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How to Take Shelter


Sheltering during severe weather conditions is the best way to stay safe. Community shelters and dedicated individual storm shelters are optimal places to be during a severe weather event. In reality, not everyone has access to a dedicated storm shelter but choosing a good location in a sound structure is a good option. In a severe weather event, a properly-chosen location in a well-built structure with a solid foundation is the next best thing to a dedicated shelter.

To learn how to take shelter in a variety of ways click FEMA's Shelter-in-Place-Pictogram

If you are:

In a sturdy structure, such as a residence or small building:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level.

  • If there is no basement, go to the center of a small, interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes and a bicycle helmet or similar helmet to protect your head, if possible.
  • Do not open windows.
  • Keep your mobile phone with you.
  • Cover yourself with heavy blankets or a mattress

Not in a sturdy structure:

There is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. You must evaluate your options and the hazard expected to narrow down your best options. Possible actions include:

In a manufactured building such as a mobile home:

  • Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You must plan for this ahead of time!

If outside:

  • Immediately get to a sturdy structure if possible. If not possible, get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt, and try to drive to the closest sturdy structure or shelter. Never try to outrun a tornado in traffic congestion. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • A vehicle is not a “safe” place to be during a tornado but may be better than nothing, only use it if there is no other option available. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
  • If no vehicle or structure is available, lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway or ground level and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other for protection if possible.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Further information can be found on FEMA’s emergency preparedness website.