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Safeguarding Your Family: A Comprehensive Tornado Disaster Plan

As instances of deadly tornadoes tearing apart communities increase drastically across the USA, families everywhere are doing what they can to be adequately prepared. 2023 appears to have broken a number of records, with the highest count of tornadoes between January and March seen in history, 410 to be exact, with 2022 following not far behind.

According to an article by the Washington Post, tornadoes are now traveling much longer than they used to, covering more ground and creating wider swaths of destruction than ever before. According to the National Weather Services, the frequency and severity of tornadoes in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest are predicted to continue their upward trajectory.

Even more concerning is that an increasing number of these tornadoes qualify as what are known as super-cells, tornadoes with unimaginable power for devastation compared to an average cyclone.

Hearing all of these predictions may seem intimidating, but preparing for a tornado is much easier than you might think. How you can be prepared for a tornado is exactly what we’re about to teach you, so you can keep yourself and your family safe from harm.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the difference between tornado alerts and warnings.
  • Learning how to identify the signs of an imminent tornado.
  • Determine the best way to create an emergency plan.
  • Learn what to include in a tornado emergency survival kit.
  • Determine the best ways to secure your home to protect it from damage.

Understanding Tornado Alerts

A tornado watch and tornado alert are both terms used by various weather forecasting agencies to indicate a specific level of threat from a tornado in an area, designed to help people prepare adequately. However, the words tornado watch and tornado warning cannot be used interchangeably.

Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warnings

A tornado watch is an alert issued by weather services when weather conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in a given area. It doesn’t mean that a tornado is going to happen without question, but there is a distinct possibility, and people should be prepared. In a tornado watch situation, people should stay alert and be prepared to move to safety immediately.

A tornado warning on the other hand is an alert issued by weather services when a tornado has already been sighted or spotted using a weather radar. If this is the case, you need to take immediate action to protect yourself and your family, which means getting to a safe location, something we’ll discuss further below.

Stay Informed of Alerts

If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, then one of the best things you can do is stay alert using a variety of weather services.

The best course of action is to procure a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA radio, which is specially designed to inform citizens of emergency weather situations and will also provide information on the best course of action to stay safe.

If you notice that tornado conditions may be developing, always check your local and state weather channels and news stations for any signs of activity.

Recognizing Tornado Signs

Half the battle of staying in one piece when a tornado is heading your way is recognizing the signs of an imminent tornado. There are a few telltale signs to look out for that indicate that a tornado is nearby or in the process of developing.

A Dark-Green Sky

A strong indication that a tornado is forming is if the sky, or rather the clouds are extremely dark, often having a dark green hue. Light is refracted in a special way through these storm clouds, resulting in the green color. This is thought to be when there is a large amount of hail or water present in the storm clouds.

Cloud Formations

A telltale sign that a tornado is in the process of forming is if you see a wall cloud developing. This is a very large cloud that sits close to the ground, and it’s often the first part of the tornado.

These clouds may then begin to rotate or move in a circular motion, particularly at the base of a thunderstorm, with a thunderstorm being another strong indication that the tornado is forming.

Furthermore, if you see a funnel cloud extending down from the rotating mass, potentially down to the ground, then the tornado is forming. Technically speaking, only those funnel clouds that touch the ground are classified as tornadoes.

A Loud Roar

Another sign that a tornado is developing, or has already touched down, is if you hear a large roar, not unlike a fleet of jumbo airliners all taking off at the same time. Many people associate the sound of a tornado with the sound of one or several freight trains all moving at full speed simultaneously.

Quickly Changing Weather Conditions

Interestingly enough, there is often a calm before the storm. If you notice that the wind all of a sudden dies down and there is complete calm, this may be an indication that a storm or tornado is developing. Any rapidly changing weather conditions may indicate that a tornado is forming, particularly if you notice large quantities of hail and rain.

If any of these signs are observed, it is crucial to take immediate shelter to protect both you and your family. Keep reading to find out how to do this.

Identifying Safe Shelter Locations

Half the battle is identifying a safe location to take shelter in while the tornado passes. In general, the lowest level of any building is the safest place to be, so if you have a basement, go there immediately.

Even better than the basement is an actual storm cellar, which is like a basement, but specially designed to resist high winds, particularly tornadoes. Best is if you can also shelter under something sturdy within your basement or storm shelter, to protect your head from falling debris.

If you don’t have a basement or storm cellar, the next best option is to go to the smallest and most interior room in your house, on the lowest floor, one that does not have any windows.

Windows pose a great danger during tornadoes, as they can shatter and send debris flying into the house. Get in the smallest room, get away from windows, and keep your head down. If this also isn’t an option, your next best choice is to get under a staircase.

If you live in a high-rise building, as opposed to a house, going to hallways, stairwells, or interior rooms is best. High-rise buildings are generally quite safe during tornadoes, but windows still pose a threat.

What If You Live in a Trailer or Mobile Home?

Tornadoes pose the biggest threat if you live in a mobile home because they are particularly susceptible to tornadoes. Mobile homes don’t have basements, and they often don’t have the best of foundations.

Unfortunately, being in a trailer or mobile home during a tornado is incredibly unsafe, and the best course of action in this case is to evacuate and seek a nearby storm shelter. If this is not possible in a timely manner, seeking a low-lying location where you can shelter from flying debris is the next best course of action.

Creating a Tornado Emergency Plan

Emergency kit backpack sitting on the ground with a boot in frame

To increase your chances of surviving a deadly tornado, having a tornado emergency plan in place is essential. Let’s take a quick look at what a step-by-step emergency tornado plan might look like. When it comes to how to survive a tornado, a good plan is your best bet.

