What Should You do in the Event of a Tornado?
If the emergency sirens sound, or you hear a tornado warning, or see a tornado or signs of a tornado in the sky, take shelter immediately.
The best shelter depends on where you are.
The safest place to be is in a basement or a designated storm shelter. Many large public buildings have special severe weather shelters.
If there is no basement, a small interior room, bathroom or closet on the first floor is the next best place.
Under a stairwell in the basement or on the first floor is also a sturdy part of a structure and may be the best refuge for apartment dwellers.
Get under a sturdy piece of furniture if possible. Cover yourself with blankets or pillows to protect yourself from falling debris. Try to avoid locations where heavy furniture is immediately above you on higher floors.
Always stay away from windows.
If you are outside, seek a sturdy shelter. If there is no substantial shelter nearby, lie in a ditch or low spot, and cover your head with your hands.
If you are in a car, don't try to outrun the tornado. Tornadoes can travel faster than your car. If you are hit, the car will be tossed in the air and you will likely be killed. Get out of the car and seek shelter. Many people are killed every year trying to drive away from tornadoes. If you must drive away, quickly assess the direction the tornado is moving in, and drive at right angles to it, out of it's path.
Many tornado casualties are people in mobile homes. If you are in a mobile home, evacuate it for more substantial shelter if possible. Some mobile home parks have a tornado shelter. If there's no shelter close by, you are still safer outside. Get away from the homes, to avoid flying debris, and into a low-lying area or ditch. Lie flat, and cover your head with your hands.
Preparing for a Tornado
Tornadoes are inevitable. The chances of one hitting you are very small, but there is still a real risk. So, everyone should be prepared, and know what to do in the event of a tornado.
The people with the best chance of survival in a tornado are those who are prepared, those who hear the warnings and take action.
Determine a shelter in your home, based on the criteria above. Know the locations of severe weather shelters at work, and in buildings you visit frequently. Discuss what to do in a tornado with your family.
Get a battery powered radio, and take it with you to your shelter in a tornado.
Have a disaster supply kit with essential supplies in your shelter, or readily reached to be taken to the shelter. Suggested items for a disaster supply kit.
Minnesota's schools are required by law to have an emergency plan for children and teachers to follow. If your child's school does not, ask them to implement one.
Minnesota school bus drivers are instructed what to do if they see a tornado, or receive a tornado warning on their radio.
Major employers and large organizations usually have a tornado drill to follow. If your place of work, church, or other place where people gather does not have a plan, then start one. Here's a guide for organizations who need to make a plan.
Tornado Spotters: SKYWARNAn active way you can be involved in tornado safety, and help save lives in the event of a tornado, is to join the National Weather Service's SKYWARN program.
Tornadoes can often be seen on the ground by an observer before the National Weather Center's radar can detect them. SKYWARN spotters are trained volunteers who look out for severe weather, and alert the National Weather Service, who can then issue a severe weather warning.
Since the SKYWARN program began in the 1970s, the volunteers have helped the NWS issue more timely warnings of tornadoes, and other severe weather, and have saved many lives.