How to Be Prepared in Case of a Tornado

Tornado season is here, and for those of us in “Tornado Alley”, it’s a time to be prepared. The weather can go from hot, humid and unbearable to having to run for cover in a matter of minutes.

You may follow the weather/news and see things like “tornado watch” or “tornado warning”.


What does that mean? A “watch” means that the weather conditions are favorable for a tornado to form, and to prepare to take shelter, if necessary. A “WARNING” means that a tornado has been spotted in your area and that you should take shelter immediately.

Usually, once a tornado or funnel cloud has been sighted, the tornado siren will start blaring.

What to Do Before a Tornado

Here are some tips for what you should do before disaster strikes.

Choose a safe space to shelter first

Plan out where you will go if you want to be able to stay safe during a tornado. This is the first step in getting prepared.

When a tornado is approaching, it is important to take shelter immediately. The best option is to find a small, interior room on the lowest level of the building.

Make sure to stay away from windows, and if possible, put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

It is also important to remember that mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes, so if you are in one, try to find a nearby building to take shelter in. If you are caught outdoors, look for a depression in the ground or a culvert pipe to take shelter in.

Remember that underground shelters are the safest option during a tornado, so if you have access to one, make sure to go there immediately. By taking these steps ahead of time, you can ensure that you will be safe if a tornado does strike.

Make a floor plan of the house

A tornado can cause severe damage to a home, making it important to have a plan in place ahead of time.

One key element of this plan is a floor plan of the house, which can help you to quickly identify the best exit strategy in case of an emergency.

The floor plan should also include the location of the first aid kit and fire extinguishers, as well as any utility switches or valves that need to be turned off.

By taking the time to prepare a comprehensive floor plan, you can help to ensure that you and your family are safe in the event of a tornado.

Make sure everyone understands the tornado warning system

It is important that everyone understands the tornado warning system so that they can prepare ahead of time for a tornado. This is especially important if you have young children.

There are three different types of warnings that can be issued: a tornado watch, a tornado warning, and a severe thunderstorm warning. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to form, and people should be prepared to take shelter.

tornado watches and warnings

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or is otherwise imminent, and people in the area should take immediate shelter.

A severe thunderstorm warning means that a thunderstorm is likely to produce damaging winds or large hail, but does not necessarily indicate the presence of a tornado.

By understanding these different warnings, everyone can be better prepared in the event of severe weather.

Teach everyone basic first aid

As anyone who has experienced a tornado can attest, they are one of the most destructive and unpredictable forces of nature.

In the aftermath of a tornado, first responders will be stretched thin, and it may be some time before help arrives. This is why it is so important for everyone to know basic first aid.

By learning how to treat common injuries and how to provide comfort to those who are traumatized, we can all play a role in helping those affected by a tornado. Furthermore, first aid training can help to ease our own fears and anxiety in the event of a tornado.

Learn the emergency dismissal policies for daycares and schools

As a responsible parent, it is important to learn the emergency dismissal policies for daycares and schools in your area. This way, you can be prepared ahead of time in the event of a tornado.

Most schools and daycares have a specific plan in place for how they will dismiss students in the event of an emergency.

Reduce hazards in the home

In the event of a tornado, it is important to be as prepared as possible in order to reduce the risk of injury or property damage.

One of the best ways to do this is to identify and address potential hazards in the home. Loose items such as bookcases or heavy appliances should be anchored to the wall, and breakable items should be stored safely out of reach.

It is also important to create an emergency plan, including an evacuation route and a safe space in the home where everyone can shelter during the storm.

Stocking Your Tornado Emergency Kit

Once the sirens go off, you have no time to think or to grab supplies. You need to be ready before the supercells form. Here’s what you need to stock in your shelter for tornado season…

Stock food and water

This usually consists of having filtered water in glass jars, about 2 gallons per person, and some granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits.

Have this in your shelter in a covered box such as a rubbermaid container, and plan on rotating it out on a regular basis.

You never really know how long you are going to have to be in your shelter, and having a snack or two can take your mind off what is going on outside.

Extra set of clothing

This is just a simple change of clothes, with a t-shirt, pants, underwear for each member of the family. You will be glad to never use these, but if a tornado does take out your house, having something else to change into is comforting.

