Surviving a tornado hinges upon having the right place to take shelter and being able to get there before the storm hits. As violent as tornadoes can be, every twister is survivable if you get to the proper shelter. Unfortunately, people aren’t always able to get somewhere safe in time, or they may not know the best option for their current circumstances. The following tornado survival tips will give you and your kids the best chance for survival amid any circumstance.
What is the safest place to be in a tornado?
- Underground: By far the safest place to be during a tornado is underground, whether in a basement, storm shelter or even storm sewer tunnel (just don’t stay in one because of the danger that it might flood). Burrowing underground gets you underneath the fiercest crosswinds.
- The building’s interior: If the building you’re in has no basement or storm shelter, you want to get to the strongest part of the building. This is typically a smaller room in the interior of the building. Outer walls will tend to go first, and the smaller the room, the sturdier the wall structure surrounding it will be.
- The sturdiest building: Concrete or commercial buildings are more likely to hold up to a tornado than wood-frame houses or buildings. Mobile homes or pre-fabricated steel barns or buildings are some of the worst places to be.
The absolute worst place to be during a tornado is in your car, or inside a trailer or a mobile home.
Surviving a tornado in your home
Tornado survival tip #1: If you have time, have children put on their bicycle helmet
It may sound silly, but having your child wear their bicycle helmet really can improve their chances of survival. The problem with tornadoes isn’t the wind; it’s that within that wind there are thousands of hard objects being thrust around at high speeds. Imagine it as though your child is in a batting cage with pitching machines thrusting baseballs at them from every direction. Having a helmet on can mean the difference between life and death should they take a piece of a two by four to the head. There are documented cases of helmeted children surviving a blow to the head from tornado debris who almost surely would have died had they not been wearing a helmet. If your kids are in full-contact karate, a sparring vest can also provide additional protection for their midsection.
Tornado survival tip #2: Strap infants in baby seats
Along the same lines, strapping an infant or toddler into a car seat can help protect them against flying debris while stabilizing and shielding their spine, just as it does in a car accident. It may also help you hang onto them by giving you something sturdy to grip.
Tornado survival tip #3: Crouch & Cover
If you can’t make it to a basement, get to an interior bathroom or closet. Climbing inside the bathtub and laying down may offer further protection. It doesn’t hurt to pull off couch cushions or other soft materials to shield yourselves with. Although you may not be able to hold them over you if your house takes a direct hit, even keeping a barrier in place part of the time can shield you from much of the flying glass and debris.
Tornado survival tip #4: Get somewhere safe ahead of time
If you have a home without a basement and you know that a tornado-warned storm is brewing around you, try heading to someplace safer. If you have a friend or relative with a storm shelter or basement, head over there. If you live in a mobile home, even simply heading to McDonald’s to hang out or a local concrete built church is likely to offer better protection.
Surviving a tornado in your car
Tornado survival tip #1: You can’t outrun a tornado
Tornadoes can travel at speeds up to 60 or 70 miles per hour, so it’s unlikely you can outrun a tornado in your car. However, you might be able to outmaneuver it if it’s still a good distance away and you’re sure you know which direction it’s headed. If you can stay out of a tornado’s path, that’s always the best option.
Tornado survival tip #2: Know the “right” moves
Always move by right angles to a tornado if caught in its path. This gives you the best odds of steering clear of it.
Tornado survival tip #3: Look for shelter
While driving, be on the lookout for safe havens you can get to, such as a large underground storm tunnel, a low-lying ditch, a sturdy, commercially constructed cement business building, or another safe haven that offers more protection than your car.
Tornado survival tip #4: Ditching the car
Cars are one of the worst places to be during a tornado, so if a tornado is coming at you and you’re unable to escape, pull over, get out of the car, and take shelter in a ditch or other low-lying area. If you are able to crawl inside a drain pipe or get underground to any degree, it’s even better. But simply lying flat in the type of low-lying drainage ditch that lines many roads and streets can offer protection. Lie face down, covering the back of your head and neck with your hands, elbows touching the dirt. Although some videos have depicted people surviving a tornado by climbing up underneath a highway overpass, experts say this isn’t the safest option. Although these structures are sturdy, most overpasses don’t have enough space for people to burrow in away from the strongest winds, and in general, more people are injured taking shelter in an overpass than from simply lying in the ditch.
Tornado survival tip #5: Duck & Cover
If you’re caught by surprise while in your car and are unable to escape, tuck your head down to the side (not directly in front if you’re in the front seat, since the airbag might deploy), and use your hands to cover the back of your head and neck. Stay buckled. If you’re able to use a coat or anything else to shield your face (or your children) from flying glass, do so.
Surviving a tornado in a high-rise building
A commercially constructed high-rise building is not going to lose its structural integrity or topple over during a tornado. It does, however, possess lots of glass windows that will shatter as debris smashes through them. If you’re in one of these, you need to make your way to an interior hallway, bathroom, or stairwell, which should protect you from flying glass and debris. Lay low and cover yourself with a blanket.
Surviving a tornado if you’re caught out in the open
If you’re caught out in the open with no viable shelter in site, you want to find a low lying area that is as free of trees as possible. Lay down flat, covering your head if you can. You might grab onto the roots of a small bush or strong weed.
Learn how to survive a tornado in your home, in the car, or if caught in the open. These survival tips will improve your odds of surviving a tornado.