Tornado & Storm Preparation

Preparing for a Tornado

Plan Ahead

To ensure that you’re able to act quickly and get the best available protection during a tornado, you need to plan ahead. Advanced planning and practicing specifically how and where you will take cover for protection may save your life.

Your primary goal is to go to the safest place for protection before the tornado approaches and take additional measures for personal cover. If a tornado warning is issued, immediately move to the best available protection.

Having advance notice that a tornado is approaching your area can give you the critical time needed to move to a place with better protection. The best protection in all tornadoes is to seek shelter in a structure built to FEMA safe room or International Code 500 storm shelter standards, for details visit the FEMA website.

Safety During a Tornado

If you’re unable to get to a safe room during a tornado, move to an interior windowless room on the lowest level of a building, preferably the basement. Take personal cover under sturdy furniture such as a table. Cover your head and neck with your arms and place a blanket or coat over your body.

The America’s Prepare Athon: How to Prepare for a Tornado Guide (PDF) provides preparedness tips if you live, work, or travel through an area that is susceptible to tornadoes:

  • Know how to stay informed, including monitoring weather reports provided by your local media.
  • Consider buying a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards receiver, which receives broadcast alerts directly from the National Weather Service and offers warnings, watches, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Download the FEMA mobile application for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips.
  • Know where you would go to have the best level of protection from a tornado for every place you spend a lot of time, such as home, work, school, or place of worship.
  • Practice how you will communicate with your family members in case you're not together during a tornado; complete the Family Emergency Communication Plan.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of food, water, medications, and items you may need after the tornado passes.
  • Store the important documents on a USB flash drive or in a waterproof container that you will need to start your recovery.

Some locations don't provide protection from tornadoes, including: manufactured (mobile) homes/offices, the open space of open-plan buildings (e.g., malls, big retail stores, and gymnasiums), vehicles, and the outdoors. An alternative shelter should be identified prior to a tornado watch or warning.

You can find additional resources online, including a Tornado Safety Checklist (PDF) that provides guidance on what steps to take before and after a tornado.