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Ohio Emergency Management Agency

Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness Tornado Facts & Safety Tips

Tornado Safety Tips

Whether practicing in a tornado drill or sheltering during a warning, the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness encourages Ohioans to DUCK!

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    D - Go DOWN to the lowest level
    U - Get UNDER something
    C - COVER your head
    K - KEEP in shelter until the storm has passed


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Tornado Safety during the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)

Identify where you would go in the event of a tornado. Practice taking shelter while following social and physical distancing, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and your local health authorities.

Ideal storm shelters in the event of high winds include a safe room built using FEMA criteria, or a storm shelter built to ICC-500 standards. The next best protection would be a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.


Before a Tornado

  • Know the signs of a tornado. Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly, if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately
  • Know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.
    • Tornado Watch means a tornado is possible. Stay tuned to your local radio station or television for weather updates. Know where you’ll shelter, if necessary.
    • Tornado Warning means a tornado is happening or imminent. Take shelter immediately.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to your local radio or television stations for the latest weather and safety information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • If you are a person with special needs, register your name and address with your local emergency management agency, police and fire departments before any natural or man-made disaster.
  • NOAA Weather Radio has available an alerting tool for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments. Some weather radio receivers can be connected to an existing home security system, much the same as a doorbell, smoke detector or other sensor. NOAA Weather Radio and other alerts for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Move to an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If none is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
    • Take additional cover by shielding your head and neck with your arms and putting materials such as furniture and blankets around you.
    • Remember: No area of a mobile home is safe during a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, go there immediately, using your seatbelt if driving.
  • Be aware of emergency shelter plans in stores, offices and schools. If no specific shelter has been identified, move to the building's lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large rooms and wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.


During a Tornado

  • If you're outside or in a mobile home, find shelter immediately by going to the lowest level of a nearby sturdy building or to a pre-designated area, such as a safe room. Safe rooms and sturdy buildings are the safest structures to be in when tornadoes threaten. Mobile or manufactured homes, even if tied down, do not offer protection from tornadoes.
  • If you cannot quickly get to a shelter, get into your vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and try to drive to the nearest sturdy shelter or pre-designated safe room.
  • If you experience flying debris while driving, pull over and park. Choose to either stay in your vehicle, stay buckled up, duck down below the windows and cover your head with your hands. Or find a depression or ditch, exit your vehicle, kneel or lie face-down in the depression, and use your arms and hands to protect your head.
  • Never seek shelter under highway overpasses and bridges. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to out-drive a tornado in urban or congested areas. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for protection in a sturdy building.
  • Outdoor areas are not protection from flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.


After a Tornado

  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Keep listening to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family, friends and neighbors by texting or using social media. Save calling on the phone for emergencies. Dial 911 for life-threatening or serious emergencies.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns, rather than candles, to prevent accidental fires.


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Home Coverage and Preparedness Tips

  • Tornado losses are most often covered by the "windstorm peril" under the homeowner's insurance policy.
  • Check with your homeowner insurance agency to assure adequate coverage is provided by the policy. Notify the insurance agency of any additions or improvements to the home.
  • Consider purchasing the replacement cost coverage endorsement for the home and its contents. It would give the option to rebuild or replace damaged property at current costs rather than depreciated values.
  • If you experience a storm-related loss to your home that is covered by your insurance, notify your insurer in a timely manner, as required by your policy.
  • Ohioans should discuss different deductible levels and the amount of coverage to ensure adequate financial protection.

Home Inventories Assist in Settling Claims

Your home inventory is only useful if it’s accurate and you can access it to provide information to your insurance company in case of tornado, flood, fire, theft, or other destructive disaster. Regardless of the medium you’ve used to create your list, keep it up-to-date, backed up, and in a safe place. A home inventory can assist you in receiving accurate value from a potential loss, and to streamline your claim-filing experience.

  • Videotape, photograph or compile a written inventory of your home and belongings.
  • Use an app. There are many mobile app options that can help to create and store a room-by-room record of your belongings.
  • The Ohio Department of Insurance's Severe Weather Toolkit is available here. Ohioans with insurance questions can call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 614-644-2658.
  • Keep the inventory off premises in a bank safe deposit box, or at a friend’s or relative’s home. The inventory will provide a record for you and the insurance company, should a loss occur.
  • Make at least one backup copy of your inventory document and store it separately. An easy way to make digital backup copies of your paper list is to take pictures of it on your smartphone.
  • Update your inventory every time you move or every two to three years.
  • Add significant new purchases to your list. Make it a habit to add item information and receipts to your home inventory list while the details are fresh in your mind.

Auto Coverage and Preparedness Tips

  • If there is threatening weather, shelter vehicles to prevent damage from winds, flying debris and hail.
  • Vehicles are protected under the "other than collision" (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy, if damaged by windstorms or hail.

After the Loss - Insurance Tips

  • Photograph any damage and inventory losses. Photos will assist when settling claims.
  • Secure property from further damage or theft and save related receipts, since many insurers will reimburse for these expenses.
  • If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss such as a tornado, check your policy for "loss of use" coverage. Many policies cover such expenses up to a stated amount.

Additional Resources


Copyright © 2013 Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness