wikiHow to Prepare For a Tornado

Four Parts:Before a TornadoDuring a StormWhen a Tornado StrikesAfter a Tornado

Tornadoes can be devastating acts of nature. Part of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are rotating, whirling winds that appear in a funnel shape. These storms can reach winds of 300 mph (480 km/h), and can devastate neighborhoods and towns in minutes. In order to protect yourself and your family from this natural disaster, follow the instructions in this how-to guide.

Part 1
Before a Tornado

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    Prepare your family.[1]
    • Discuss a plan and practice it.[2] Create a list with contact information, insurance information, and in case of emergency out of town contacts. Make sure everyone in the family knows where to go, what to take, and how to be safe if a tornado hits.
    • Store important documents, just in case.[3] Make copies of birth certificates, insurance information, and social security cards to bring with you if you need to evacuate. This will be valuable if you aren't able to return home immediately after the tornado.
    • Set up means of communication.[3] Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get in contact with everyone else. School number, work number, and cell phone numbers should be compiled on a list. Anyone, such as a babysitter, that your children might be with during the emergency should be included on this list. Keep it with the copies of your important documents. Know who will be in charge of having these forms, if evacuation is necessary.
    • Know the closest evacuation center. If you may be in the danger zone, it's important to know where the safest place to be is. In most cases, schools, the community center, and city building are used. These places will have medical attention and supplies. This can also be used as a meet up place for your family after the storm.
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    Prepare your house.
    • Create an emergency kit.[4] This should include water and food for at least 72 hours. Having a means of communication or information (radio, satellite phone, etc.) is also important to include. Any first aid supplies, clothes, and toiletries that you may need should be stored along with flashlights, batteries, etc. For more ideas, see:
    • Build or designate a safe room.[1] Rooms that can typically be used include basements, garages, interior rooms on the first floor, etc. The room should have no windows, be anchored to the ground to avoid uplift, and be strong enough to withstand any flying debris it may come in contact with. Be aware that water may accompany the storm, so be cautious when using below ground rooms, as they may collect water.
    • Arrange and secure household items.[3] Arrange furniture so that it is away from windows, mirrors or glass. This could cause broken glass to fly during the tornado, creating a hazard. Make sure any items that may move during the storm are moved away from your family. Use eye bolts or l brackets to secure large furniture to the walls.

Part 2
During a Storm

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    Know what to watch for. Tornadoes usually only develop in the presence of thunderstorms (though the thunderstorm may be some distance away from you), so lightning, rain, and hail (especially if occurring after a tornado watch or warning has been issued) should put you on guard. In addition, watch out for the following:
    • Darkening skies, particularly if the sky appears a sickly greenish color (indicating hail) or an orange-y color (dust being blown around by high winds)
    • Strong, persistent rotation of the cloud base
    • Very calm and quiet conditions during or right after a thunderstorm
    • A rumble or roar that sounds like continuous thunder or, sometimes, a train or jet
    • Whirling debris near the ground, even in the absence of a funnel cloud.
    • Blue-green or white flashes at ground level in the distance at night – a sign of power lines being snapped by high winds
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    Stay informed. Even if you know the signs of a tornado, you can't always rely on your own eyes and ears alone to know if one is coming. Listen to local radio stations or watch local TV to stay informed, especially during conditions that are likely to form tornadoes. Also purchase a "Self Powered" Radio/Flashlight combo unit. This will allow you to stay informed, doesn't use batteries, and it provides light. See the entry about finding and using "Self Powered" Radios listed below.
    • In the U.S. the best way to get information about severe weather is to get a NOAA weather radio. These can be purchased cheaply at most big box retailers and outdoor supply stores. If possible, find one with backup battery power and a tone-alert feature, which automatically notifies you when the National Weather Service issues a severe weather watch or warning for your area.
    • Find a website with a local radar link or page. This will give you a real-time look at storm cells in your area, and because you can see the intensity and direction of movement of storm cells and systems relevant to your home, you can judge more accurately when precautions should be taken. Several weather websites have this feature.
    • Find out if your community has tornado sirens and learn what they sound like. If you hear these sirens, seek shelter immediately.
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    Listen for tornado watches and warnings. The National Weather Service in the U.S. issues both watches and warnings for severe weather.
    • A tornado watch indicates that conditions are right for tornado development and tornadoes are possible in your area. If you hear a tornado watch or a severe thunderstorm watch, you should pay special attention to weather conditions.
    • A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has been seen in your area or that radar indicates the presence of a tornado. If a tornado warning is issued, you should seek appropriate shelter immediately.
    • A tornado emergency means that a tornado warning has been issued and it is heading toward a densely populated area. Seek appropriate shelter immediately and listen for additional weather reports.
    • A severe thunderstorm warning means that a severe thunderstorm has been spotted in your area, and you should take appropriate precautions and watch for tornadoes.
    • Keep maps of your local area handy, so that you can identify the location of a storm when it is reported on the radio.

