Those who live in tornado alley are accustomed to tornado drills, during which the National Weather Service will trigger NOAA Weather Radios and some jurisdictions will sound their storm sirens. Even if you don’t hear an alert, take a moment to think about (or even practice) sheltering from a tornado (or a very angry severe thunderstorm).
You’ve probably heard it said that basements and FEMA safe rooms are the best options, but you won’t always have one of those nice and handy. Which may lead you to wonder what you should be looking for in a shelter location.
Below are some tips for choosing a spot to hunker down during a dangerous storm:
- If you’re in a sturdy, well-built building, go to the lowest level possible – the first floor if there is no basement or designated/rated safe room. (This “first floor” rule doesn’t apply to structures like mobile homes or metal outbuildings… try to give yourself enough lead time to leave those and find a sturdy, well-built building or safe room.)
- In that well-built building, get as interior as possible. Find a spot that puts a lot of walls between you and the storm and gets you away from windows (like an interior bathroom or closet).
- Think cozy. Avoid big open rooms with a lot of ceiling/roof space, especially really big spaces like school gymnasiums.
- If you can, cover yourself up (especially your head) as protection against flying debris (consider blankets, heavy coats, sports helmets… yep, helmets!)
- Stay put until you know for sure the threat has passed — bring something along to help monitor the storm’s progress, like a phone or radio.
Highway overpasses and vehicles are both dangerous options, especially in a tornadic storm. Be very weather aware and try to avoid getting into a situation where you have to ride out a tornado or fierce windstorm in a car (watch those forecasts, radar images, storm tracks, weather alerts…). If nasty conditions are developing, keep your eyes peeled and grab a better shelter option if at all possible.