How To Survive a Tornado: Safety Tips

Tornadoes can be extremely dangerous, destroying everything in their path. If you live in an area that has a chance of tornadoes, it’s crucial to know what to do in a tornado and how to survive a tornado. Read on for essential tornado safety tips.

How to Stay Safe During a Tornado

Tornado Emergency Preparedness

  • The first tornado safety tip is to seek shelter as soon as possible. When you hear the tornado watch or warning alert, head to a safe space. This might be the basement, storm cellar, safe room, or a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • If you’re in a mobile home, the safest place when a tornado strikes for you will be in a more secure and sturdy structure. Leave the home and find a nearby building to take shelter in.
  • If you’re at work or in school, there should be a tornado safety protocol in place. Follow the advice and guidance of the people in charge. They should be able to tell you where to go in a tornado and how to stay safe in a tornado. In preparation for the severe weather season, the majority of states in the midwestern and southern regions of the United States carry out a statewide tornado drill during the late winter or early spring.
  • In public buildings like malls or sports stadiums and wondering what to do in case of a tornado, it’s best to get to the ground floor (or lower levels, if they exist) and avoid any windows or open spaces.
  • If you’re driving your car or in a vehicle, the safest place during a tornado is out of your car and in a nearby building. Don’t try to outrun the tornado.
  • For those who are outside, the best chance of surviving a tornado is to get indoors quickly. Look for a safe and sturdy building you can use for shelter.
  • In general, good rooms to help you survive a tornado include basements, bathrooms, closets, and hallways away from any windows.
  • Stay informed by checking NOAA Weather Radio, local news, or official social media accounts for emergency information, and follow the instructions of state, local, and tribal officials.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls, and avoid going under an overpass or bridge. Instead, find a low, flat location for maximum safety.
  • Beware of flying debris that can cause serious injury or even death. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

Check this helpful video guide from the National Weather Service.

How to Spot a Tornado?

Tornado watches and warnings will let you know about tornados on the way, but it’s important to know the difference between these two alerts. A tornado watch and a tornado warning are two different types of alerts issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) to warn people of the potential or imminent threat of a tornado.[Source]

  • A tornado watch means that weather conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes in a particular area. During a tornado watch, people should stay alert and be prepared to take action if a tornado warning is issued.
  • On the other hand, a tornado warning means that a tornado has been detected or is imminent based on radar data or eyewitness reports. When a tornado warning is issued for a particular area, people in that area should take immediate action to seek shelter and protect themselves from potential danger.

Warning Signs of a Tornado

A big part of how can you prepare for a tornado is knowing what to look for. Pay attention to the warning signs that may indicate the formation or approach of a tornado:

  • Dark, greenish, or orange-colored sky: A tornado may be approaching if the sky takes on an unusual color, particularly a greenish or orange tint.
  • Wall cloud: A large, rotating cloud formation that extends beneath the base of a thunderstorm may indicate a tornado is forming.
  • Hail: Large hailstones can be a sign that a tornado may be forming.
    Debris cloud or whirling dust: A visible rotating cloud of debris, dirt or dust on the ground may be a sign that a tornado is in progress.
  • Loud roar or rumble: The sound of a tornado has been described as a continuous rumble, similar to the sound of a train or jet engine.
  • Sudden calmness or stillness: Tornadoes are often preceded by a sudden decrease in the wind, followed by a period of eerie calmness or stillness.
  • Funnel cloud: A rotating, cone-shaped cloud that extends downward from the base of a thunderstorm may indicate the formation of a tornado.