Tornadoes occur more often later at night, when everyone is in pajamas. Having a set of clothes ready in case a tornado touchdown occurs in your area can be a lifesaver.

Make copies of important documents

As anyone who has lived through a tornado can attest, severe weather can strike without warning.

In the aftermath of a tornado, it can be difficult to access important documents like birth certificates and insurance policies.

That’s why it’s wise to make copies of these documents and store them in a safe place, such as a waterproof container or safe deposit box.

By taking this simple step, you can ensure that you will have the information you need in the event that your home is damaged by a tornado.

Important contact information and maps of the local area

In the event of a tornado, you may need to evacuate your home or take shelter in an emergency shelter. Having a list of local shelters, as well as contact information for family and friends, can help you stay safe and connected.

And having a map of the local area can help you navigate to safety. So make sure to include these items in your tornado emergency supply kit.

Radio and batteries

With social media like Facebook and Twitter updates, this often gets lost on people’s list. But you can still follow most radio stations for weather updates.

When a tornado hits, many will not be able to access the internet during the storm. Alternatively, you can listen to music to help pass time as well.

Have extra medication on hand

As anyone who lives in a tornado-prone area knows, it is important to be prepared for severe weather.

One way to do this is to make sure that you have a supply of essential medications on hand. If a tornado strikes, pharmacies and hospitals may be closed, making it difficult to get the prescriptions you need.

By keeping an extra supply of medication on hand, you can ensure that you will have access to the medication you need, even in the event of a major disaster.

In addition to stockpiling medications, it is also important to have a plan for how to get them in the event of a power outage or other emergency.

For instance, you might keep a list of emergency contact numbers for your pharmacist and doctor so that you can reach them in the event of an emergency.

First aid kit

A first aid kit can help you treat minor injuries and wounds, and it can also be used to help stabilize more serious injuries until professional medical help arrives.

In addition to bandages and antiseptic wipes, your first aid kit should also include supplies like gauze pads, scissors, and tape. And don’t forget to include a list of emergency phone numbers, just in case.

Fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is an important part of any tornado emergency supply kit. While tornadoes can cause extensive damage to property, they can also cause fires. If a fire breaks out in the aftermath of a tornado, it can quickly spread and put lives at risk.

A fire extinguisher can help to control the fire and prevent it from spreading. In addition, a fire extinguisher can also be used to put out small fires that may start during the tornado itself.

Having a fire extinguisher in your tornado emergency supply kit can help to keep you and your family safe in the event of a fire.

Portable camping stove

A camping stove is a small, lightweight stove that can be used to cook food and boil water. It runs on liquid fuel, such as propane or kerosene, which means that it can be used even if power is out.

A camping stove can be a lifesaver in the event of a tornado. It can provide warmth, cook food, and boil water for hygiene.

Sanitation supplies

In addition to the damage caused by the high winds, tornadoes often result in power outages and flooding. This can quickly lead to unsanitary conditions, and make it difficult for people to access clean water and safe sanitation facilities.

That’s why it’s essential to have a supply of sanitation supplies in your tornado emergency kit.

This should include items like toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Having these supplies on hand will help you stay clean and healthy in the aftermath of a tornado.

Flashlights and other “camping” gear

Many people don’t realize that a flashlight is an essential item to have in their tornado emergency supply kit. Not only can it provide light if the power goes out, but it can also be used to signal for help if you become stranded.

A flashlight with a strobe setting can be especially useful for attracting attention from rescuers. In addition to a flashlight, your emergency kit should also include other items typically associated with camping, such as a lantern, matches, and a first-aid kit.

Cell phones or other methods of communication

During a tornado, power lines may be down and landlines may not be working. But a cell phone can help you stay in touch with loved ones and emergency responders. In addition, many cell phones now have built-in weather apps that can warn you of approaching storms.

LED safety signal

As anyone who has been through a tornado knows, they can strike without warning. This makes being prepared essential, and one of the most important things you can have in your emergency supply kit is a LED safety signal.

This will help you to be seen by first responders in the aftermath of the storm, when conditions are often chaotic and visibility is limited.

