Can you really ride out and survive a tornado by sheltering in your bathtub?
Yes, and this technique has saved many people.
But…it’s also far from the best place to safeguard you during a tornado. Tornadoes are massive forces of nature, and their exact movements are hard to predict, so hiding in a bathtub without overhead protection certainly won’t work all the time. But don’t worry, you have plenty of other options.
The Best Places to Shelter During a Tornado
Due to its location and landscape—midway between the North Pole and the Equator, with some exceptionally uninterrupted flat land—the United States has the most tornadoes of any nation on earth. Each year, we experience an average of 1,200 tornadoes. The majority of those tornadoes occur in the spring months, typically between the hours of 4:00pm and 9:00pm. Because there is some regularity to tornadoes, and because we can forecast and warn for a tornado’s arrival, many of America’s children are taught from a young age about what they should do when a tornado warning is issued. The short answer — take shelter immediately!
The very best way to shelter is to go underground. Basements and belowground storm shelters offer optimal protection, even against the strongest tornadoes, so they should always be your #1 choice.
The second-best options are concrete or steel safe rooms on the ground floor. If properly constructed to FEMA specifications, these ground floor rooms should be as safe as an underground shelter. Plus, they make wheelchair entrance much easier.
No Basement or Shelter? Here are More Safe Places to go to During a Tornado
But what if your home has no basement or storm shelter? Where do you go? Before storm season even rolls around, gather your family, and walk around your home. On the ground floor, find a room in the middle of your home, away from outside walls. Specifically, think about it like this…if a tornado comes toward you from the west or southwest, which room in your house has the most walls between it and the approaching tornado? Most homes have a ground floor bathroom, a closet, or a hallway that gets you away from windows and the outside walls of the house.
If the most centrally located room in your home is a ground floor bathroom, designate it as your storm shelter. And since the idea is to get as many walls between you and the approaching tornado, by all means take shelter inside the bathtub, where the fiberglass sides of the tub add another layer of protection. Cover yourself with pillows and stay low. If you have time to do so, put on a bicycle helmet.
Many people have survived a tornado by sheltering in their bathtub. A lucky few have told amazing stories of riding the winds when their tub went airborne, and ended up in a field or a tree.
If All Else Fails…
If you have no basement or underground shelter, a hallway or a bathroom tub may be your best option. However, there is one other option: if you live in a manufactured home or feel your home might not fare well in strong winds, evacuate and go to a more substantial structure. Public storm shelters, church basements, or a neighbor’s basement could save your life—but, that’s only true if you there before the twister. Most tornado watches are issued several hours before severe weather arrives. Use the “watch” to “GET SET”, and the “warning” to “GO.” If your home is vulnerable to high winds, use your “get set” time to walk or drive to another, safer location.
If luck is with you, you can survive a tornado in a bathtub, but you’re better off in someplace more substantial.
Thanks for helping us build a Weather-Ready Nation!