Tornado Safety: What NOT to Do If You Find Yourself in a Tornado’s Path

May 16, 2013  |    |  Weather Radios

If you find yourself in the path of a tornado or severe weather, what you don’t do can be just as important as what you do. Tornado safety, along with severe weather safety, requires taking quick action to get to a safe location. Time can be of the essence and shouldn’t be wasted doing things that will not protect you and your family in the event of a tornado or severe weather.

Here are examples of what not to do if you’re in the path of a tornado or severe weather:

Don’t wait until after you see a tornado to take cover. By the time you visually confirm a tornado, it may be too late to get to safety since tornadoes can move swiftly and level structures within seconds. Plus, you might not always be able to see the tornado. Tornadoes can be difficult to spot if they’re accompanied by heavy rain or if they occur after sunset.

Don’t waste time opening the windows before seeking shelter. Although it’s a myth, some people are still under the impression that opening windows can prevent their houses from exploding. Because low pressure is associated with tornadoes, it was believed that opening windows would relieve any pressure that builds up inside the home. But that’s just not true. The only thing accomplished by opening your windows is having less time to get to your safe spot.

Don’t assume your tornado safety spot is in a southwest corner. Many, but not all, tornadoes travel west to east or southwest to northeast, leading people to think that a basement’s southwest corner is the safest place to be. Tornado winds rotate and can hurl large objects in every direction, making southwest corners not nearly as safe as once thought. Tornado safety calls for taking shelter in an interior room on your home’s lowest level with as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Cover heads with blankets, mattresses or helmets as extra protection against falling and flying debris.

Don’t take the elevator during a tornado or severe weather. Always take the stairs. Power outages can stop an elevator in its tracks leaving you literally hanging during a storm.

Don’t seek shelter from a tornado under an overpass. Being in a car during a tornado is frightening enough, but under an overpass is even more dangerous. As wind is forced through a narrow structure such as a tunnel or overpass, its speed increases.  During a tornado, an overpass offers little to no protection from these increasingly strong winds or flying debris.   If you’re in the car when a tornado warning is issued, pull over and take shelter in the first sturdy building you find. When a tornado is unavoidable, pull over and exit the car. Lie flat in a low ditch away from other cars and trees. Check the weather forecast before traveling, listen to the local weather station and carry a portable weather alert radio with you.

Don’t assume tornado or severe weather threats have passed if it’s quiet. Stay in your shelter until the warning is cancelled or expires.

Don’t scramble for supplies when you should be taking shelter immediately. Prepare a severe weather safety emergency kit in advance and keep it in your shelter area.

Don’t rely only on traditional news and media outlets for tornado and severe weather safety warnings. There are just too many things that can go wrong. Power is knocked out. People are sleeping. Cell phone batteries die. Always have multiple ways to receive warnings, such as a weather alert radio with battery backup.