Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. Tornadoes strike with little or no warning.
Understand these terms:
Tornado Watch: Tornados are possible.
Tornado Warning: Take shelter; tornado sighted.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center provides these tornado safety tips:
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment:
Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows.
Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection.
Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper:
Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible.
Crouch down and cover your head.
Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly.
Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
In a mobile home:
Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building.
Go to a shelter, or nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes.
Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or windowless room in an orderly way as you are told.
Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms.
Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones.
If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado.
Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible.
If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes.
Stay in the car with the seat belt on.
Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
In the open outdoors:
If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building.
If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms.
Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.