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Tornado Preparedness


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Tornado Preparedness

Take Protective Measures To Protect Yourself from a Tornado

Before a Tornado
Be alert to changing weather conditions.

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado
If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately!

If you are in: Then:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building) Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Preparing a Safe Room
Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.

  • Your basement.
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.

Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.

  • To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room, must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.

Image of a safe room

Additional information about Safe Rooms available from FEMA:
Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. L-233. Brochure providing details about obtaining information about how to build a wind-safe room to withstand tornado, hurricane, and other high winds.

Taking Shelter from the Storm: `Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. FEMA-320. Manual with detailed information about how to build a wind-safe room to withstand tornado, hurricane, and other high winds.

Locate the Safety Place
On the following home layout diagrams, locate the safest place to seek shelter should you not be able to evacuate.

Apartment One Story Home
Sample floor plan for an apartment layout Sample floor plan for one bedroom house layout


Two Story Home - First Floor Two Story Home - Second Floor
Sample floor plan for two bedroom house, first floor layout Sample floor plan for two bedroom house, second floor layout

After a Tornado
Follow the instructions for recovering from a disaster in Part 5.

For More Information

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.

FEMA Publications
Tornado Fact Sheet. L-148. Provides safety tips for before, during, and after a tornado

Tornado Protection - Selecting Refuge Areas in Buildings. FEMA 431. Intended primarily to help building administrators, architects, and engineers select the best available refuge areas in existing schools

Source: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/tornadoes.shtm