How to Prepare for Tornadoes

  • How to be prepared for a tornado? First, it’s recommended to have a tornado safety plan. This involves various steps, and it’s one of the best ways to help you prepare for a tornado and survive it.
    • As part of your plan, identify the safest place to be in a tornado in your house, where everyone should gather. Remember, the safest place to be during a tornado is usually an underground shelter, i.e. a basement.
  • How to prepare for a tornado without a basement? If you don’t have a basement, identify another safe space, like a hallway or ground-floor bathroom. It’s important to avoid rooms with windows.
  • You should ensure that everyone in the family knows what to do if there is a tornado and teach your children some essential tornado safety for kids tips and practices.
  • One of the best safety precautions for tornadoes is to prepare an emergency kit.
  • If you live in a mobile home, try to identify another nearby safe shelter you can reach. Otherwise, if you’re still wondering where to hide during a tornado, you could choose to build your storm shelter.
  • Another way how to protect yourself from a tornado is to become familiar with the tornado warning system in your area. Make sure you know what sources to use to learn about tornado warnings and alerts.
  • As well as knowing where to hide in a tornado and how do you survive a tornado, you also need to be ready for what comes after the tornado has passed. Write down important information you might need, like emergency phone numbers, insurance details, phone numbers for your utility companies, contact information for neighbors, medical information for you and your family, account numbers for your bank, and so on.
  • Tornadoes can do a lot of damage to your property, so one way to prepare for a tornado is to put your most valuable and significant documents and possessions in a safe place. This can include birth certificates, pet registrations, passports, medical papers, wills, and so on.
  • It’s essential to know how should you prepare for a tornado, but you also have to think about future insurance claims you might make after the tornado has gone. Make sure your policy protects you and photographs high-value items in your home.
  • You can also prepare for tornadoes by inspecting and reinforcing your home. A key part of tornado safety at home is to make sure your property is ready to withstand the strong winds and dangers of the tornado. Look for weaknesses in walls, floors, and ceilings, and get any problems fixed. Secure heavy items to prevent them from falling over and learn how to access and shut off your home’s utilities.
  • Have a communications plan with your family so that everyone knows who to call and what to do if they get separated.

Preparing for Tornado with Children

  • Educate your children: Teach your children about tornadoes and what to do in case of an emergency. Use age-appropriate language and explain the dangers of a tornado calmly and reassuringly.
    Create an emergency plan: Develop a family emergency plan and discuss it with your children. Identify a safe place in your home where your family can take shelter during a tornado.
  • Practice your plan: Practice your emergency plan with your children regularly, so they know what to do in case of a tornado. Make it a fun and interactive activity by turning it into a game.
  • Prepare an emergency kit: Pack an emergency kit with essential supplies such as non-perishable food, water, first aid supplies, and a flashlight. Involve your children in preparing the kit, so they understand what is in it and where to find it.
  • Keep your children calm: During a tornado, your children may be scared and anxious. Stay calm and reassure them that you are there to keep them safe.
  • Stay informed: Monitor the latest weather reports and tornado warnings, and keep your children informed about the situation.
  • Have a backup plan: In case you need to evacuate your home, have a plan for where you and your children will go and how you will stay in touch with other family members.
    Remember, it is important to involve your children in tornado preparedness so they understand what to do in case of an emergency. By following these steps, you can help ensure the safety of your family during a tornado emergency.

Preparing for Tornado with Pets

  • Keep your pets indoors: If there is a tornado warning in your area, keep your pets indoors to prevent them from becoming lost or injured.
  • Keep identification on your pets: Make sure your pets have identification tags with up-to-date information and consider having them microchipped. This will help ensure that you can be reunited with your pets if they become separated from you during a tornado.
  • Have a backup plan: In case you need to evacuate your home, identify pet-friendly shelters or hotels in advance where you and your pets can stay.
  • Comfort your pets: During and after a tornado, your pets may be scared and anxious. Provide them with comfort and reassurance to help them feel safe and calm.
  • Create an emergency kit: Make sure to include items like pet food, water, medication, leash, collar, and crate in your emergency kit. Keep the kit in a safe and easily accessible location.

