Having a tornado preparation plan requires practice

Tornadoes can happen anytime, anywhere—often striking with little or no warning. Knowing the signs and what to do when a tornado warning or watch is issued can help save lives. Having a plan and conducting a tornado drill on a routine basis is the first step to helping protect your family, employees, students, customers and others in your care in the event of a tornado.

Create a Written Plan that Everyone Can Follow

Instructions can be difficult to remember, especially in the heat of the moment. Create a written plan and discuss it with your family members, employees or students ahead of time to help ensure everyone feels comfortable with it and understands what to do. In your plan, be sure to address:


Designate the safest place in your home or facility to meet when a tornado warning is issued. A basement or tornado shelter is always best, if available. Otherwise choose a windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level. Be sure to document and discuss the quickest, safest paths to your shelter spot.


Create a disaster survival kit that includes tornado-specific safety supplies you may need, including a whistle to signal for help if trapped under debris, flashlights, extra batteries and a portable weather radio. Keep the kit and supplies in or on the way to your designated shelter area. Be sure to assign responsibility for keeping the survival kit stocked, and for who will grab it on the way to the shelter location in an emergency.


Plan to keep in touch if not everyone is at home or work when a tornado strikes. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as a family contact or establish an employee call center. Make sure all family members and care providers (teachers, day care, etc.) have the emergency contact information, or employees know to call the call center number.



At the very least, everyone should know the proper way to crouch and cover their head until the threat passes. Large, sturdy objects to crouch underneath for extra protection are helpful to have in your shelter area, if possible. Mattresses or sleeping bags for cover and helmets to protect the head are a good idea, too.


Once You Make Your Plan, Do Not Forget to Practice!

Set a specific time each year to conduct a tornado drill to help get your family, employees or students in the habit. On the designated drill day: 

  1. Pretend as if a tornado has been sighted or a warning issued. Use the available, designated means to alert participants of the test, notifying them to make their way to the designated shelter area.
  2. If it is part of your plan, the appointed family or team member should pick up the disaster survival kit on his or her way to the shelter area.
  3. Once everyone is gathered in the shelter area, practice any safety measures that are part of your plan—including the proper way to crouch down as low as possible, facing the floor, and cover their heads with their hands.

After the Drill: How Prepared are You in the Event of a Tornado?

Evaluate how well the drill went, updating your plan as necessary based on the answers to the following questions.

  1. How quickly was everyone able to get to the shelter area? Could quicker paths be used?
  2. Assess the condition of the shelter area. Was it too cluttered or disorganized for all the participants to assume the proper safety positions? Will additional shelter areas be required?
  3. Did the notification process run smoothly? If not, how can it be improved?
  4. Was the disaster survival kit adequately stocked and available at the shelter area in a timely manner?

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