  1. Check local historical weather data to determine if your location is susceptible to tornadoes, and if so, at what times of the year.
  2. Gather essentials, particularly a first aid kit and other emergency items, including food, water, and more.
  3. The next step is to identify the safest place in your home to shelter while a tornado is occurring. This could be a storm cellar, basement, or even an interior room on the lowest floor that does not have any windows. If you live in a mobile home, you want to search for the nearest storm shelter available.
  4. Once you know where you’ll shelter during a tornado, create a floor plan of the home so you can easily identify and find all of the best spots to shelter in. If you have a multi-story home, identifying the fastest way to get to the ground level is important as well.
  5. If at all possible, identify all of the ways out of a room, in case the primary path is blocked with debris.
  6. As you’ll see further below, creating an emergency kit with all of the essentials for survival is also important, something we teach you how to do in the next section.
  7. You’ll also need to develop a communication plan, so family members and friends know how to get in touch with each other in the event that they are separated. An out-of-town contact that everyone can check in with may be a good idea to establish.

Important to note is that while having a tornado emergency plan in place is essential, it won’t do you much good if you don’t practice it on a regular basis. It’s always a good idea to practice your term tornado emergency plan on a monthly basis to ensure that the whole family knows exactly what to do if the worst were to occur.

Preparing an Emergency Kit

An important component of how to get prepared for a tornado is preparing an emergency kit that includes a variety of essentials to keep you alive. The following is an example of what a tornado emergency kit might include.

  • Non perishable food
  •  Water
  • Water purification tablets
  • A hand crank or battery powered radio
  • A first aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • A flashlight
  • A whistle
  • An emergency blanket
  • Firestarter and kindling
  • Matches and a waterproof container
  • Medications
  • A mirror to signal for help
  • Additional essential clothing
  • Sleeping bags and blankets
  • Sturdy boots and shoes
  • Cash, as credit card machines and ATMs may not work
  • Important documents such as drivers’ licenses, passports, insurance policies, deeds, and more.

Full bug-out kits like these come loaded with food and other survival essentials, as do these Grab & Go Emergency Kits.

It may also be the case that you have members of your family who have special needs, such as those who are disabled. These family members may require you to add additional items into an emergency kit specially designed to assist such disabled people in the event of an emergency.

Special items may also be required for toddlers, infants, and babies, such as pacifiers, bottles, diapers, powdered milk, and baby formula. This is also the case if you have pets, such as dogs or cats, that may require a cage, carrier, leash, additional water, and food. Here are some of the best products and plans to help you survive an emergency.

Securing Your Home

You can greatly increase your chances of your home suffering minimal damage during a tornado if you take the proper steps. Securing your home’s for a tornado is a big part of preparedness. First and foremost, this means ensuring that your home has good structural integrity.

Regularly inspect your roof for loose shingles and other types of damage, and repair if needed. Furthermore, garage doors are generally vulnerable to strong winds, with a garage door bracing kit being ideal for tornado-prone areas. If you have an older home where the walls may not be securely bolted to the foundation, looking into doing so is a good option.

You’ll also want to secure any heavy appliances and furniture. Anything like shelving units, dressers, bookcases, refrigerators and more should all be securely anchored to the walls and floors. Appliances can fall down and cause serious damage or injury during a tornado, so securing them is essential.

Another part of securing your home for a tornado is making sure that any kind of dangerous or hazardous materials are stored safely. Anything that is poisonous or flammable should be kept away from a living space, preferably in a locked shed or cabinet. This is especially the case for anything flammable, such as gas or propane cylinders, which have to be kept away from sources of ignition.

What many people forget during a tornado situation is that the power may be disrupted, which means that getting fresh water can be difficult. In this case, having a water storage and filtration system on hand can make the difference between life and death. Providing power to your home and appliances can be a challenge in these situations as well, in which case a solar generator can be very useful.

Special Considerations for Vulnerable Family Members

Some of those who are at greatest risk of harm during a tornado are those that are vulnerable or have special needs. This could mean being a senior with limited mobility or having any type of disability that limits a person’s ability to effectively deal with a tornado situation.

For these people, it is essential that specific needs and medications are made clear.

These should be written down somewhere that is easily accessible by family members, neighbors, and emergency services. A vulnerable family member should also have a support network in place, such as neighbors and family members, that can check in if the worst were to occur.


For more resources and products to ensure the safety of your family during tornadoes and other natural disasters, visit Here you’ll find great emergency preparedness items and a variety of resources to keep you and your family safe during a tornado. Here you’ll learn exactly what to do in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.


Knowing how to prepare for any kind of emergency including a tornado could make the difference between life and death. Has all of the resources and products you need to keep you, your family, and your home safe during an emergency such as a tornado.

With that being said, the best thing you can do is to create a solid emergency plan, have an emergency kit ready to go, and always know exactly what you’ll do if the worst were to occur.

Family Disaster Plan for Tornadoes: Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s quickly answer some of your most frequently asked questions about family disaster plans for tornadoes.

How Can We Protect Our Family from Tornadoes?

To protect your family from tornadoes, ensure that you have a storm cellar, basement, or other safe location where you can take shelter, along with resources that you’ll need to survive in the event of power and water outages.

What Are Two Tips for Surviving a Tornado?

To survive a tornado, always take shelter under solid objects and never stay near windows.

What Are the Emergency Steps for a Tornado?

If a tornado is imminent, immediately seek shelter in the safest location.

What is the Best Charity for Tornado Victims?

The Red Cross is often regarded as being one of the best charity organizations for tornado victims.