The key to tornado survival is a safety plan. Your plan at home should be known by everyone in the home and practiced at least twice each year. Children who may be at home alone should know what to do and where to go.
Your goals in selecting a shelter should be:
It is not the wind inside and around a tornado that kills and injures — it's the flying debris.
Storm cellars and basements
If the entrance to a storm cellar is outside, you should allow time to get there before the storm arrives.
A basement is also a good shelter in most cases. If your basement is not totally underground, or has outside doors or windows, stay as far away from them as possible. Items from above could fall into the basement, so it's a good idea to get under a stairwell or a piece of sturdy furniture.
If possible, avoid seeking shelter underneath heavy objects on the floor above. Use coverings (pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, coats, etc.) and helmets to shield your head and body and to protect yourself from flying debris.
A reinforced safe room (or aboveground tornado shelter) is as good as an underground shelter in most situations. Safe rooms are specially designed reinforced tornado shelters built into homes, schools and other buildings.
No underground room
If you're like most people, you don't have an underground shelter. In this case, you need to find a location that is:
Other shelter ideas
• Bathrooms: These may be good shelters, provided they are not along an outside wall and have no windows. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing magically safe about getting into a bathtub with a mattress. In some cases, this might be a great shelter. Bathrooms have proved to be adequate tornado shelters in many cases for a couple of reasons. First, bathrooms are typically small rooms with no windows in the middle of a building. Secondly, it is thought that the plumbing within the walls of a bathroom helps to add some structural strength to the room.
• Closets: A small interior closet might be a shelter. Again, the closet should be as deep inside the building as possible, with no outside walls, doors or windows. Be sure to close the door and cover up.
• Hallways: Be sure to shut all doors to create as many barriers as possible between you and the flying debris in and near a tornado. To be an effective shelter, a hallway should as be far inside the building as possible.
• Under stairs: The space underneath a stairwell could be used.
Even an EF-1 tornado, typically considered a “weak tornado,” most likely will severely damage a mobile home, possiby rolling it over. This is why safety plans are so crucial for residents of mobile homes. Mobile homes are especially susceptible to high winds. Due to potentially short notice, consider executing the safety plan when a watch is issued instead of waiting for the warning.