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Severe Weather Preparedness
Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador

A Preparedness Guide from the National Weather Service, NOAA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the American Red Cross



Tornado Safety
What YOU Can Do Before the Storm:


  • Develop a plan for you and your family for home, school, work and when outdoors. 
  • Have frequent drills.
  • Know the county/parish in which you live, and keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather bulletins.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.
  • Listen to radio and television for information.
  • If planning a trip outdoors, listen to the latest forecasts and take necessary action if threatening weather is possible.


If a Warning is Issued or Threatening Weather Approaches:

  • In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.

  • In a house with no basement, in a dorm, or in an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.

  • In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

  • In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your plan.

  • At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

  • In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.

  • In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

  • In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

  • In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.


Overpasses and Tornado Safety - Not A Good Mix

Many people mistakenly think that a highway overpass provides safety from a tornado. In reality, an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado.  Seeking shelter under an overpass puts you at greater risk of being killed or seriously injured by flying debris from the powerful tornadic winds.

Overpass Danger

Overpasses offer no protection from a direct hit from a tornado, and should not be used as shelter.

For more information, see this article from the National Weather Service:  http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ddc/?n=over