Ultimate Tornado Safety Checklist: How to Stay Safe Before, During, and After

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated June 21, 2022
Family discussing emergency plan
Photo: David Pereiras / Adobe Stock

You can keep the whole family safe before, during, and after a dangerous tornado with tips from our tornado safety checklist

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Tornadoes can be dangerous, but there are steps you can take to prepare your family and home in case of a natural disaster. From creating an escape plan to stocking batteries, an emergency kit will help you feel prepared for anything. This tornado safety checklist will help you keep everyone safe and sound.

Before: How to Prepare for a Tornado

The first step on your tornado safety checklist is to talk to your family. Sit down with everyone and talk about tornadoes and the plan you’ve created—not only will this be valuable information, but it will make the actual event less scary.

Create a Family Plan

Make sure your kids know their address and phone number in case they get separated. Go over our checklist with them and encourage them to ask questions. 

Get the entire family involved so everyone is on the same page—the worst-case scenario is having a horde of panicked folks bumping into each other during a serious emergency. Identify a space to shelter (basements and lower levels without windows are safe places to be in a tornado). 

Once everyone feels comfortable with the emergency escape plan, continue prepping by doing the following:

Consider Building a Safe Room

A safe room is a fortified room designed to stand up to strong winds and other natural disasters.

  • Work with a general contractor in your area to build a safe room well before an actual tornado or severe weather event occurs

Pack an Emergency Kit

Pack an emergency kit with:

  • Bottled water

  • Non-perishable food

  • Medicine

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Space blankets

  • First aid kit

  • Flashlight

  • Other essentials you feel will come in handy

Remove Debris From Your Yard

It’s easy to overlook debris, but removing it before a tornado or severe storm can help minimize damage.

  • Pick up sticks and fallen tree limbs

  • Bring container plants and patio furniture inside

  • Secure bulky items, like your kids’ swingset, to the ground with rope, chains, and bungee cords

Refill Batteries

Keep in mind that cell phones may not work if towers blow over when a tornado hits. If that happens, you can still communicate with battery-powered devices. Make sure batteries are fully charged and refill them if needed.

  • Refill batteries in flashlights, portable radios, and any battery-powered devices that can connect to the internet

  • Keep tablets and smartphones fully charged before a severe weather event

Write Down Emergency Contact Information

  • Jot down contact information in a list

  • Include phone numbers for everyone in your family as well as close friends who can lend a hand if you need help

Pay Attention to Weather Conditions

This is especially important if stormy weather is in the forecast. While you’re sipping your coffee in the morning, turn on the news to check on any warnings. A tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service means you should be on the lookout for a tornado, while a tornado warning means you should spring into action and seek shelter. 

Look outside and check for these signs of a possible impending tornado:

  • Dark skies

  • Low-lying storm clouds

  • Hail

  • Intense thunder

Checklist to prepare your plan and items to have on hand when sheltering from a tornado
PHoto: doble-d/iStock/Getty Images

Download Tornado Preparedness Checklist Here

During: What to Do If a Tornado Strikes

Try to stay calm if a tornado touches down near you. Use this tornado safety checklist to stay safe and ride out the storm.

Head Downstairs

If you have a basement, gather the family and pets and head down there. If you don’t have a basement, head downstairs to your lowest floor and shelter in a room without windows (flying debris could break them). In a pinch, hide in a closet or interior hallway. Just make sure everyone can fit, and don’t forget the dog!

  • Hide in the basement or lower level

  • Shelter in a room without windows

  • Use an interior closet or hallway if needed

Check for Updates

Use your internet-enabled device to hear the latest emergency news. If it sounds like it will be a long wait until it's safe again, break out that emergency kit to keep everyone comfortable.

  • Listen to an NOAA weather radio station

  • Check the National Weather Service website

After: What to Do When the Storm Is Over

Looking at an electrical panel with flashlight
Photo: Victoria / Adobe Stock

The last step on your checklist is to know what to do after the tornado or storm has passed. Once the storm has cleared, stay vigilant. It may still be dangerous to head outside, so protect yourself and your family by staying put and waiting for authorities to confirm that it’s safe.

  • Wait for authorities to confirm the tornado has passed. It may be tempting to assess the damage, but wait until authorities say it’s safe.

  • Listen to the news for important updates.

  • Check everyone around you for injuries.

  • Seek medical treatment (safely) if needed.

  • Keep an eye out for hazards. Watch out for downed power lines and broken gas lines, which can pose serious safety risks. Report damages to the utility company.

  • Wear protective clothes when cleaning up your home and understand how to properly handle hazardous chemicals in case you encounter any spills or leaks.

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