Tornadoes are devastating natural disasters that strike quickly, and are violently unpredictable. When a tornado is headed your way, there is very little time, which is why it is crucial to be well prepared beforehand. This guide will help give you the steps and procedures you need to take, to keep you and your family ready for severe storms.

Make an Emergency Plan

Creating a plan of attack is the most critical step of tornado safety, and should be done by every family. If your home does not have a storm shelter, decide which interior room in your home will be your safe place. If you have a friend or family member who would allow you to use their shelter, speak with them and make a plan for severe weather days. Understanding the steps, you should take, and being mentally prepared, are the most important steps to survival.

Consider a Storm Shelter

Storm shelters are the best way to ensure protection against tornadoes. The most protection can be provided by underground shelters, which can remain unharmed even in EF4 or EF5 class tornadoes, which are strong enough to completely tear homes off their foundations. If certain engineering requirements are met, above ground shelters can withstand high rated tornadoes as well. Shelters that are above ground are better options for elderly, those with disabilities, or people who might have a fear of taking shelter underground.

If you already have a storm shelter installed, it’s smart to inspect it at least twice a year to make sure it is still in optimal condition. Ensure there are no cracks and check that the hinges and latch are in good order. It is also a good idea to keep your storm shelter clean and ready to use by clearing out bugs and cleaning out dust and debris build-up.

Prepare an Emergency Kit

Pre-prepared emergency kits are vital in cases of severe weather or other natural disasters. Always keep your disaster kits well stocked and somewhere you can access it easily and quickly. Kits can be put together inexpensively, and you can add as much to it as you would like. It’s better to be on the safe side and be as prepared as possible for any severe weather ‘worst case scenario’.

When assembling your kit, keep specific needs for your family in mind. Children, seniors and pets might need additional items. Medications taken by members of your family need to be prepared as well. It’s also recommended to include helmets, as recent history shows, flying debris has been the cause of death for many people caught in severe storms.

The aftermath of a tornado is incredibly hectic, and it could take hours or days for help to reach you, which is why you should ensure you have plenty of supplies. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that your kit has food, water and supplies for everyone for at least 72 hours. They have compiled a list of items to keep in your emergency kit, which can be found at

Keep Your Pets Safe 

Pets are important members of the family, and in the event of a disaster, they need to be protected and planned for as well. The ASPCA (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has put together essential information on how to keep pets and other animals safe during an emergency or evacuation, as well as items that should be put together in an emergency kit for your pet. Learn more at:

Home and Property Maintenance and Prevention 

For smaller tornadoes, damage to your home and property can be minimalized ahead of time with proper preparation. A considerable amount of damage to your home can come from flying debris, therefore, it’s important to inspect your fence to guarantee it is in good shape. Any damaged or rotted planks should be replaced, and if you have wooden fence posts, you might consider switching to metal. Metal fence posts hold up much better during high winds than wooden posts, which means a higher chance of your fence remaining intact.

Broken tree limbs or dead trees are consistent causes of damage to homes, cars and other property. Make sure to keep your tree limbs trimmed and away from roofs or other structures, and check the health of all the trees on your property.

As time goes by, windows and doors can become cracked or loose from their frames. This can cause them to fly open during high winds, or break completely. Periodically check for damage and ensure all frames, latches and panes are all in working order. Tightening or replacing screws, or resealing are easy fixes for something that could be a much bigger problem if not taken care of. If your door or window cannot be easily fixed and is a liability, replacing them would be well worth it.

When a Severe Storm is Approaching

If the forecast is predicting a severe storm, there are still a few last-minute preparations that need to be completed. Do a final check on your emergency kit, ensuring that it is fully stocked and easily accessible. Charge all devices and backup chargers and make sure they are ready, as well. Wear protective clothing, long sleeves, long pants and sturdy, close-toed shoes.

Finalize your home safety measures by creating less potential for flying debris. Patio furniture, garden tools, potted plants and other loose outdoor items can easily fly into windows during high winds, and moving them to your garage or inside your home could help prevent serious damage.

Stick to Your Plan

Keeping yourself up to date on bad weather and following the steps you have created for severe storms is the most crucial part of your safety plan. Stay close to a television or storm radio and keep track of where the storm is and where they predict it might be. Familiarize yourself with meteorological terms, such as the difference between a “tornado warning” and “tornado watch”. If you are going to a safe place or shelter other than your home, do not wait until too late to leave. Give yourself plenty of time to get there safely, well before a tornado warning is in effect.

With the precautions you have taken, you can feel better about the safety of you and your family, even if disaster strikes.

by Sierra Waldrop