A LED safety signal is also useful for marking your location if you are trapped under debris. In addition, it can help you to signal for help if you are stranded in your vehicle or otherwise unable to reach safety.


A radio can be used to receive alerts and warnings about severe weather. This can help you to stay informed about the situation and make sure that you are taking appropriate steps to protect yourself and your family.

Second, a radio can be used to stay in contact with loved ones in case of an emergency. This is especially important if you are unable to evacuate the area or if power and communication lines are down.

Finally, a radio can be used to listen to instructions from emergency personnel. This can help you to safely navigate the situation and ensure that you are following their directions.

Baby food or pet food

Baby food and pet food are essential for families with young children or pets. In the event of a tornado, power lines may be downed and tap water may not be safe to drink.

Having baby food or pet food on hand will ensure that your child or pet has access to food in an emergency situation.

Shoes by the basement door

Have an extra pair of shoes for each member of the family by the basement door, ready to go. They can be cheap flip-flops or crocs, but the point is that the shoes are easy to slip on at a moment’s notice.

Some may argue that if the house is gone, having a good pair of shoes is better, but getting to our basement is the first priority.

Our basement is a “Michigan basement” which is nothing more than a slightly cemented-over hole in the ground. Most of the house isn’t even over this, and it’s more of a dungeon than anything else. Shoes are a MUST down there!

Extra dog leash by the basement door

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Our dog is terrified of the storms, and when the sirens are going off, she gets so nervous that she refuses to go down the stairs without being led.

When the first siren goes off, we put on shoes, leash her, and get her down as quickly as possible. Some dogs get nervous with the loud tornado sirens, but this thundershirt may help some. 

Extra litter box in the basement

Our cats refuse to follow us down to the basement, but if we can, we also grab them. Having an extra litter box, along with pet food and water dishes, can make it more comforting for the pets during the storm.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few things we stock for a quick stay in the basement. When the tornado sirens go off, will you be ready?

What if a tornado hit, and took out your entire house? The few gallons of water and some dried fruit wouldn’t be enough to sustain you for long, and the rest of your “preps” are gone. Read here to find out what to do if that happens.

17 thoughts on “How to Be Prepared in Case of a Tornado”

  1. Valerie - Motherhood in Progress

    You have a couple of extra items on this list that are really well thought out. (e.g. shoes by the door and the dog leash)
    Hope this helps many!

  2. Jacqueline Delacruz

    I live in Florida where hurricanes are more common than tornadoes, yet it never beats to be prepare for anything.. Thanks for sharing.. Bookmarking!

  3. This is such a great list. I never would have thought of things like a change of clothes or shoes. Everyone thinks of water and food, but none of the other little things I think. Here’s to hoping you don’t have to spend much time in the basement this tornado season!

  4. Gosh, I would have never thought about the dog leash. How scary to think about tornadoes, but so true!

  5. Being prepared is a great way to help yourself be more calm. Practice drills for the kids helps too. These are great tips.

  6. Awesome, tips although we don’t have a dog we do have a bird, gecko and fish! But these are great tips because you never know when Mother Nature is going to strike.

  7. Luckily the only type of tornado we have where I live is a dust devil but these are great tips for those who live in tornado areas!

  8. These are great tips for any kind of emergency. Our family has been working on putting together 72 hour kits. We have ten kids, so that’s a lot of water!

  9. I live in boring Ontario, Canada, and this isn’t something we always have to think about. This post, however, comes at a great time and has some really excellent points!

  10. Awesome tips and honestly no matter where you are located, you should be prepared in case of a natural disaster. I know that Iowa has seen a fair share or tornadoes in the last year and it is always a thought in the back of my mind when the weather announcements come via text.

  11. Maria @The Good Life

    I am definitely sharing this! I just moved from NC to Kansas and tornadoes scare me to death especially after a freak one came through our town in NC a few years ago and missed my parents house by 2 streets. Yeap…close call. Now here in Kansas I have a basement (thank God) but have an emergency “kit” that includes some of these items. Thanks for the list.

  12. Serena like leaving important papers or a flash drive with important pictures a nd medical records would be a good idea. Also, pictures of your family and pets. Also phone numbers for ins u

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