Tornado Safety

Tornado Facts to Consider

In 2020, the United States experienced over 1,000 reported tornadoes that caused over $2.5 billion in damageRoughly 30% of tornadoes in the US occur in “Tornado Alley.” This stretch of land covers only 15% of the US, spanning from Dallas up to Sioux Falls and westerly to Albuquerque. On average, it receives 268 tornadoes per year. Coastal states can experience tornadoes as well. Florida receives an average of 49 tornadoes annually. This is more per square mile than some Midwestern states such as Kansas and Maryland. These coastal tornadoes are smaller, but still account for several fatalities every year.
Tornadoes can touch down quickly and move at speeds of up to 70 mph. If one happens near you, you may only have a few minutes to get under a desk or into a basement. Learn how you can prepare your home and business before a tornado, ways to help you remain safe during one, and things you can do after one happens.

Before a Tornado

Build a safe room. Tornadoes strike very suddenly and with little warning. You won’t have time to prep your house or business the way you might with a hurricane or blizzard. So, if you’re in a region that is at high risk for tornadoes, consider making a longer term investment in securing your home or business. You can do this by building a safe room.
A safe room can be constructed in your basement, in an interior space on your first floor, on a concrete slab foundation or on a garage floor. To protect occupants, a safe room is built to withstand high winds and flying debris that may destroy the building surrounding it. Consider these tornado safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency when building a safe room:
  • A safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplifting.
  • The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the home. This is so damage to the residence will not affect the safe room.
Know the warning signs. Be on the lookout for these signs that a tornado is forming.
  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
Seek shelter. It’s possible you won’t be near your safe room when a tornado touches down in your area. If that’s the case, use the few minutes you have to get to the safest place possible. Put as many walls and ceilings between yourself and the tornado as you can. If a tornado is coming, run to the nearest building and get to the lowest floor, in the most central room possible. Don’t try to outrun a tornado, even if you’re in a car.
If there are no buildings near you, get into your car, buckle the seatbelt and cover your head with your arms. If you cannot get to a car or building, lay flat on the ground and cover your head. If you can, get to a lower elevation spot. For example, the bottom of a hill will be better than the top of one. Do not go under an overpass or bridge. These structures may crumble during a tornado.

During a Tornado

Get the word out. If you’re under a tornado watch, spread the word to anyone you know who may not be aware. Post a notice on social media as well. Discuss with your family members and employees where they should go if the tornado touches down. Talk to your fire department about “best available refuges” in your area. 
Get to shelter. If the tornado watch turns to a tornado warning, get to shelter immediately. Remember, you may only have a few minutes once the tornado warning is sent. Once you are in your shelter, cover your body as best as you can. Get under a sturdy table or desk if possible. If you can lie down, do so. Whatever position you’re in, be sure to cover your head with your arms, a blanket or a heavy jacket.

After a Tornado

Get information. Get information from FEMA or American Red Cross mobile apps or websites. Don’t leave your shelter until it is confirmed by an official source that the tornado has passed. Don’t trust what you hear on social media about the tornado being over unless the information is accompanied by a link to an official source.
Stay in place if you’re trapped. Cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing dust and debris. Don’t try to yell for help as this will only cause you to inhale more dust. Instead, bang on the wall, tap a pipe or blow on your emergency whistle to signal that you are trapped.
Inspect damage. Be sure to photograph any damage that your property receives. Contact your insurance company immediately to report the damage.
You won’t have time to prepare your home or business when a tornado touches down in your area. Because of their destructive speed, you probably won’t have time to evacuate either. Your best option is find shelter and stay safe until the tornado passes. Use the information in this article to better prepare your home, business and family members in the event of tornado.