Tornado Safety

Published on September 8, 2020
Last modified on September 14, 2020

“Tornadoes have been documented in every state of the United States, and on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States experiences over 1,000 tornadoes each year, far more than any other country.

“Tornado Alley,” a region that includes the area in the eastern state of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, and eastern Colorado, is often home to the most powerful and destructive of these storms. Tornadoes in the U.S. are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages, approximately 80 deaths, and more than 1,500 injuries per year.”

In June of 2018, Wilkes-Barre, PA was hit by a destructive tornado sending debris 10,000 feet and leveling area businesses. The last direct tornado seen in this area was in 1950.

What are tornadoes?

Tornadoes are intense vertical rotating funnels of warm humid air that collide with cold dry air, often accompanied by hail. They can reach up to 200-250 mph and clear an area a mile wide to 50 miles long. Tornadoes, born in thunderstorms, occur at any time of the day, but most often in the late afternoon.

September 2019 Elk Mound, WI Tornado
September 2019 Elk Mound, Wisconsin

September 2019 San Antonio, TX Tornado
February 2017 San Antonio, Texas

How can you prepare?

While tornadoes can be devastating and destructive, there are ways to safeguard your home and prepare for the storm:

  1. Create an evacuation & safety plan for your family and pets. Print a copy of your plan as access to computers are often not accessible after a storm.
  2. Have an emergency kit ready to go containing medicine, medical supplies, food, and water.
  3. Know the location of your local emergency shelter and various routes to get there.
  4. Cover windows and locate a safe place in your home without windows where you can gather, preferably in a basement or in the center of a building away from outside walls and doors.
  5. Find shelter nearby in a well-structured building. No area is safe in a mobile home.
  6. Stay away from bridges and highway overpasses.
  7. Know your workplace and school evacuation plan.
  8. Remove loose items in your yard as they can cause more damage due to high winds.
  9. Remove diseased and weak branches from trees.
  10. Find a low, flat location and cover your head, neck, and arms with a blanket. Remember to wear your seatbelt if you are in a vehicle.

After the Storm:

  • Stay tuned to the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Weather Radio, and local authorities for updated information. However, if gas or fumes are detected avoid turning on any electronic device to prevent igniting a spark.
  • Avoid breathing dust if you are trapped (cover your mouth and face).
  • If trapped, avoid yelling and try to make noise by banging on pipes or use a whistle.
  • Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
  • Avoid entering damaged buildings until properly inspected.
  • Use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends and try to keep phone lines open for emergency calls only.
  • Wear protective clothing during clean up, such as long pants, gloves, and shoes with heavy soles.

Having a solid evacuation plan is a key component to surviving a devastating tornado. To ensure the safety of your family, pets, and home be prepared and safeguard your home. For additional information, please visit or download the Red Cross mobile app to further prepare for catastrophic storms.

Disclaimer: The GUARD Wire is designed to provide general information about various topics of interest and should NOT replace the guidance, advice, or recommendations from licensed insurance or legal professionals, other industry experts, or state and federal authorities.