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 an 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 well-built structure with a solid foundation is the next best thing to a dedicated shelter.
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!
- 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 it 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 cushion 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.