When a Tornado Strikes

If you see a funnel cloud nearby, take shelter immediately (see the following section for instructions on sheltering). However, if you spot a tornado that is far away, help alert others to the hazard by reporting it to the newsroom of a local radio or TV station before taking shelter as described later. Use common sense and exercise caution: if you believe that you might be in danger, seek shelter immediately.

The key to surviving a tornado and reducing the risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you and your family will do if a tornado strikes. Flying debris causes most deaths and injuries during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.

General Tips

If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (such as a closet or interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

Shelter for People with Access and Functional Needs

  • If you are in a wheelchair, get away from windows and go to an interior room of the house. If possible, seek shelter under a sturdy table or desk. Do cover your head with anything available, even your hands.
  • If you are unable to move from a bed or a chair and assistance is not available, protect yourself from falling objects by covering up with blankets and pillows.
  • If you are outside and a tornado is approaching, get into a ditch or gully. If possible, lie flat and cover your head with your arms.

After the Tornado

  • Assume all downed wires are live. Avoid downed wires or any objects that are in contact with them
  • Call and notify the utility company or 911 of a downed power line immediately
  • Many injuries can occur in the aftermath of a storm as people come in contact with debris and other hazards. Wear sturdy, hard-soled shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking near debris to prevent injuries from hazards such as nails and broken glass
  • Use battery operated light sources (flashlights, lanterns, etc.) if you lose electricity, not candles
  • Never use generators in your home or garage, only outdoors where there is no danger of fumes entering your home
  • Help injured or trapped people
  • Give first aid when appropriate
  • Don’t try to move seriously injured people unless further danger is imminent
  • Call for help
  • Turn on the radio or television for the latest emergency information
  • Use the telephone only for emergencies
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleach, and flammable liquids immediately
  • Leave the area if gas or burning fumes are present
  • Stay out of damaged buildings
  • Take pictures of the both the house and contents for insurance purposes

Shutting off Utilities


  • After a tornado, DO NOT USE matches, lighters, appliances, or operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas and cause an explosion.
  • If you smell the odor of gas or if you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas meter, shut off the gas immediately. First, find the main shut-off valve located on a pipe next to the gas meter. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the valve to the “off” position.


Water may be turned off at either of two locations:
  1. At the main meter, which controls the water flow to the entire property.
  2. At the water main leading into the home. If you may need an emergency source of fresh water, it is better to shut off your water here, because it will conserve the water in your water heater.
  • Attach a valve wrench to the water line. (This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.)
  • Label the water mains for quick identification.


After a major disaster, shut off the electricity. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion.