Here are some definitions and guidelines to follow to help keep you and your family safe:
A Tornado Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for tornado development. People located in and around the watch area should keep an eye to the sky and listen to their NOAA weather radio all hazards or tune to local broadcast media for further weather information. The watch is intended to give you time to prepare and time to review your safety rules.
A Tornado Warning is issued when a developing tornado has been detected by National Weather Service doppler radar or a reliable report of a tornado has been reported. A tornado warning is usually issued for portions of one or two counties, for an hour or less. The storm could also produce large hail and destructive straight line winds. If the tornado warning includes your neighborhood or work place, you should seek safe shelter immediately.
In the event of a tornado, here are some tornado safety rules to keep you and your family safe:
In general, get as low as you can. A basement below ground level or the lowest floor of a building offers the greatest safety. Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible. Avoid windows at all cost! Tornadoes could be obscured by rainfall or come at nighttime. Do not wait until you see or hear the tornado, it may be too late.
Do not waste time opening or closing windows and doors. It will not protect the structure. You will only waste time and put yourself and others in greater risk. Use those valuable seconds to find a place of safety.
In homes or public buildings: go to the basement or a small interior room, such as a closet, bathroom or an interior hall on the lowest level. Close all doors to the hallway for greater protection. If possible, get under something sturdy like a heavy table. Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, heavy coats, blankets or quilts. Use bicycle or motorcycle helmets to protect your head.
In mobile homes, leave well in advance of the approaching severe weather and go to a strong building. If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch, low spot or underground culvert. Lie flat, covering your head with your hands for protection.
In vehicles or outdoors, when tornadoes are possible, limit your outdoor plans or finish them early. Stay close to a sturdy shelter. If caught outside, find shelter in a ditch or remain in your vehicle and cover your head for protection. Do not take shelter under a highway overpass, where wind speeds can increase due to a tunneling effect. It is best to not put yourself or others in a situation where no sturdy shelter is available.
Remember, stay away from doors, windows, outside walls and protect your head!
For more information on bring prepared in the face of severe weather, check out our 3 part series "Being Prepared for the Worst in a Time of Disaster."