Find suitable shelter.
People need to find the best place to shelter well before severe weather is forecast. The federal government provides many in-depth resources on identifying a safe shelter. If you receive a tornado warning, the general rules are:
If you are outside, go inside.
If you’re at home, go to the basement or an interior room with no windows, such as a hallway or closet, on the bottom floor. In these places, it’s also a good idea to shield your head and neck with your arms, hide under a heavy table, and cover yourself with a mattress or blanket.
Mobile homes are not safe, as are large, empty rooms such as auditoriums, big-box stores and cafeterias, which are vulnerable to collapse.
If you live in a mobile home, make sure you know a solid construction that you can access quickly. If you can’t find a safe place, ask local officials or emergency services where to find shelter before a storm is even forecast; they want you to have this information.
When a tornado warning is issued, it is not safe to be in a vehicle. A car can collapse on its own, debris can penetrate it, or — in extreme tornadoes — it can be picked up and thrown.
Don’t try to outrun a tornado. Even in rural areas you can be held back by traffic. And the tornado is likely to be surrounded by other bad weather than can make driving very dangerous.
You may want to go in and cover your head, or you can leave your vehicle and take shelter in a low-lying area, such as a ditch or ravine – but be aware that it could flood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends covering your head and neck with your arms and covering your body with a jacket or blanket if possible.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
The best thing you can do is make a plan for your household about where you will find shelter and what items you will need. This plan should include special considerations for your family, such as what you will be doing with pets and what medications people will need.
Ready.gov has a guide to planning for tornadoes and other disasters in several languages, including Spanish, Arabic, and Tagalog. Some states also offer resources in languages common to the area, such as Minnesota, which has severe weather guides in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.
Jonathan Porter, the chief meteorologist at the forecasting service AccuWeather, said people should review their plans and best practices for tornado preparation at least once a year, as families grow and change, so do their needs. Meteorologists, structural engineers and emergency managers are also updating their advice to reflect what they’ve learned from recent storms.