Mobile phone displaying emergency alert for tornado warning.

What to do during a tornado

If your area is under a tornado watch or tornado warning, it's time to be prepared and take action. Keep these tornado safety tips in mind.

Tornado watches and warnings can happen quickly, so understanding the differences between them now, and knowing what to do during each, can help you and your family ride out the storms safely.

Tornado watch vs. warning

What is a tornado watch?

A tornado watch means a tornado is possible and the weather conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. It doesn't mean a tornado has been sighted. If you have children, it's important to talk to them before a watch or warning so they can also be prepared, and understand what is considered a safe shelter.

What to do in a tornado watch

  • Be ready to take cover in your tornado safe space.
  • Make sure your safe space has the necessary supplies like:
    • An emergency kit,
    • A first aid kit,
    • An NOAA emergency weather alert radio, and
    • Consider a bike helmet to help with head protection.
  • Gather anything additional you might need such as:
    • Your purse or wallet including your keys, identification and credit cards;
    • Your phone, with a weather-alert app to keep you up-to-date on current conditions;
    • Any medications you take; and
    • Your shoes.
  • Consider moving small, caged pets to your safe area. For uncaged animals, put their collars and leashes on and be ready to move them to your safe area, too.
  • If you're in a car or outdoors, consider finding a permanent structure where you can take shelter.

What is a tornado warning?

A tornado warning is more dangerous than a watch and means a tornado rotation has either been sighted or identified by weather radar. Tornadoes can occur at any time of year, day or night, and not just in the midwestern states known as "Tornado Alley."Tornadoes have occurred in every state, so it's important to know what to do should one occur in your area.

What to do in a tornado warning

  • Seek shelter right away.
    • Indoors:
      • In a home with a basement that isn't prone to flooding, stay away from windows and under sturdy protection.
      • Remember to bring your pets.
      • Take additional cover by shielding your head and neck and wrapping yourself in a blanket. A mattress could provide extra protection, too.
      • In an office or apartment building, go to the lowest level possible and in an inner hallway, stairwell or room that's away from windows.
      • If you're in a large open building like a gymnasium or church and can't leave, take cover under a sturdy structure in case the roof collapses.
      • In a mobile home, go to an underground shelter or a sturdy, permanent structure you can reach quickly.
    • In a car or outdoors:
      • Don't try to outrun a tornado. Find the nearest solid shelter immediately.
      • If there is no shelter nearby, get out of the car and take cover in a low-lying area, like a ditch. Get as close to the ground as possible, cover your head and watch for flying debris.

Anytime you're under a tornado watch or warning, be sure to listen to NOAA Weather Radio or a local alert system for current information and instructions.

After a tornado has passed, there can still be dangers to contend with. Learn recovery steps you can take in the aftermath.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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