Tornadoes are nature's most violent and erratic storms. A tornado can travel for miles along the ground, lift and suddenly change direction and strike again. There is little you can do to protect your home or workplace from the strength of tornado winds, but there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your family better.
Basic Safety Rules:
Keep alert to changing weather conditions. Tornadoes are formed by severe thunderstorms, most frequently in the spring and summer. A tornado watch is given when weather is favorable to the formation of tornadoes. A tornado warning is given when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by radar. You should take shelter immediately. Because tornadoes can form and move quickly, there may not be time for a warning.
Take shelter immediately when you hear a tornado warning or see a funnel cloud. Most often warnings will be given by local radio and television stations. In addition, some communities have sirens or whistles to warn of natural disasters. During a tornado watch, be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.
Know where your shelter is before you need it. Although there is no guaranteed safe place during a tornado, some locations are better than others.
Get to shelter immediately. AVOID WINDOWS. Flying glass can injure or kill. Don't open windows. Houses don't "explode" and allowing strong winds in can do damage or cause injury. The safest place in the home is an inside room on the lowest floor, like a closet, hallway, or bathroom with no windows. For added protection, get under something strong, like a workbench or heavy table. If possible, cover your body with a blanket or sleeping bag and protect your head with anything available, even your hands.
Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado. Even homes with a secure tie-down system cannot withstand the force of tornado winds. Plan ahead. Make arrangements to stay with friends or neighbors. Go there if a tornado watch is issued. If a tornado warning is given, leave your mobile home and seek shelter nearby. Lie flat in a ditch or ravine and put your arms over your head. Don't take shelter under your home.
On the Road
The least desirable place to be during a tornado is in a motor vehicle. Cars, buses, and trucks are tossed easily by tornado winds. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. If you see a tornado, stop your vehicle and get out. Seek shelter away from the car in a nearby ditch or ravine; do not get under your vehicle. Lie flat and put your arms over your head.
Long Span Buildings
If you are caught in an open building like a shopping mall, civic center, indoor pool, theater, or gymnasium during a tornado, stay away from windows. Get into the restroom, if possible. In larger buildings, the restrooms are usually made from concrete block. Besides having four walls and plumbing holding things together, metal partitions help support any falling debris. If there is not time to go anywhere, seek shelter right where you are. Try to get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. For instance, in a department store, get up against heavy shelving or counters. Remember to protect your head.
Schools, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Office Buildings
Extra precautions are needed in these structures due to the large concentration of people in a small area and these buildings usually have large amounts of glass on the outside walls. Get into the innermost portions on the lowest floor possible. Avoid windows, glass doorways, and auditoriums and cafeterias not protected by overhead floors and rooms. Do not use elevators; the power may go off and you could become trapped. Protect your head and make yourself as small a target as possible by crouching down.
In the Open
If you are caught outside during a tornado and there is no shelter immediately available, lie in a gully, ditch, or low spot in the ground. Protect your body and head with anything available. Do not go into a grove of trees or under a vehicle.
Emergency services personnel are usually on the scene quickly after a tornado. Keep your family together and wait for help to arrive. Listen to the radio for information about disaster relief and assistance available from local authorities and volunteer agencies. If you are outside, don't go into damaged buildings; they may collapse completely. Wait for help to search for others. If your home appears undamaged, check carefully for gas or other utility line breaks. If the lights are out, use a flashlight only; do not use a match, lighter, or any open flame.
By following these suggested safety tips, you can increase your chances for survival.