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What to do During a Tornado: These Tips Could Save Your Life

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Tony Maples Photography


Knowing what to do in the event of a tornado could mean the difference between life and death. The most important thing is to be prepared. Have a plan and go over it with your family frequently. This should include what to do when home, at work and school, or outdoors.

Be weather aware. Make it a habit to check your local forecast from the Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service, or local media.

It only takes a minute and will prepare you before the storm occurs.
Tornado - Bennington, Kansas
Photo: Savannah Weingart

Know what county you are in. Severe weather warnings are issued for counties, or for parts of counties. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio and be sure emergency alerts are enabled on your cell phone. If you see a tornado or hear that the National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for your area, know where to go. Do not wait to seek shelter until you see a tornado or hear sirens.

In a home or a building, move to a pre-designated shelter, preferably a storm shelter or safe room, or an interior room on the lowest floor. You want to put as many walls between you and the wind as possible. Do not open the windows. This lets the wind in quicker. If possible get into a bathtub or under a sturdy piece of furniture. Cover with pillows and blankets to protect yourself from debris. Stay away from windows, as they are the first thing to shatter.

If you are in a mobile home, abandon it. Mobile homes and fabricated buildings offer zero protection from tornadoes. Immediately move to a substantial shelter.

If you are caught outdoors and cannot get to a safe building you should get into a vehicle, buckle up and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.

If a tornado isn’t moving to the left or right but appears to be getting bigger, it is likely moving in your direction.
Wedge tornado - Bennington, Kansas
Photo: Jason Weingart

If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head below the windows; cover your head with your hands and anything else you can. If you can safely get lower than the level of the road, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice of whether to stay in your car should be driven by your specific circumstances. These are last resort options that provide little protection.