Disaster Resources - University of Illinois Extension

Severe Weather Preparedness Series: Tornadoes

Before

Know the terms used to describe tornado threats:

  • Tornado Watch -- Tornadoes are possible. Watch the sky and listen to radio or television for more information. Be prepared to take shelter. If you see any revolving funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by telephone to your local law enforcement agency. If you live in a mobile home, this is the time to move to a more substantial structure.
  • Tornado Warning -- A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter, turn on a battery-operated radio or television, and wait for the "all clear" announcement by authorities.
Refer to the preparedness steps as outlined under thunderstorms plus the following:
  • Determine the best location in your home and office to seek shelter when threatened by a tornado. A basement or cellar will usually afford the best protection. If an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.
  • Conduct periodic tornado safety drills with your family.
  • Learn how to shut off the utilities to your home.
  • Decide how and when your family will reunite.

During

When a warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, sirens have been activated, or a tornado has been sighted take the following actions.

At home

  • Go at once to your predetermined shelter (the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building. Stay there until the danger has passed.
  • If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table and hold on to it.
  • Use sofa cushions to protect head and neck.
  • If in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter elsewhere. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. If there isn't a substantial shelter nearby, seek shelter in a low-lying area. Shield your head with your hands.

In a school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, or at work

  • Go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums, and large hallways. Stay away from windows and open spaces.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it. If sturdy furniture is not available become a very small target. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
  • If in a high-rise building, go to small, interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor possible and seek protection as detailed above.

Outdoors

  • If possible, get inside a substantial building.
  • If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch, culvert, or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Use arms to protect head and neck. Stay aware of the potential for flash flooding.

In a vehicle

  • Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Heavy rain, hail, and traffic may impede your movement. Tornadoes can change directions quickly and can easily lift up a vehicle and toss it through the air.
  • Get out of the vehicle immediately and try to take shelter in a nearby building.
  • If there isn't time to get indoors, get out of the vehicle and lie in a ditch, culvert, or low-lying area away from the vehicle.

After

  • Monitor the radio or television for emergency information or instructions.
  • Check for injured victims. Render first aid if necessary.
  • Do not attempt to move severely injured victims unless absolutely necessary. Wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Try to get out of damaged buildings. Once out, do not reenter unless absolutely necessary. Use great caution.
  • Take photos or videotape the damage to your home or property.
  • If driving, be alert for hazards in the roadway.
  • Check on neighbors/relatives who may require special assistance.
  • If unaffected by the tornado, stay out of the damaged area until allowed by officials, your presence may hamper emergency operations.

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