It is not uncommon for tornadoes to strike with little or no warning, which is why it is important to prepare beforehand to ensure that you get through this natural disaster unscathed. Your safety plan should take into account a safe place where you can take shelter and wait for the tornado to pass. It is not the gusts of wind that is inside and around a tornado that injures and kills people – the debris that flies around in the wind os what cause fatalities, which makes it all the more crucial to seek shelter in an area in your home that will ensure the risk of an injury is low.
Seeking shelter underground is the safest place to be during a tornado, so if you have an underground storm cellar, ensure that you use it. If you don’t have a storm cellar, your next best option is your basement. If your basement is not completely underground, or it has windows, ensure that you stay as far from them as possible to reduce the risk of getting injured by broken glass.
Bathrooms may also be a good source of shelter during a tornado, as long as they are not located along an outside wall and don’t have windows. To ensure you are even safer, you can get into the bathtub and cover yourself with a mattress and other bedding. You can also try to seek shelter in any interior room of your house that preferably doesn’t have any windows. If you choose to wait out a tornado in a hallway, ensure that you shut all the doors leading to the hallway to create barriers and consequently protect yourself from debris.
The safest room in your house during a tornado will depend on how your home is designed. There are several options at hand that offer varying degrees of safety. Read on to discover all these options, as well as areas you will want to avoid.
The safest areas in your house during a tornado
- An underground storm cellar – The safest you can be during a tornado is as low as possible, which makes an underground storm cellar ideally the safest place. Ensure that the door to the storm cellar is securely fastened behind you. In case the entrance of your storm cellar is outside, ensure that you allow yourself plenty of time to reach the shelter before the tornado hits the ground.
- The basement – If you are like most people, chances are that you don’t have an underground storm cellar. In this case, your next best option is to seek shelter in your basement. If your basement is not fully underground, or it features windows or doors that lead outside, ensure that you are as far away from them as possible. While your basement is a good shelter option during a tornado, no corner of a basement is considered safer than the other – a common myth is that the southwest corner of a basement is generally the safest. This theory was a result of the mistaken belief that tornadoes come from the west-southwest and move towards the east-northeast direction. In reality, tornadoes can impact from any direction, and the gusts of wind that spin in a vortex can be blowing from any given direction.
- An interior room – If you don’t have access to an underground storm cellar or a basement, then the safest place for you to hide in your house is any room that does not have any exterior walls or windows. This could potentially mean seeking shelter in your hallway, under the stairs, or in a room that doesn’t have windows if available. If you choose a hallway as your shelter spot, ensure that you shut all the doors that may lead to it. This will ensure that you create barriers between you and any flying debris in and/or near the tornado. The hallway should also be as far inside your house as possible. The space under stairs can also be a suitable sheltering area especially if it is hidden away.
- The bathroom – Your bathroom may serve as a safe sheltering room as long as it is not situated on an outside wall. Bathrooms have been proven to be adequate sheltering areas in the past as it is believed that the plumbing in the walls gives the room some structural strength and consequently provides you with insulation against the gusts of wind that accompany a tornado. You can potentially increase your safety by climbing into your bathtub (if you have one) and covering yourself with a mattress or any other type of bedding.
- A closet – A small interior closet can serve as a sheltering spot during a tornado – just remember that it should be deep within the house with no windows or bordering outside walls. To create more space for yourself, consider pulling clothes off their hangers. You can also increase insulation against falling debris using bedding. To make sure that you are safe hiding in your interior closet, close the door securely.
Areas to stay away from during a tornado
There are some areas of your house that you will want to stay far away from during a tornado. They include:
- Any room that has heavy objects – While your first instinct may be to seek shelter under your bed or even inch behind your heavy dresser to keep yourself out of harm’s way during a tornado, you may be putting yourself in more danger. This is because these heavy objects can easily shift during a tornado and even end up falling through the floor and inevitably injuring you.
- Any room that features windows – One of the oldest myths theories tornadoes is that you can equalize the pressure that they exert by opening windows. However, current studies show that opening windows is a waste of precious time that could have been spent seeking safe shelter. Another reason to stay away from windows is the fact that tornadoes lead to shattered windows, and being in a room with windows can lead to severe injuries especially when you are exposed to flying glass. Additionally, once a window breaks, all sorts of debris can be blown into your house and wreak havoc. In addition to avoiding windows, you may also want to take extra precaution by placing a heavy piece of furniture over your windows or duct-taping heavy blankets over them.
How to prepare for a tornado
If your house is in an area where tornado warnings are commonplace, it might be worth preparing yourself in case one unexpectedly occurs.
- Assemble a tornado evacuation kit – Your tornado evacuation kit should include the following items:
- Portable radio – Ensure you pack a battery-powered radio in your evacuation kit. This is an essential item that can be used to listen to weather and emergency updates during power outages, which are common when tornadoes occur. Pack extra batteries for the radio just in case
- Flashlight and extra batteries – If there is a power outage during a tornado, you will need another source of light, which is where a flashlight comes in. Opt to go for a heavy-duty flashlight that will help you navigate your way around your chosen shelter.
- Cell phone – Ensure that you keep a fully charged cell phone in your emergency kit as you will most likely have to make calls in case someone is injured or to report the occurrence of a tornado.
- Cash – You will want to keep some cash in your emergency kit in case you are unable to access a bank after the occurrence of a tornado.
- Food and water – Remember to include at least three days’ worth of canned or non-perishable food that will adequately feed each individual. You will also need three days’ worth of bottled water for each individual. This is important as there is no way to tell how much time you might end up spending in your chosen shelter.
- First-aid kit – You will need a fully stocked first-aid kit in case you need to perform first aid on someone who is injured during the tornado.
- Blankets and pillows – Blankets and pillows can be used to keep your head and body protected from debris that may fall on you during the tornado.
- Prescription medication Pack any prescription medication that you may have in case you need to use them while you’re in your shelter.
Safety after the occurrence of a tornado
After a tornado passes, it is still important to exercise caution to ensure that you remain safe. Tornadoes are highly destructive, known to leave behind shattered glass, fallen utility lines, overturned furniture, and debris. Remember to be extra careful when leaving your shelter to avoid getting injured. If you are unable to leave the shelter on your own, inform authorities so that you can be safely evacuated. Allow your house to be inspected for damage before reentering in case there is any damage that could be potentially harmful.
Getting as low as possible is the best solution when it comes to dealing with a tornado. This means that you need to consider options such as evacuating to an underground storm cellar or basement. If your house doesn’t feature these rooms, then consider seeking shelter in interior rooms that do not have any windows to ensure that you are completely safe. Remember to bring with you an emergency kit to ensure you are comfortable while you are in the shelter.