How to Stay Safe During a Tornado?


In February 2019 the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes ripped through Alabama in the past 6 years. At least 23 deaths have been reported with even more injuries from the severe weather outbreak. And this weekend another massive severe weather system is hitting the south and parts of the Midwest, so it seems like the perfect time to talk about Tornado Safety Tips.

Tornado 101

Tornadoes are known for destroying buildings, flipping cars, wreaking havoc, and leaving a trail of destruction in their path. Unfortunately, the highest number of tornadoes occurs in the United States. The worst part about a tornado is that there’s no way of protecting oneself other than seeking shelter as quickly as possible. Here, we are going to look at a few tornado safety tips you can use to protect yourself and your family.

What Is a Tornado?

Tornadoes are columns of rotating air that extend from a thunderstorm in the sky to the ground below. A tornado can occur anytime and anywhere and can cause intense winds of up to 200MPH. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), there’s no guaranteed safety from a tornado, which is why a tornado warning should always be taken very seriously. However, you can survive a tornado if you take the proper safety precautions.

Most Tornado Occurrences in the US

While tornadoes occur in all 50 states in the U.S., most of them occur in areas of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Ohio, and these areas are also known as “Tornado Alley.” People living in Oklahoma City tend to experience more tornados as compared to the rest, which is partly because of the cold polar winds that move down from Canada, the warm tropical winds moving in from Mexico, and the dry air of the Southwest all clashing in the middle.

What to Do: Tornado Safety Tips

Once you see a tornado chasing you in the rearview mirror, it’s going to be too late to Google Tornado safety tips, which is why you need to learn beforehand about what you can do during a tornado to protect yourself and your family. Since a tornado can occur spontaneously, without any prior notice, it is crucial to have a game plan ready to deal with a tornado in multiple situations.

At Home

If you’re at home when the tornado strikes:

  • Avoid all windows
  • Get to the basement as soon as you can
    • Options if you do not have a basement
      • Going under a stairwell
      • Getting in a bathtub,
        • although it provides only partial protection and you will need to cover yourself with a mattress of a few blankets
  • Once you’re at a safe place in your home, facing down, crouch as low as you can and cover your head with your hands.

Now, all you must do is wait until the storm passes. The good news is that a tornado moves quickly so you won’t be trapped for days.

Mobile Home Tornado Safety

If you live in a mobile home, then it’s not going to be as safe as a permanent building or an underground shelter. Even if your mobile home is securely tied down, you and your family are going to need to safely move to a sturdy building or an underground shelter nearby to get away from the tornado.

At Office

The worst thing that could happen is getting caught in a tornado after you’ve had a few beers or while you’re at work.

Here’s what to do if you are in an office building when a tornado strikes:

  • Get to a windowless area, preferably in the center of the building.
    • Avoid being next to any glass which can break easily because of the strong winds causing injury
  • An interior stairwell is also a good place to get protection from a tornado.
  • It’s crucial to stay off the elevators, which can easily turn into death traps if the power goes out.
    • Instead, take the staircase if you want to go down to a lower floor.

In a Car

If you find yourself in a vehicle during a tornado, there will be no way to keep yourself and the passengers in the vehicle safe outside.

  • The best thing you can do in that situation is to find shelter in a sturdy building or an underground shelter.
  • If you are caught in extreme winds where there’s flying debris, you must park your car quickly and move to a safe place.
  • If you are in the tornado’s path, trying to outrun the tornado could be risky and could cause the car to flip over, injuring you and the passengers in the process.

That said, there are certain instances where you can distance yourself from a tornado while in a vehicle. For instance, if you spot the tornado while it’s still far away, you can drive safely out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado.

But, you will still need to seek shelter by moving to a secure building.

It’s also important never to seek shelter under bridges, which is not safe from the strong winds of a tornado. Instead, it can lead to oftentimes fatal traffic hazards.

Seek Shelter

As a rule of thumb, during a tornado, you should stay clear of any trees and cars which can act as projectiles and injure you because of the strong winds. Move as quickly as you can to an interior of a building and stay clear of the windows, and most importantly, do not panic.

Building Your Own Shelter

Government organization such as FEMA and the NOAA provide tornado safety tips and measures that can be taken to stay safe from a tornado. This often includes seeking shelter in a safe room that’s been constructed using FEMA’s guidelines or a storm shelter that’s been constructed following ICC 500 standards. If you do not have any form of FEMA or ICC 500 approved shelter, then you can also consider constructing your own safe room that meets both FEMA and ICC 500 standards. You can go on FEMA’s website to get more information on Tornado safety tips and how you can construct your own safe room at home or at the office.

It is important to keep listening to government organizations such as the EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and local authorities to get updated information on the tornado and further instructions.

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