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Catastrophe Response

Tornado Shelters: Where to Take Cover When a Tornado Strikes

Tornado strikes

Some people have a tornado shelter buried in their yard; others have a fortified interior room designed to withstand damaging winds and flying debris in a tornado. Those who live in upper-level apartments or trailer homes need to drive to a shelter for safety during a tornado. Here’s a look at different shelter scenarios and how to know when it’s time to hunker down.

Tornado Shelter Options

If you live in a tornado-prone region – especially Tornado Valley in the Midwest – the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends you build a tornado shelter you can escape to for safety. You have several options.

Underground Shelter

This is the best option to enjoy thorough protection from extreme winds and debris. Underground shelters are prebuilt structures with walls and a ceiling made of reinforced steel or concrete. They’re installed under the garage or in the yard where you can stock them ahead of time with a tornado shelter supply kit full of everything you’ll need to weather the storm.

Fortified Interior Room

Rocky soil conditions or high water tables make building underground shelters impossible in some places. When this is the case, a ground-floor fortified room is the next best thing. This structure – made of wood and steel or reinforced concrete – can be built in a new home while it’s under construction. It’s self-contained and anchored to the home’s foundation to defend against overturning in high wind. Between storms, the room can double as a storage closet.

Prebuilt Shelter

If your existing home has no better place to hunker down during a storm than an interior bathroom or closet, consider installing a prebuilt shelter. These 8-foot by 8-foot rooms can be made of welded steel, steel panels set over a steel skeleton, or a prefab unit bolted together on site. As with built-in shelters, this fortified structure should be anchored to the home’s foundation and can double as a storage closet when not in use.

How to Find a Community Tornado Shelter

If you live in an apartment building or trailer home, or you can’t build your own on-site shelter for another reason, you always have the option to evacuate to a tornado shelter in your area. Even if you know where the nearest shelter is, don’t assume it’s open, even if a tornado warning has been issued.

To find the closest open tornado shelter in your area, visit the Red Cross website and zoom in on the map. You can also contact your local Red Cross chapter for more help.

When to Take Shelter during Severe Weather

If you receive an alert on your cell phone or hear on the news, radio or NOAA weather radio that a tornado watch has been issued, this means conditions are ripe for a tornado to form. Now is the time to act.

When a Tornado Watch Is Issued...

  • Start reviewing your emergency preparedness plan and making sure your disaster kit is ready to go.
  • If you have a shelter inside your home, be prepared to enter it at a moment’s notice.
  • If the shelter entrance is outside, take a battery-powered NOAA radio with you and hunker down there until it’s safe.
  • If you have to drive to a community shelter, visit the Red Cross website to find the closest open one and head out right away.

Don’t Wait Until a Tornado Warning Is Issued

Waiting until you hear a tornado warning –which means a tornado has touched down – could be a deadly mistake, especially if you must travel to reach the safety of a storm shelter. It’s better to anticipate the arrival of a tornado and act during a tornado watch, even if the danger subsides and a tornado warning is never issued. Your safety and that of your family could depend on your timely response.

For more tornado safety tips, or to schedule residential cleanup and reconstruction services following a natural disaster, please contact Rainbow Restoration®. We’re here to help restore your home and get your life back on track.

For Further Reading:

Why So Many Tornados in Tornado Alley?

Most Common Tornado Damage

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