Tornado & Severe Thunderstorms - Your Safety Plan

When a tornado or severe thunderstorm approaches, immediate action can save your life.

TORNADO or SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH
Issued by the National Weather Service when conditions which may produce tornados or severe thunderstorms are expected to develop. Continue normal activities, but have a safety plan in mind, and be ready to implement it if a warning is issued.

Take shelter if you see or hear a tornado or if threatening weather approaches. There may not be time for an official warning.

TORNADO or SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
Broadcast when a tornado or severe thunderstorm has been detected. The warning will tell you the location, and movement of the severe weather. Implement your safety plan immediately.

TORNADO OR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM SAFETY PLAN
In HOMES:
Have a NOAA Weather Radio, with tone alert. Closely monitor commercial radio and TV during threatening weather. Select a "safe room", usually the smallest interior room with stout walls (such as a bathroom or closet) on the lowest floor. A basement, if available, is safest. As a last resort, take cover under heavy furniture, such as a tipped-over upholstered couch or chair, in the center part of the house.

In MOBILE HOMES: Select a leader to monitor radio and TV, watch the skies, and sound a warning. Tie-downs will generally not protect a mobile home against tornadic wind gusts. There should be a designated community shelter where residents can assemble during a tornado warning. Even if such a shelter is not available, do not stay in a mobile home when a tornado is approaching. Seek refuge in a ditch or culvert as a last resort.

In SCHOOLS: All schools should have a plan for rapid dissemination of Watches and Warnings. Every school should have a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert capability. Monitor commercial radio and TV stations. Each school should have a designated shelter area, such as an interior hall on the lowest floor, and drills should be conducted periodically. If a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch or warning is issued, staff members should be posted to watch for the approach of threatening weather.

During a tornado or severe thunderstorm WATCH, be ready to move all students from "portable" classrooms or outside areas to a permanent building of reinforced construction. Buses may continue to operate but drivers should be informed and prepared to take precautions.

When a tornado or severe thunderstorm WARNING is issued, or severe weather is sighted, move students quickly to the designated shelter. As a last resort, in a classroom, have students crouch under desks and cover their heads. Do not remain in auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias, or other structures with wide free-span roofs. School bus operations should halt during a WARNING. Bus drivers should be taught that, if caught by an approaching tornado or severe thunderstorm, students should be rushed to the nearest sturdy structure, or as a last resort, to a ditch, where they should lie face down and cover their heads. DO NOT STAY IN A SCHOOL BUS!

In AUTOMOBILES AND OTHER VEHICLES:
Vehicles are easily overturned in tornadic or severe thunderstorm winds. Abandon your vehicle and seek refuge in a sturdy building, or as a last resort, in a ditch or culvert. Do not try to outrun the tornado!

In OFFICE BUILDINGS, CONDOMINIUMS AND HOTELS: Take shelter in an interior hallway on a lowest floor. If on an upper floor, a closet or a small room with stout walls (bathroom), or an inside hallway will give some protection against flying debris. Otherwise, get under heavy furniture and away from windows.

In FACTORIES, AUDITORIUMS, AND OTHER LARGE BUILDINGS WITH FREE-SPAN ROOFS:
Occupants should move quickly to the section of the building offering the greatest protection such as basements or small interior rooms. Otherwise, seek shelter in nearby sturdy buildings if time permits.

In OPEN COUNTRY:
Seek inside shelter, if nearby and time permits. If there is no time, lie flat in the nearest depression, such as a ditch or culvert and cover your head with your arms. If no ditch is nearby, a vehicle may provide some shelter from flying debris by crawling under it.


USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.