Tornado Warning: How to Protect Yourself

Protection during a tornado

When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.

If a tornado “watch” is issued for your area, it means that a tornado is “possible.” If a tornado “warning” is issued, it means that a tornado has actually been spotted, or is strongly indicated on radar, and it is time to go to a safe shelter immediately.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent being injured in a tornado is to be alert to the onset of severe weather. Most deaths and injuries happen to people who are unaware and uninformed. If you don’t regularly watch or listen to the weather report, but strange clouds start moving in and the weather begins to look stormy, turn to the local radio station to get the weather forecast, and be aware of your surroundings.

Truck stop/Frame Home
Make sure you have a portable radio, preferably a NOAA weather radio, for information. Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows. You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but do not use one to cover yourself. Do cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass. Don’t waste time moving mattresses around. Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier. Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed. Do not leave a building to attempt to “escape” a tornado.

Mobile Home
Leave your mobile home immediately and take shelter elsewhere.

Try to get inside and seek a small protected space with no windows. Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls. If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure, or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing.

Ideally, you should avoid driving when tornadoes or other kinds of dangerous weather threaten, because a vehicle is a very unsafe place to be. If, however, this is not possible, stay as calm as possible, and assess the situation. Your best option might be to get out of the car and lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area that is sufficiently deep enough to protect against the wind. If you do so, beware of water runoff from heavy rain that could pose a hazard; get as far away from the vehicle as possible and shield your head from flying debris. Or, if possible, take shelter immediately in a nearby building.