Part 3
When a Tornado Strikes

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    Find shelter.[1]
    • If you are in a structure, find the most interior room, on either the first floor or in the basement. Do not stand by windows, or near anything that could possibly hit you (bookcases, chairs, etc.). Put as many walls between you and the storm as possible.
    • If you are in a mobile home or trailer, find the nearest secure structure. These places, even when secured down, offer little protection.
    • If you have a car, attempt to drive to the nearest shelter away from the storm. If that's not possible, stay in your car, duck below and cover yourself with a blanket. Keep your seat belt on.
    • If you are in an open field, duck closest to the ground and cover your head. Do not hide under a bridge or overpass. Most importantly, watch out for flying debris.
    • Note: Never try to outrun the storm.
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    Wait it out. Never leave your shelter until you are sure that the storm has passed and that it is safe to follow the next directions. High winds can still be dangerous, so do not go outside if debris is still moving in the air or on the ground.

Part 4
After a Tornado

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    Deal with injuries first.[1] Using your first aid kit, deal with any injuries. If someone needs medical assistance, wait out the storm, and then seek help.
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    Shut off utilities.[3] Since gas leaks can be extremely dangerous, the first thing you should do once you have handled the first step is turn off the gas, water, and electricity. Damage to one of the pipes or switches could cause a fire or explosion. Never light a match or use a lighter if you suspect that there may be a gas leak, or if you have not already turned off the utilities.
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    Inspect the damage.[3] Use a flashlight, not a torch or candle, to inspect your home, as there might be a gas leak. Note all damage, but mostly look for any structural damage that could be an immediate harm to your family. If you suspect a part of your home is not safe, leave and find a shelter.
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    Seek an evacuation center, if necessary. If you or your family need medical attention or suspect structural damage that may be threatening in your home, seek a center. These often have supplies, but it's important to bring what emergency supplies you can with you.
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    Stay alert.[1] Make sure that the storm has cleared out of you way before return home or leaving your house to assess damage. The high winds may return, placing you once again in danger's way. Stay tuned to the radio for more information on the situation in your town or neighborhood.
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    Safely clean up what you can.[1] Once it is safe to return home or come out, begin cleaning up what you can. Move hazardous objects with care, and make a note for your insurance company on what has been damaged. Taking pictures will help later with claims.
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    If you have been fortunate, help others. If your family and property were unharmed, be thankful, but remember that not everyone was so lucky. Join in rescue efforts or volunteer. Always follow the orders of public officials when doing so, to make sure that you are being constructive and not damaging the situation further.


  • Inform your children about tornadoes, so they will know some of the signs, and will stay alert.
  • Never go outside during a tornado to witness or calculate the distance of the tornado from your current location. Doing this may put yourself and/or others in serious danger.
  • If you have time, close blinds and curtains to help keep glass from flying into your house.
  • Keep an eye out for fast moving clouds, especially rotating cloud formations. Often, tornadoes drop down vertically and lift straight back up, so you will not always observe them coming toward you.
  • Stay calm.
  • Watch the weather forecast until they say the tornado is over. After that, get out of your shelter carefully and be cautious of hazards.
  • If you need to, bring pillows or cushions into your safe room.
  • Don't second guess your decision of where to ride out the weather. Once a storm is imminent, stay put, and don't take any chances.
  • Stay away from windows. The glass could break and cut you.
  • Stay safe. Don't do anything stupid just because you want a cool video or picture. When you do that, you're basically thinking, "Ooh!! How close can I get to the tornado and DIE??"
  • Learn about Skywarn. The National Weather Service and local emergency managers offer this training.
  • Have a plan and make sure your entire family knows it.
  • If you live in an area prone to tornado's, keep your old mattress if you have one. Keep it close by, because when a tornado hits, you can get into your bathtub or shower. Lay the mattress on top of you. If the tornado hits you, the mattress may protect you.
  • Tornadoes usually last for about 20 seconds, but some rare ones have lasted more than an hour. In that case, pack good food and other things such as a game to ride out the storm.
  • A waterproof basement is probably one of the best places to hide, but if you don't have one then any room without windows is good.
  • Remember that not all funnels in the clouds will touch the ground and become tornadoes. That actually happens sometimes, but it's still a good idea to seek shelter just in case it does.
  • Do what you can to bring things so that they are in the safe shelter, but move quickly and stay calm.
  • When going to a safe place during the storm, only bring what you really need to. Things like food, water, a flashlight, and other import things. Even though you might want to bring your favorite book or little toy, you can live without it.
  • If a sibling is sleeping or doesn't know there is a tornado get him/her.
  • If you are in a car when a tornado hits get out and find a ditch, lie down in the ditch and cover your head. As flying objects will fly over you, not on top of you.
  • Face a wall, get away from glass, and cover your head so you won't get hurt.
  • Make sure your animals have shelter as well as yourselves, animals are family to.
  • Avoid your attic during tornados. It raises the risk of injury.
  • Do not take shelter under a bridge or in an overpass. Often the high winds will create a suction through these areas. This can be extremely dangerous.


  • Tornadoes are sometimes obscured by clouds or rain, and there is sometimes no visible funnel cloud.
  • If a tornado appears stationary, assume that it is coming right at you. Take action to protect yourself immediately.
  • Don't be stupid when you pack food and other supplies in your basement. Cheetos and Doritos don't give you the nourishment you need if you were trapped for a long period of time.

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