Habitat Ready: Disaster preparedness for homeowners
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground, usually in the shape of a funnel.
Tornadoes are earth’s most violent storms and often form quickly, leaving little time to make life-or-death decisions. To survive a tornado, advanced planning and a quick response are essential.
Before a tornado
- Review your family preparedness plan.
- Establish a family communications plan.
- Assemble a disaster supply kit.
- Designate an area in your home as a shelter:
- The safest place during a tornado is a storm shelter or underground room, such as a basement or cellar.
- If going underground is not an option and you do not have access to a storm shelter, the next safest place is a small interior room (such as a bathroom, hallway or closet) on the lowest floor, away from windows and exterior walls.
- Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning:
- Tornado watch: A tornado is possible. Stay tuned to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or TV for more information and be prepared to seek shelter quickly if necessary.
- Tornado warning: A tornado is expected or occurring. Take shelter immediately.
- Be familiar with tornado warning signs:
- An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
- Dark, towering and threatening clouds.
- Greenish sky.
- Large hail.
- Rotating, low-lying clouds.
- Loud roar, similar to a train.
During a tornado
- If in a structure (home, school, shopping center, etc.):
- Quickly go to your predesignated shelter, such as a basement, storm shelter or interior room on the lowest level of the building.
- Avoid windows, corners and places with wide-span roofs such as cafeterias and auditoriums.
- Get under a sturdy table or similar piece of furniture, and cover your head with your arms.
- If in a mobile home, get out immediately and find shelter in a nearby building.
- If time permits, put on sturdy shoes.
- If outside:
- Get inside a building, if possible.
- If a shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or crouch near a strong building and cover your head with your arms.
- If in a vehicle:
- Never try to outdrive a tornado; tornadoes can change direction quickly and lift up a vehicle.
- Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building, or look for a ditch to lie down in.
- Avoid bridges and overpasses.
After a tornado
- Stay tuned to a NOAA weather radio or TV for updated information.
- Help injured or trapped people. Don’t try to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. Call for help.
- Stay out of damaged buildings. Do not return home until authorities declare it is safe.
- Be aware of hazards from broken glass, exposed nails and downed power lines.
- Inspect your home:
- Leave the house if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
- Check for damage to walls, roof, foundation, electrical system and water lines.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches or other flammable liquids immediately.
- Notify your insurance company if your home is damaged.
- Wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves and gloves to minimize risks.
- Avoid making phone calls except in serious emergencies.
- American Red Cross
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Weather Service