Firefighter Training, Firefighting, Leadership

Roundtable: Does Your Department Have a Tornado Policy?

By John “Skip” Coleman

For most of my career, the procedure for tornadoes was to pull the apparatus on the approach to the engine house and turn on the sirens. In my 32 years, I do not remember a tornado every touching down in Toledo, Ohio.

If you notice, I mentioned nothing about what the firefighters were to do after the apparatus was pulled out, let alone what they were supposed to do after the storm passed. As for the firefighters, some older stations had basements; the newer stations did not.  I never saw a policy whereby the house captain designated a place where the firefighters were to go to protect themselves during the tornado. That might have been a good idea.

As far as after the storm passed, what were the crews to do? Some departments have policies that state they immediately get on the apparatus and survey their district for damage and then report problem areas to the dispatch center.

This month’s Roundtable question is, Does your department have a tornado policy and, if so, does it call for protecting the firefighters and also contain a post-storm component of what to do immediately after the storm passes? You will find the Roundtable question and instructions on answering it on the Fire Engineering homepage at

Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.

Skip Coleman: Firefighting RoundtableJohn “Skip” Coleman Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008) and Searching Smarter (Fire Engineering 2011) and 2011 recipient of the FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of