When the tornado sirens go off, are you prepared? Do you know what to do? Most of you probably answer something like “Go downstairs to a safe place until the sirens stop blowing” or “Wait until I can see the storm, then go downstairs.” But there is much more at stake just ‘duck and cover.’ What happens if a tornado does hit your house? Where do you go, who do you contact? What if you’re stuck and can’t get out? What if someone is critically injured?

Although this doesn’t happen to everyone, and it only happens to a small percent of people each year, it still happens. But, there are things you can do to prepare in advance for these scenarios. Very important things to do before, during, and after a tornado strikes.

Before a tornado strikes (or any major severe weather event), here are some things I STRONGLY recommend that you do to prepare.

1. Get a NOAA Weather Radio (or at least a broadcast radio with S.A.M.E. built in) and get it programmed! (Codes are available here.)

2. Build an emergency kit. Water, food, medical supplies, batteries and other things that can keep you alive. It can sometimes be days before you are rescued.

3. Find a safe place to go. Be prepared with shelter nearby. Basements and storm cellars are the best place to go. If not, the lowest level of a building will work. Don’t take shelter in mobile homes, no matter how well they are tied down.

4. Make a “family communication” plan, which would tell who calls who in the event disaster strikes. This should include where each family member is at (school, work, home, etc) and their plans.

5. Make an alternate plan without the use of cell phones, landlines, computers, etc. None of these may be working after a tornado strikes.

6. Keep up with TV, radio, or internet sources for weather forecasts, watches and warnings. This will help you have more advanced warning. But, severe weather can strike without warning.
7. Important documents need to be placed in a safe. That safe SHOULD have identification on the outside with your name, address, phone number and any other ways to reach you. Tornadoes can toss debris blocks, or even miles away from your house!

8. Make sure you have shoes available (NOT sandals, flip flops) to wear in your shelter.


During a tornado:

1. Go to your shelter IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT wait to see the tornado! They can become rain-wrapped and nearly impossible to spot, especially after dark.

2. Put as many walls in between you and the outside as possible.

3. Get under a table if you can. Crouch down, put your hands around your neck to protect yourself from flying debris.

4. DO NOT open windows. It doesn’t help.

5. If you are caught in a car and can’t get to shelter, and there is a low ditch nearby, abandon the vehicle and lie flat, face down in the ditch, with your hands protecting the back of your neck.

6. If you don’t have a lower place to go, STAY IN YOUR CAR. Keep your seat belts on. Lower your head below the windows and cover your face with a blanket, coat, pillow, etc to protect yourself from flying glass.

7. NEVER USE AN OVERPASS FOR SHELTER!!! Being under an overpass can actually INCREASE the winds experienced, making the storm EVEN MORE DANGEROUS than on low, flat land.


After a tornado:

1. Assess injuries. DO NOT attempt to move anyone with a serious injury unless they are in immediate danger! Start CPR on anyone who has stopped breathing. Apply pressure on open wounds to stop the bleeding. Treat what you can from your emergency kit.

2. Unless you are in immediate danger, do not immediately rush out of your shelter. Tornadoes make structures unstable, and debris on the floor can cause serious injuries (such as nails, splinters, sheet metal, glass, power lines, etc.)

3. If you are trapped, do what you can to get someone’s attention.

4. Shut off any services that appear damaged, such as electricity, natural gas or propane, to avoid further damage.

5. If rescuing others, keep in mind the debris. Wear long sleeves, gloves, strong shoes or boots. Avoid downed power lines.

6. In case of critical injury, call 911 dispatch. From storm damage, it may take time for medics to arrive.

7. Report natural gas leaks, downed or sparking power lines to police or fire dispatches and respective utility companies.

8. If you have a working phone in your house, make sure all of the phones are on hook (to avoid “busy signal”) so emergency contact is possible.

9.  While inspecting damage, use a flashlight to avoid setting off flammable gases built up in a home. Again, shut off services if necessary and contact utilities.