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K-State Today

March 15, 2011

Severe weather season: Tornado safety tips

By Steven Galitzer

As severe weather season approaches, now is a good time to discuss and plan with your family what to do in case of an immediate weather threat.

Taking 15 minutes to develop and practice a plan could save the lives. Here are some tornado safety tips from the department of environmental health and safety:

 Tornado Safety Tips

 Before the storm:

  • Develop a plan of action
  • Have frequent drills
  • Have a NOAA weather radio with a warning alarm tone
  • Listen to radio and television for information
  • If planning a trip outdoors, listen to forecasts

 If a warning is issued or threatening weather approaches

  • Always remember “DUCK": Down to the lowest level; Under something sturdy; Cover your head; and Keep in the shelter until the storm has passed.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles and get into a sturdy structure or ditch.
  • Or buckle your seat belt and get below window level of your vehicle.


 In homes or small buildings: Go to the basement or to an interior room on the lowest floor like a closet or bathroom. Upper floors are unsafe. If there is no time to descend, go to a closet, a small room with strong walls or an inside hallway. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.

In schools, hospitals, factories or shopping centers: Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head. Don’t take shelter in halls that open to the south or the west. Centrally located stairwells are good shelter.

In high-rise buildings: Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or areas with glass.

If in a mobile home, abandon it immediately. Many deaths occur in mobile homes. If you are in a mobile home when severe weather approaches, leave it immediately and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter. Determine your shelter ahead of time so you don't have to think about it when weather strikes.

If no suitable atructure is nearby: Lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head. Be alert for flash floods.

Tornadoes and overpass safety: Many people mistakenly think that a highway overpass provides safety from a tornado. In reality, an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado. Seeking shelter under an overpass puts you at greater risk of being killed or seriously injured by flying debris from the powerful tornadic winds.

Tornadic winds can make the most benign item a dangerous missile. In addition to the debris that can injure you, the winds under an overpass are channeled and could easily blow you or carry you out from under the overpass and throw you hundreds of yards.

As a last resort, lie flat in a ditch, ravine or below-grade culvert to protect yourself from flying debris. If no ditch is available, you may remain in your vehicle, put on your seat belt, lower yourself below window level, and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.