I'm not sure that there are any really good solutions to your problem except to figure out the nearest sturdy concrete building you could get to.
If I was in your situation, I would not dig a trench under the mobile home. I worked disaster relief in a mobile home park which was hit with an F4 tornado. There was a huge variety of damage to the homes, some were splintered into piles, some had just the foundations remaining, and some just had walls torn off. With the risk of having the mobile home splinter around and trap me, I would take my chances with a ditch that is not under the home.
I don't know where it is that you live, but there is probably a local Department of Emergency Management. It may be a good idea for you to contact them and see if they have a list of storm shelters in your area. Perhaps there is one nearby that you are unaware of.
Good luck and I hope I have helped somewhat.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: How about an RV/MOTOR home?
What I personally witnessed in the F4 Trailer Park I worked at was the damage different types of mobile homes took from the tornado.
Here is my summary:
Most of the RV's which were towed behind a truck (full length and 5th wheels), were totally and completely destroyed and most people were killed in them. The ones that drive themselves under the power of their own engine held up much better (except the large front windows blew in). Pop-outs (no matter what kind of RV they were on) blew off completely on most of them. The driveable motorized kind held up just about as well as the regular "trailer" mobile homes. So the advice I gave you before stands the same. Especially if what you have is a towable RV. I would go just about anywhere rather than stay inside one of those during a tornado.
I hope this helps.