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What to Do During a Tornado WATCH OR WARNING

June 01, 2011

  • Listen to a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio, regular radio, or television for updated information. If the electricity should go out, you will still be able to receive emergency information.
  • If you are inside, go to your safe place to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. Tornadoes can change direction, intensity, and speed very quickly. The tornado may be approaching your area.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table, and hold on to it. Sturdy furniture will help protect you from falling debris. If tornado wind enters the room and the object moves, holding on with one hand will help you move with it, keeping you protected.
  • Use your other arm and hand to protect your head and neck from falling or flying objects. Your head and neck are more easily injured than other parts of your body. Protect them as much as you can.  If you have a helmet put it on when you go to your shelter.
  • Stay away from windows. Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place. It is a myth that tornadoes cause houses to explode due to changes in air pressure. Flying debris can shatter glass. Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.
  • If you’re outside in a car or in a mobile home, go immediately to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be. Tornado winds can blow large objects, including cars and mobile homes, hundreds of feet away. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can lift up a car or truck and toss it through the air; never try to out-drive a tornado. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit.
  • If there is no building nearby, lie flat in a low spot. Use your arms and hands to protect your head. Tornadoes cause a lot of debris to be blown at very high speeds, and you can be hurt by this debris if it hits you. Dangerous flying debris can be blown under highway overpasses and bridges, or weaker overpasses and bridges could be destroyed. You will be safer lying flat in a low-lying area where wind and debris will blow above you. Tornadoes come from severe thunderstorms, which can produce a lot of rain. If you see quickly rising water or flood water coming towards you, move to another spot.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls. Wide-span roofs are frequently damaged or destroyed in tornado winds, providing less protection and more risk of injury, than roofs over smaller rooms.
  • Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor, but avoid halls that open to the outside in any direction. If there are no interior hallways, avoid those that open to the southwest, south, or west, since that is the usually the direction the tornado will come.
  • In High-Rise Buildings interior rooms and halls are the best locations in large buildings.  Central stairwells are good, but elevators are not.  If the building loses power you may be in the elevator for a long time.  Stay away from glass walls and windows, not matter how small.
  • In shopping centers, hospitals and factories go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor.  Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, theaters, and warehouses.  Crouch down and cover your head.  Deaths have occurred in large single, story department stores when the roof or brick walls collapsed – a corner would be safer than the middle of the wall.  Bathroom, closet or maintenance room with short walls is safest area, especially if on the north or east side of the building.

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