Your Severe Weather Shelter Plan


Meteorological spring has blown into town with a fury and much erratic weather!

Snow storms, wind storms, thunderstorms, and tornados – you never know what you are going to get.

Are you prepared for the dangers associated with these weather patterns?

Watch vs. Warning

First thing we need to review is the levels of weather severity – Watch vs. Warning. Do you know which one has the greatest sense of urgency?

A WATCH means that severe weather may develop. Conditions are favorable for such an event. It is recommended that the public be aware of these conditions and have a plan of reaction in case of the weather occurring. A watch is usually issued 12 hours before the threat of severe weather.
A WARNING means that severe weather is imminent. It will occur within the next hours, or even minutes. It warns people to prepare for this severe weather and execute their plans of preparation.



Shelter Plans for Severe Weather



Step 1: Have a home safety plan.

Where will your family go in case of a severe weather situation such as a tornado? Where will your supplies and important documents be stored? In the situation of a tornado, NOAA has the following recommendations:

In a house with a basement: 

Avoid windows.

Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection like a heavy table or work bench. Cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag for extra protection. 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. Use a helmet to further protect your head.

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 like a mattress or blanket to protect against falling debris.  A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.

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.

2. Have an emergency plan in case you are not home.

Review with your family how to navigate various bad weather scenarios when you are not home.  For a tornado, NOAA suggests the following:

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 car or truck:

Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. 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 and underpasses. This can create deadly traffic hazards and offer 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.

3.  Have a predetermined meeting place in case the family is separated during a weather disaster.

This can be a landmark in your neighborhood, or another family member’s home. The most important point is that all family members know of this place as a landmark for reestablishing contact with the family.

The majority of weather related victims state that they “never thought something like this was actually going to happen to them”.

Protect yourself and your family. Follow these simple preparations and give yourself a peace of mind.

The above article is meant to give a general overview of tornado preparation. Please refer to your individual state government’s guidelines for severe weather preparations. 


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