According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 2021 saw 1,376 tornadoes in the U.S., with more than 100 fatalities. When a tornado hits, it’s important to have a tornado safety plan to protect your family. Know how to prepare for a tornado, what to do, and where to go to seek shelter before a storm strikes.
How to stay safe during a tornado
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests a three-step tornado safety plan for tornado season: be prepared, stay aware of weather conditions, and know where to shelter.
1. Be prepared
It’s important to know how to prepare for a tornado. You’ll want to prepare a home emergency kit and store it where you’ll take shelter. It should contain a first-aid kit, important information, and enough supplies to last for a day or two in case you’re trapped.
2. Stay aware of weather conditions
Know what weather patterns to look for when learning how to prepare for a tornado. A dark or green-colored sky and large hail often precede tornados. If a storm rages and suddenly becomes eerily still, it’s a sign that a tornado may be on the way. You may also see a large, low-hanging cloud or hear a roar similar to a train.
Of course, the easiest way to know when a tornado is coming is to pay attention to weather forecasts and live updates. It’s a good idea to keep an emergency radio nearby so that you will know as soon as the weather stations know. Learn about helpful resources for severe weather.
3. Know where to shelter
When creating a tornado safety plan, it’s important to have a place to shelter prepared. The lowest point in your house is the best bet. Aim for a basement or ground-level room with no windows, such as a closet or bathroom. Cover yourself with something sturdy, such as a table. If you don’t have anything to cover you, place a blanket over your body to help cushion you from any falling debris. If you live in a mobile home, know where to seek shelter nearby in a sturdier building.
If you can, invest in a proper tornado shelter. These shelters are either bolted to the ground (for above-ground shelters) or buried in the ground with only a single access hatch. These are some of your safest options if a tornado strikes. If you’re in the car when a tornado develops, go to the nearest shelter site, even if it’s a store or office building, rather than trying to race home. Pull over and stop the car if you can’t get to a shelter. Learn more tornado safety tips while driving.
Is under the stairs safe in a tornado?
If you have space underneath a stairwell, it’s one of the safest places to be during a tornado, especially if it’s away from windows. Stairs are constructed to support a tremendous amount of weight, which means you are likely safe from anything collapsing on you.
Many homes have small storage spaces beneath the stairwell. If you don’t have a basement, consider cleaning out this storage space and adding blankets and nonperishables as an emergency shelter when a storm strikes.
Other considerations for tornado safety tips at home
Tornadoes are unpredictable and can strike without warning. Make a family emergency plan for tornadic weather and prepare your home for severe weather. It’s also important to understand how home insurance can cover tornado damage to your home.