How to find shelter from a tornado now to keep you and your family safe later

Since we were kids, we’ve been taught to find a safe place at home or in school. But what about when you’re some place unfamiliar? The key is to start thinking now even if there isn’t a severe weather threat yet.

Maybe you’re enjoying a weekend camping. The best thing you can do to keep you and your family safe is to look around when you arrive at your location or campground. Look for safety early on so you’re prepared if a Tornado Warning is issued. 

Shower houses and restrooms could be a good place if they’re made of cinder block or brick. The main office could also be a place to seek shelter -again, it’s all about making sure these are sturdy. You’ll want to stay away from using trailers as shelter. 

It’s always good to ask the camp ground if  they have a storm shelter. They may have already prepared for your safety. This shelter in Harmon lake is FEMA rated and is opened whenever a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued.

It’s important to remember that many places you go to seek refuge aren’t always 100% safe… many can be considered a better option than others. 

Another popular summer destination – stadiums. Whether you’re playing a game of softball or part of the crowd, give yourself a piece of mind by seeking out that shelter when you get there.

Concession booths and restrooms are often made of brick and cinder block. 

While they aren’t necessarily the best idea, dugouts can provide some protection in a pinch, If you choose this location you’re still not completely clear from flying objects. 

If there is no shelter – head to a ditch or low-lying area. Lie flat and face-down protecting the back of your head with your hands. Also beware that these areas can be prone to flash flooding.

No matter where we go, retraining our brains to automatically find those safe places before severe weather strikes isn’t paranoia, it’s putting you and your family’s safety first.

Here is a list of locations you could be this summer and some of the best options for safety: 

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under
some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself
with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the
floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them.
They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head
protection, such as a helmet, can boost survivability also.

In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. 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. Then, 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 one of those
shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation
plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is
best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home
safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your

 At school: 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.

In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as
quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small
enclosed area, away from windows.

 In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to
an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and
protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the
seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

(tornado safety list is courtesy of the National Weather Service)

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