skip to main content

Tornado protection, preparation, response and recovery

Most areas of the United States are susceptible to tornadoes, but a majority of the tornadoes and severe damage typically occur east of the Rocky Mountains, particularly in the plain states. This stretch of land is often referred to as "Tornado Alley."

Tornadoes typically occur during the spring and summer months, but they have occurred at other times of the year, as well. More than 1,000 tornadoes are reported in the United States each year, resulting in serious property damage, injuries and deaths.

A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. The larger and more violent tornadoes can result in serious destruction and, at times, winds can reach speeds of 250 mph or more. Sometimes the damage from a tornado can extend up to one mile in width. Some tornadoes have been known to stay on the ground for as long as 50 miles.

Tornadoes typically develop quickly – sometimes with little or no warning. However, because tornadoes typically occur during predictable times of the year, this will allow for some preparation. In most cases, damage from a direct tornado hit cannot be avoided, but there are steps that can be taken to lessen the damage from a near miss.

Preparation before a tornado

Prepare a written pre-emergency plan and practice it on a routine basis, whether it is for your home, commercial occupancies, schools, etc. The following is a list of recommended items that should be put into practice and covered routinely to ensure a timely response in the event of a tornado.

A typical tornado drill can be set up as follows:

Before running a drill

During the tornado drill

Once the drill is completed

Before and during a tornado

As soon as a tornado has been reported and it is obvious that danger is on its way, move all people (family members, employees, etc.) to a pre-designated shelter to sit out the tornado. The best place is generally an underground shelter or basement in the building.

Disaster recovery - after a tornado

Once the storm has dissipated, you should put your disaster recovery procedures into practice.

The following resources will help in the development of a Disaster Recovery Plan.


Travelers documents

To access these documents, log in to our Risk Control Customer Center at and type all or part of the title in the “Search All Products” field.

Web sites

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Tornado
FEMA – Recovering from Disaster
NOAA – Tornado FAQs
NOAA – Fujita Tornado Damage Scale
NOAA – Tornado Guide
NOAA – Tornado Preparedness Tips for School Administrators

Find more topics to help protect your business.