Are you prepared for a tornado?

Jun 20, 2014

June is the peak of twister season. The season spans from April to July, with May and June seeing the most tornadoes. Tornadoes can happen on windy, stormy days or on calm days, so we must be prepared even on sunny days, as well as days shrouded in heavy rain and large, dark, low clouds. Even though warnings can often be issued, tornadoes can change direction, speed, and intensity in an instant. You should not rely on seeing a tornado or on hearing its sound (like a freight train or a jet engine) before a tornado strikes.

A tornado watch is issued to alert people to the possibility of tornado developing in the area. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has actually been sighted or is indicated by radar.


  • Make sure you have a portable radio, preferably a NOAA Weather Radio, for weather alerts and updates.
  • Download an app for your smart phone or tablet that will alert you to tornadoes in your location.


If You’re in a Building

  • Seek shelter on the lowest level of the building, such as a basement or storm cellar. Always go to the innermost part of the building. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a small inner room, or a closet.
  • Keep away from windows and glass doorways.
  • Do not use elevators. The power may go out and leave you trapped.
  • Don’t waste time moving mattresses or furniture around. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
  • Never attempt to escape a tornado by leaving a building.

If You’re Outside

  • Seek shelter inside a building. Avoid gymnasiums, arenas, shopping malls, and other buildings with long-span roof areas. These structures are usually supported only by outside walls and can collapse completely if a tornado hits.
  • If there is no sturdy structure available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a jacket, if you have one.

If You’re in a Car

  • Only drive away from the tornado if the tornado is in the distance and not headed toward you. Drive away perpendicular to the tornado’s path.
  • Pull over, stop the car (but leave it running so the air bags work), and crouch down below the windows. The airbags and frame of the car will offer some protection, but certainly not absolute safety.
  • Alternately, you could get out of the car and into a ditch. If you do that, get away from your car to avoid it tumbling onto you. Being in the ditch and below the prevailing ground level may shield you from some of the tornado wind and flying debris, but you should still be aware of and guarded against flying objects.
  • Do NOT get out and go under a bridge or overpass. They offer no protection from a tornado, and being there often increases your risk.


  • Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm. Stay inside until you have checked the latest local weather conditions online, on the radio, or on TV.
  • Check those around you for injuries and administer first aid for minor injuries. Do not attempt to move a seriously injured person unless they are in immediate danger of additional injury. Get medical assistance as soon as possible by calling 911. Stop a bleed by applying direct pressure, then have puncture wounds evaluated by a physician or emergency medical personnel.
  • Keep away from downed power lines and report them to your utility company.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local emergency management officials have indicated it is safe to go inside.
  • Watch for snakes or other animals that have been forced into buildings by rising waters or flooding.
  • Leave the area immediately if you smell fumes or gas and notify emergency personnel.
  • If your home has not been damaged, keep children and pets inside, away from debris. If you must take your pets outside, keep them on a leash.
  • Cooperate fully with local public safety officials and respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, firefighters, and relief organizations, but do not enter damaged areas unless specifically asked to do so.
  • If you see frayed electrical wiring or sparks, or smell something burning, shut off your home’s electrical system at the main circuit breaker.