Having a place to go, a tornado shelter, is the second most important things you can do for tornado safety.
Plan now where you will go in the event of a tornado warning. Knowing ahead of time where to go when you are paralyzed by fear could mean the difference between life and death.
You need designated locations everywhere you spend lots of time. This will include home, the office, and your best friend’s house.
Even when you are in restaurants and theaters think about where you will go. This mental preparation will give you the edge that makes you a survivor instead of a victim.
We have a small room in our basement that we have designated as our tornado safe room. It has no windows and has cinder block walls on all sides. The only opening is the doorway that leads to the rest of the basement.
We put our tornado kit (see below) in the room so we can just run down there without having to grab anything except the weather radio. (We grab the weather radio so we can know when it’s safe to come back up.)
We were fortunate our house had such a room when we bought it. But you may not have an ideal room just waiting in your basement – if you even have a basement!
Tornado Safety At Home
Here are some things to consider when choosing the best location to shelter in during a tornado.
The basement is best.
If you don’t have one, choose a location on the first floor.
Select an internal room with few or no windows. If your house is hit by a tornado it will break the windows and send flying glass and debris everywhere.
Ideas here would be a bathroom, storeroom, or closet. Hallways can also work well.
Preferably there should be no heavy appliances or furniture on the floor above your chosen location. This is so if your house collapses they won’t fall on you.
If your best room is the bathroom, and you have a steel or cast iron tub, you can get into it and cover yourself with something like a mattress. In the basement duck under a workbench or get under the stairs as this will provide additional protection.
Regardless of where you choose to go cover yourself with blankets, pillows, couch cushions, or even a mattress. This will help protect you from flying debris.
In an apartment, go to the lowest floor hallway and stay away from windows.
If you live in a mobile home consider it extremely unsafe during a tornado. Mobile home parks usually have a designated tornado shelter. Regardless, plan where you will go. Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado warning!
Tornado Safety In Your Car
If you are caught in your car during a tornado abandon your car!
Seek shelter in a sturdy building.
If there is no suitable building available get in the ditch or the lowest spot you can find. The further you are away from potentially flying cars the better.
Do not hide under an overpass or bridge. They provide little or no protection from flying debris. Also, the structural integrity of bridges has not been tested at tornado wind speeds (up to 300 MPH) and it may rip apart or collapse on you.
Tornados can move at up to 70 MPH and have very unpredictable paths, so trying to outrun them in your car is not a good idea! Seeking shelter in a building is best.
Tornado Safety At Work or School
Your office or school should have an established emergency plan with a designated tornado shelter area. Ask your office manager or school administrator for a copy of the plan. Then scout out the location of the tornado shelter. Know how to get there in the dark in case the power is out when the tornado warning is issued.
If your school or office doesn’t have a disaster preparedness plan then consider volunteering to make one for them. It’s too important to not have one!
Build a Tornado Safe Room
For ultimate protection build a full-on storm shelter or safe room. Check out FEMA’s Saferooms web site for official guidance.
Tornado Safety Document Protection
It is also a good idea to keep important documents in a waterproof, fireproof safe that you bolt to your basement or slab floor. This will help prevent the loss of such documents in the event that the rest of your house blows away.
As your computer files (and even your external backups!) can be destroyed in a tornado use an online backup service to backup your important files. This will prevent the loss of critical financal records, photos, and other important documents.