Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
A tornado watch means that a tornado is possible. A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes.
During a tornado watch, you should
Sign up for our emergency notifications and follow us on social media.
Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations.
Watch the weather and be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should immediately take shelter during a tornado warning.
Know the signs of a tornado.
Some tornadoes strike quickly without time for a tornado warning, so it is important to know the signs of a tornado.
Signs that a tornado may be approaching include the following:
Rotating funnel-shaped cloud
Approaching cloud of debris
Dark or green-colored sky
Large, dark, low-lying cloud
Loud roar that sounds like a freight train
If you notice any of these signs take cover immediately and stay tuned to local radio and TV stations, a NOAA weather radio, or the internet.
Identify the safest place to take shelter.
Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are safer than others. Safe places include a storm cellar, a basement, or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (such as a bathroom, closet, or center hallway).
If you live in a mobile home, identify a nearby building you can get to quickly. Don’t stay in a mobile home during a tornado.
Create a tornado emergency plan.
Take a few minutes to develop a tornado emergency plan.
Identify a safe place in your home for household members and pets to gather during a tornado.
Sketch a floor plan of your home or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
Identify a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off (if time permits) during an emergency.
Make sure everyone understands the tornado warning system in your area.
Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
Learn the emergency dismissal policy for your child’s school.
Make sure your children know
What a tornado is
What tornado watches and warnings are
What county or parish they live in (warnings are issued by county or parish)
How to take shelter, whether at home or at school
Practice your emergency plan.
Conduct drills and ask questions to make sure your loved ones remember information on tornado safety, particularly how to recognize hazardous weather conditions and where to take shelter.
Extra measures for people with functional needs
Write down your specific needs, limitations, capabilities, and medications. Keep this list near you always—perhaps in your purse or wallet.
Find someone nearby (such as a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker) who will agree to assist you in case of an emergency. Give them a copy of your list. You may also want to provide a spare key to your home, or directions to find a key.
Stay up to date on the weather conditions through whatever means are accessible to you. Some options are closed captioning or scrolled warnings on TV, radio bulletins, or call-in weather information lines.
Write down important information.
Make a list of important information, including the following:
Emergency telephone numbers (such as police, fire, paramedics, and medical centers)
Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your insurance agents, including policy types and numbers
Telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies
Names and telephone numbers of neighbors
Name and telephone number of your landlord or property manager
Important medical information (for example, allergies, regular medications, and brief medical history)
Year, model, license plate, and identification numbers of your vehicles
Telephone number for your bank or credit union, and your account numbers
Create a pet disaster preparedness kit if you have pets. You should include items such as veterinary records; registration information; a 2-week supply of water, food, and medications; a leash; and a pet carrier. For more information on how to prepare your pets for a disaster, see CDC’s Pet Safety in Emergencies website.
Take steps to reduce household hazards.
Inspect your home for possible hazards
Inspect your home for possible hazards. Address these questions:
Are walls securely bolted to the foundation?
Are wall studs attached to the roof rafters with metal hurricane clips, not nails?
Are chairs or beds near windows, mirrors, or large pictures?
Are heavy items stored on shelves more than 30 inches high?
Are there large, unsecured items that might topple over or fall?
Are poisons, solvents, or toxic materials stored safely?
Secure your home’s structure
No home is completely safe in a tornado. However, attention to construction details can reduce damage and provide better protection for you and your loved ones. For example, you may need to strengthen the areas of connection between the wall studs and roof rafters with hurricane clips.
If you identify a possible hazard in the way your home is constructed, contact your local city or county building inspectors for more information about structural safety. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do any needed work for you.
Arrange and secure household items
Make sure to inspect your home and its surroundings for any possible hazards and secure them if you can:
Arrange furniture so that chairs and beds are away from windows, mirrors, and picture frames.
Place heavy or large items on lower shelves.
Secure your large appliances, especially your water heater, with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.
Identify top-heavy furniture, such as bookcases and china cabinets, that could topple over. Secure them with “L” brackets, corner brackets, aluminum molding, or eyebolts.
Secure cabinet doors by installing sliding bolts or childproof latches.
Store hazardous materials such as poisons and solvents in a sturdy, locked cabinet in a well-ventilated area. Keep them away from your emergency food and water supply and out of reach of children and pets.
Remember outdoor items
Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.
Remove any debris or loose items in your yard.
Learn how to shut off utilities
Know where and how to shut off utilities, including gas, electricity, and water, at the main switches or valves. Check with your local utility companies for instructions.
Teach all family members how and when to shut off utilities.