Tornado Safety

This webpage of Discover Tornadoes will teach how to stay safe when a tornado threatens.

This webpage will be broken down into four sections: tornado watch vs tornado warning, preparing for a tornado, during and after a tornado.

Tornado watch vs tornado warning

Tornado watch: Be prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room (find out below). Be prepared to act quickly if a warning is issued or you believe a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps save lives! 

Tornado warning: A tornado has been spotted or indicated by radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. 

Preparing for a tornado

It’s fair to say preparation is crucial to staying safe and minimising risks. The website links below will help you, our readers, find out what you can do to prepare for a tornado. 

  • Be weather-ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you’re at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. 
  • Sign up for notifications: Know how your community sends warnings. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smartphones to alert residents of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes. 
  • Create a communications plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. If you live in a mobile home or home without a basement, identify a nearby safe building you can get too quickly, such as a church or family member. 
    • Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Find out more here
  • Practice your plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued. Don’t forget pets if you have time. 
  • Prepare your home: Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection here.
  • Help your neighbour: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt.

During a tornado

Acting quickly is key to staying safe and minimising risks. The bullet points below will tell you what to do when a tornado strikes.

  • Stay weather ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
  • At home: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows. 
  • At school or workplace: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms including cafeterias, auditoriums, and more. 
  • Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or a tent. Get to a safe building if you have time.
  • In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is unsafe. The best course of action is to drive to the nearest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and see shelter in a low-lying area.

After a tornado

The bullet points below tell you what to do once the tornado has occurred.

  • Stay informed: Continue to listen to your local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated bout tornado watches and warnings. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are possible during outbreaks of severe weather.
  • Contact family and friends: Let your family and friends know that you’re okay so they can spread the word. Text messages and social media are reliable forms of communication. 
  • Assess the damage: After the threat of tornadoes (and severe weather) has ended, check to see if your property has been damaged. When walking damage, wear appropriate clothing. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Finally, please be aware of insurance scammers.  
  • Help neighbours: If you come across people that are injured and your are properly trained, provide first aid to victims if needed until emergency service response teams arrive on the scene.