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Emergency Preparedness

Tornado Preparedness Guide & Safety Tips

Tornadoes are one of the most unpredictable and destructive weather events that can happen in nature as a result of thunderstorms. Most tornadoes occur in the central plains region of the country known as Tornado Alley, but even if you don’t live or work in an area that is prone to tornadoes, it is still possible for one to strike. Understanding tornado safety will help you be prepared in the event of a twister touching down in your area. Protect your business and your property with tornado safety tips and information so that you’ll know how to prepare and recover from a tornado.

Tornado fast facts

Tornadoes develop quickly during severe thunderstorms with extremely limited warning. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, on average, there are over 1,200 tornadoes in the United States every year. From 1991 to 2010, at least one tornado hit every state with the exception of Alaska. Knowing the signs of a tornado, understanding how they’re caused and being familiar with how they are rated will help you prepare and take action in the event of a tornado.

  • A tornado watch occurs when weather conditions are prime for a tornado to develop. Be prepared to take shelter and continue to monitor weather alerts.
  • A tornado warning is when a tornado has been spotted either by sight or by weather radar. Move indoors and take shelter immediately.
  • The warning signs for a tornado often vary, but can include hail, a dark colored or green sky and a loud noise similar to an oncoming train.
  • Tornadoes are rated on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Scale, or EF scale, and are given ratings from 1-5 based on wind speeds during a 3-second gust. The higher the EF rating, the faster the wind speed and the more damage it will cause.
EF Rating Sustained Winds
1 86-110 mph
2 111-135 mph
3 136-165 mph
4 166-200 mph
5 200+ mph

Prepare for a tornado

Because tornadoes strike with little to no warning, the best way to prepare for a tornado is to know where you’ll go if one develops. Ready.gov suggests to come up with a tornado safety plan and discuss it with your coworkers on a regular basis. Because people typically spend more time on the job than at home, the odds are greater that a tornado will strike while you’re at work. Designate a tornado safe room in your place of business and your home in advance. Here are tips to help you know where to go in the event of a tornado:

  • Designate a safe room. Opt for a room on the lowest level of a building and the farthest away from exterior walls. A basement or a cellar is an ideal tornado safe room.
  • Move to the interior. If you’re in a structure without a basement, the next best option is to find a small interior closet or hallway that is as far away from corners and windows as possible.
  • Find a permanent structure. Manufactured buildings, like jobsite trailers, are unsafe to be in during a tornado because they are easily blown away by strong winds. Seek shelter in the closest permanent structure immediately if you’re in a trailer.
  • Avoid bridges and overpasses. If a tornado strikes while you’re in your work van or truck, find the nearest structure to take shelter in. Never hide beneath a highway overpass or a bridge as this offers no protection from wind or flying debris.
  • Keep a flashlight handy. Store a flashlight and a supply of batteries in your designated safe room and your work truck. Because you never know when there will be a tornado, it’s better to have them ready instead of searching for them at the last minute.
  • Invest in a portable radio. Tornados can rip out power lines, so be sure to have a battery-operated radio with you in your safe room to monitor weather alerts.

Another tip to help you prepare for a tornado is to build your emergency prep kit. Find all of the supplies you need in the event of a tornado.

Recover from a tornado


Once you have confirmation that the tornado has passed, the first thing you should do is check to make sure the people around you are safe. Use a first aid kit to help you address minor injuries, and call your local emergency response team for help with urgent medical situations.

If everybody around you is safe, the next step is to begin assessing property damage. Here are some tips to help you with assessing damage:

  • Take pictures and document the impact of the tornado.
  • Contact your insurance company to being the process of filing a property damage claim, if necessary.
  • Be mindful that recovering from a tornado is a process that could take some time to complete.

Clean up

Once you’ve documented the impact of the tornado, the next step is to start cleaning up debris. Follow these tips to ensure safety during the cleanup process:

  • Prevent injury by using the proper tools to clean and move debris.
  • Equip your crew with the appropriate protective apparel such as sturdy shoes, hats, visors, safety glasses and work gloves.
  • Be aware that some rubble, especially from older buildings, could contain toxic chemicals like asbestos. Wear a respirator to prevent chemical exposure by inhalation.
  • Do not over-exert yourself during the cleaning process. Take breaks at regular intervals, eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Stock up

Stock up on supplies to help you and your crew stay safe and clean up while you recover from a tornado.