Tornado Safety

What to Do During a Tornado Event

In a House with a Basement

Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some sort of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects are on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them; they may fall through a weakened floor and crush you.

In a House with No Basement

Avoid windows. Go to the lowest level, small center room (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, sleeping bag), to protect against falling debris in the event of roof and ceiling fail.

In an Apartment, Dorm or Condo

If you live in an upper floor apartment, immediately get to the lowest level of the building possible and move to the most interior area possible, away from windows. This could be an underground parking garage or a neighbor’s first floor apartment.  

If you live in a high-rise apartment building, you may not have enough time to get to a lower level, so getting to a place in the hallway in the center of your building (such as a stairwell) is the best idea. If that is not available then a closet, bathroom or interior hall without windows is the safest spot. Power loss during a tornado storm is common so avoid elevators and keep a flashlight handy.

In an Office Building, Hospital or Store

Follow instructions from facility managers. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. 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. Do not use 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, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars.

At a School

Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly manner as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gymnasiums and auditoriums.

In a Car or Truck

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive away from its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible out of traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which can roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges which can accelerate the wind 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 possible.

In a Shopping Mall, Large Store or Stadium

Listen for instructions from building security or management. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows. Move away from any glass.

In a Church or Theater

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.