Preparing for Tornado with a Disabled Family Member

  • Identify your family member’s needs: Consider your family member’s specific needs, such as mobility, communication, and medical needs. This will help you develop a plan that meets their unique needs.
  • Create an emergency plan: Develop a family emergency plan that includes specific arrangements for your disabled family member. Identify a safe place in your home where your family can take shelter during a tornado, and make sure it is accessible for your disabled family member.
  • Practice your plan: Practice your emergency plan with your family, including your disabled family member, so everyone knows what to do in case of a tornado.
  • Make sure your home is accessible: Make sure your home is accessible for your disabled family member. Install handrails, ramps, and other necessary equipment to make it easier for them to move around the house.
  • Have a backup plan: In case you need to evacuate your home, identify accessible shelters or hotels in advance where you and your family can stay.
  • Prepare an emergency kit: Pack an emergency kit with essential supplies such as non-perishable food, water, medication, and medical supplies. Make sure to include any specific medical equipment your disabled family member may need.

What to Do After a Tornado

  • Even if you know where to go in case of a tornado and you’re in the best place to be in a tornado, there’s a chance you could get trapped in that location. Use any communication tools you have to make contact with people who can help you, or make noise to draw attention to your location.
  • Check yourself and the people around you for injuries. Provide first aid if necessary.
  • Listen out for any updates or information from the authorities.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings and power lines.
  • Be alert to any potential gas leaks in your home or surrounding buildings
  • Use flashlights to get around in the dark. DON’T use matches or candles.
  • Make sure you drink clean water and eat safe food that hasn’t been damaged or contaminated in any way.
  • Clean up your home with care, and if it doesn’t look safe, simply stay away until rescue workers have arrived to assess the scene.

Check this helpful video guide from the National Weather Service.

Tornado Safety FAQ

How do I know if there is a tornado in my area?

Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center, while tornado warnings and thunderstorm warnings (which may include the risk of tornadoes) are issued by your local National Weather Service office.

How Are Tornadoes Categorized?

Tornadoes are categorized based on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale), which takes into account the wind speed and estimated damage caused by the tornado. The EF Scale is a 0 to 5 rating system that was developed by the National Weather Service and the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University.

  • EF0: Wind speeds of 65 to 85 miles per hour. These tornadoes can cause minor damage to trees and buildings with some shingles or tiles blown off roofs.
  • EF1: Wind speeds of 86 to 110 miles per hour. These tornadoes can cause moderate damage, including overturned mobile homes, broken windows, and damage to roofs and exterior walls of buildings.
  • EF2: Wind speeds of 111 to 135 miles per hour. These tornadoes can cause considerable damage, including roofs torn off homes, mobile homes completely destroyed, and large trees uprooted.
  • EF3: Wind speeds of 136 to 165 miles per hour. These tornadoes can cause severe damage, including entire stories of well-constructed homes destroyed, cars lifted off the ground, and large buildings with weak foundations completely leveled.
  • EF4: Wind speeds of 166 to 200 miles per hour. These tornadoes can cause devastating damage, including homes being completely leveled, cars being thrown hundreds of yards, and even well-constructed buildings with strong foundations severely damaged.
  • EF5: Wind speeds of over 200 miles per hour. These tornadoes are extremely rare but can cause catastrophic damage, including entire neighborhoods being destroyed, steel-reinforced concrete structures being damaged, and vehicles being thrown over 1,000 feet.

When Is Tornado Season?

The timing of tornado season depends on your location. In the southern states, tornadoes are most common in late spring and early summer, while northern states have most of their tornadoes in the summer. [Source]

Which States Get the Most Tornadoes?

Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana rank among the states with the most tornadoes. [Source]

How Fast Is a Tornado?

Tornadoes can vary in speed, averaging around 10 to 20mph, but they’re capable of moving up to 60mph.

How Long Does a Tornado Last?

Tornadoes can last for varying amounts of time, from just a few minutes up to 20 minutes or more. And when it comes to how long you have to prepare for a tornado, you may only have 10 or 15 minutes after a warning, so you have to act fast.

Tornado Security Resources:

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