Tornado Safety

Tornadoes are nature's most violent and erratic storms. A tornado can travel for miles along the ground, lift, and suddenly change direction and strike again. There is little you can do to protect your home or workplace from the strength of tornado winds, but there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your family better.

Tornado Watch vs. Warning
A Tornado Watch is given when weather conditions are favorable to the formation of tornadoes, for example during severe thunderstorms. During a Tornado Watch, keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.

A Tornado Warning is given when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by radar. You should take shelter immediately. Because tornadoes can form and move quickly, there may not be time for a warning. That's why it's important to stay alert during severe storms.

When a warning is given in your community, take immediate shelter and tune to a local radio station for further information.

Weather monitors and scanners can be purchased for your home or business to receive weather and other emergency information. You will be notified that the danger has passed by the local radio station.

At Home
Get to a shelter immediately. Avoid windows, flying glass can injure or kill. Don't open windows. Houses don't "explode" and allowing strong winds in can do damage or cause injury. The safest place in the home is the interior part of the basement, preferably under something sturdy like a table. Stay out from under heavy objects like pianos or refrigerators on the floor above. If you have no basement, go to an inside room on the lowest floor, like a closet, hallway, or bathroom with no windows. For added protection, get under something strong, like a workbench or heavy table. If possible, cover your body with a blanket or sleeping bag and protect your head with anything available, even your hands. If your home appears undamaged, check carefully for gas or other utility line breaks. If the lights are out use a flashlight only, do not use any open flame.

Mobile Homes
Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado. Even homes with a secure tie-down system cannot withstand the force of tornado winds. Plan ahead. Make arrangements with friends or neighbors who have basements. Go there if a tornado watch is issued. If a tornado warning is given, leave your mobile home and seek shelter nearby. Lie flat in a ditch or ravine and put your arms over your head. Don't take shelter under your home. Encourage your mobile home community to build a tornado shelter if you live in a tornado-prone area.

Long Span Buildings

Long span buildings are dangerous. The entire roof structure is supported solely by the outside walls. Inside walls are usually false or non-load bearing walls. If you are caught in an open building like a shopping mall, civic center, indoor pool, theater, or gymnasium during a tornado, stay away from windows. Get into the restroom, if possible. In larger buildings, the restrooms are usually made from concrete block. Besides having 4 walls and plumbing holding things together, metal partitions help support any falling debris. If there is not time to go anywhere, seek shelter right where you are. Try to get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris.

Schools, Hospitals, Nursing Homes & Office Buildings
Extra precautions are needed in these structures. Not only is there a large concentration of people in a small area, but these buildings usually have large amounts of glass on the outside walls. Get into the innermost portions on the lowest floor possible. Avoid windows, glass doorways, and auditoriums and cafeterias not protected by overhead floors and rooms. Do not use elevators - the power may go off and you could become trapped. Protect your head and make yourself as small a target as possible by crouching down.

In the Open
If you are caught outside during a tornado and there is no underground shelter immediately available, lie in a gully, ditch, or low spot in the ground. Protect your body and head with anything available. Do not go into a grove of trees or under a vehicle. Emergency services personnel are usually on the scene quickly after a tornado. Keep your family together and wait for help to arrive. If you are outside, don't go into damaged buildings - they may collapse completely. Wait for help to search for others.