Tornado Preparation

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A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach up to 300 miles per hour. The path of damage may be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Tornado intensities are classified on the Fujita Scale with ratings between 0 and 5. A storm of F0 is the weakest and F5 being the strongest.

General preparedness in readiness for a tornado is much like that of any similar natural event:

  • Prepare a plan
  • Assemble a disaster kit
  • Keep tuned in to the radio and Television for updated weather reports
  • Prepare an evacuation route
  • Check your house and outbuildings and lash down anything that may blow away and cause injuries
  • Post event – check for damage and dangerous threats such as gas, and fallen power lines

Discussing disaster preparedness ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know what to do in a tornado situation.


Decide where you and your family members, don’t forget your pets, should gather during a tornado. The safest place is underground, or as low to the ground as possible, and away from all windows. If you have a basement or storm cellar, make this your safe place. If this is not practical, consider an interior bathroom, closet, or hallway on the lowest floor.


Try and place as many walls as you can between you and the outside, this will provide additional protection. Ensure there are no windows or glass doors in your safe place and keep this place uncluttered


If you are in a high-rise building, select an area in a hallway, preferably in the centre of the building, centre hallways are usually the most structurally reinforced part of a building. 


Check your workplace, children's schools and local government to learn about their tornado emergency plans. Every building has different safe places. It is important to know where they are and how to get there in an emergency.


If you live in a mobile home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. A sturdy building provides greater protection. If your mobile home park has a designated shelter, make it your safe place. Mobile homes are much more vulnerable to strong winds than site-built structures. Prior to 1994, most mobile homes were not designed to withstand even moderate winds.


Discuss tornadoes with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case not all family members are together.


Practice makes perfect – By practicing your plan this will makes for an appropriate reactionary response, requiring less thinking time during an actual emergency

When a Tornado WATCH Is Issued...

  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train.

When a Tornado WARNING Is Issued...

  • If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. The tornado may be approaching your area.
  • If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
  • If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head for safety

After a Tornado

  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations for updated information and instructions. Access may be limited to some parts of the community or roads may be blocked.
  • Check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for injured or trapped persons. Taking care of yourself first will allow you to help others safely until emergency responders arrive.
  • Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
  • Avoid damaged areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of tornadoes.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Cut/injured feet are the most common injury following a disaster.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest. It protects the user, the building occupants, and the building from fire hazards. DO NOT USE CANDLES.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, or damage to electrical systems. Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately. Fire is the most frequent hazard following other disasters.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell, gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbour's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it is essential that a professional turn the gas back on again, and check the pressure.
  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
  • Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.
  • Watch your animals closely. Keep all your animals under your direct control. Your pets may be able to escape from your home or through a broken fence. Pets may become disoriented, particularly because tornadoes and the heavy rains that accompany them will usually affect scent markers that normally allow animals to find their homes. The behaviour of pets may change dramatically after any disruption, becoming aggressive or defensive, so be aware of their well being and take measures to protect them from hazards, including displaced wild animals, and to ensure the safety of other people and animals.

Useful links

Tornado - storm chaser

FEMA - Before a Tornado

FEMA what do to during a tornado

FEMA what to do after a tornado