23 Tips to Help You Prepare for Tornado Season

Thanks to my Facebook friends for some of these tips!

image by mccun934

1.       Buy a home with a storm cellar.  Reinforce it with steel doors.

2.       Make sure you have up-to-date homeowner’s insurance.

3.       Have a To Go Bag ready at all times.

4.       Check the FEMA website for helpful information regarding tornado preparedness.

5.       Have at least three days (72 hours) worth of food and water stored in a cellar, interior closet, or other safe place.

6.       Know where the nearest shelters are and make sure your kids know their locations, too.

7.       Stay tuned in to local news, either TV or radio.  After the storm passes, old fashioned rabbit-ears (TV antenna) might help you get local channels if your cable is down.

image by paz leonel

8.     Know all the safest or safe-ish locations to shelter, e.g. a bathtub or a closet.  You may be visiting friends, out shopping, or at the park when a tornado hits.  Know how to be as safe as possible wherever you are.

9.     Have flashlights, oil lamps, and other sources of light.  Extra batteries are a must.

10.   Have an emergency, hand-crank radio.

11.   Have a cell phone charger.  During tornado season, always have your phone charged.  An Enercell from Radio Shack would be a good idea.  Keep it fully charged in a To Go Bag.

12.   Some TV stations offer free weather warnings via text messages.  Check the websites of your local TV and news/talk radio stations to see if they are offering this service.  Police and fire departments may also offer this service.

13.   Have family drills so everyone knows what to do and where to go.  Have an occasional drill in the middle of the night.  Who says tornadoes only strike during the convenient daylight hours?

14.   Make a Grab-n-Go Binder and keep at least one copy with a trusted family member out of state.

image by GDS Infographics

15.   Put on sturdy shoes as soon as a siren goes off.  A tornado produces enormous amounts of debris, including broken glass, nails, metal, and wood.  The last thing you need is a foot injury that would keep you sidelined.

16.   Know how to safely shut off your electric service, gas line, and water.

17.   Keep a small refrigerator/freezer in the basement.

18.   Keep cash on hand.  You’ll probably have to pay for those Red Cross doughnuts!

19.   A local map will help you keep track of weather alerts.

20.   Talk with old-timers and find out how they have weathered past tornado seasons.

21.    If your kids have friends they spend a lot of time with, find out what those families have planned in case of a tornado, or any other emergency, for that matter.

22.   Keep the tank of your car filled with gas.  You may need to evacuate to a safer location.

23.   Stay calm.  A terrified parent is going to send the kids right over the edge.


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

Latest posts by The Survival Mom (see all)

I want to receive updates and
EMP survival reports!


  1. says

    I would add – Let someone NOT IN YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY know where the storm shelter is and make a plan to check on each other in the event either one of you have to use it – Shelters get buried.

    I have a crank flashlight that has a radio on it and can also charge my cell phone – Keep it with me in the car and have another one for the "go bags" – small/compact and can do tons of stuff!

    Know what the sky looks like in "tornado season" – Its a green and watch the clouds… You see a wall and then circulation.

    Know that rain/hail precede a tornado and its not regular hail – it sounds and feels like an army is beating your shelter with baseball bats…..then its calm – if you hear a "train" you had already better be in your shelter – that is the tornado – its loud – LOUD…..dont ask me how I know….twice…..

    Will end with a joke – they say you are a real Okie when you hear the sirens and instead of going to your shelter, you pull up a lawn chair on the front porch 😉

  2. Jeri says

    Great tips! We have been under the gun in SW Tennessee for the last two days and have one more to go. The sirens have been going off while the kids are in school. I always ask my daughter what they did to protect themselves while there. We are constantly going over what we are supposed to do. She also sleeps downstairs in case we have to make a run to our shelter.

    • Chris says

      Those storms were on they 4-8 day outlook and people still were not prepared. There is not enough space on the internet for my rants about this among other things here in TN. I've lived in Middle TN/Nashville area for a few years now and East TN for a little less than a year. There's been tornadoes in the areas I've been in every year and always the next day people are asking me about the procedures. Its quite sad/scary and tickles me in a not so good way.

      I called and my parents to make sure they were watching the weather. I checked into Skywarn,but really had nothing to report here. My friend and I watched as the storm curved around our area, gave me an odd sense of joy/relief/disappointment/sadness. The okie in me I suppose. My only report was the sirens are going off I'm heading for the basement.

      I walked into the other room to look out the window and we didn't see anything (it was like 11 when it hit here) and my friend asked me what that noise was. I told him it was the wind and walked back into the radio station and the sirens went off. I was in the basement before my friend realized what was going on. Several people didn't know what the sirens meant. It was just sad…

      side note: if you put a shelter in, try to get it in the house or garage so you don't have to run outside. Ours was in the garage when we finally got one in Oklahoma. They had no problem putting it in the pre-existing attached garage.

  3. wyzyrdap says

    Disclaimer: I'm not in a tornado-prone area (about 1 every 4-5 years) , but….

    If you use a computer at work as well as at at home, be sure you have a "weather widget", based on your ZIP code ( they are available for windoze, macs and linux, as well as many phone OS's) on all your 'desktops'. They will check NOAA every 10 minutes or so. When the (usually red) NOAA alert goes off, CHECK IT. You might save a crop from frost or hail, you might save your life (or your family's) . These frequently can give you valuable minutes before the sirens start going off. (You might also find out that there very well might possibly be high winds or fog someplace you never go – check anyway)

    Also, learn the lingo – a 'Watch"or an "Advisory" warns you that flash flooding might happen, maybe. (where I live, this is the most common) A "Warning" means it very likely will happen. An "Alert" means that there is already water in the street, use 4WD.

    • Chris says

      If you have a shelter and an extra pair go for it. I usually lay by the door on stormy night:

      Sturdy Shoes – socks are optional
      Long sleeve shirt/pants – sweatshirt and sweatpants work well
      Small flashlight – The sirens blaring is not the time to find out you don't know you're way around in the dark
      Wallet – ID makes everything easier and of course money talks
      Charged Cell Phone – The phone lines will be down after a really big storm

      IN our storm shelter we used to keep:

      One fleece blanket per family member
      Flashlights/Lanterns (w/ Extra Batteries)
      Radio (W/ Extra Batteries)
      1-2 Decks of cards
      Other Activites (IE. A few dollar store coloring books and a box or two of crayons for young kids)
      First aid kit

      If you're underground during the storm, like in a shelter then really the hardest thing is to relax. Keeping children busy will keep their minds off what is happening. My parents only let us play video games on certain occasions, once we got out storm shelter they would keep them in the storm shelter on during tornado season.

  4. Jan says

    During the 1999 tornado storm that hit OK, my husband's grandpa lost almost all of his tools after the tornados hit. He had a hard time fixing fences to keep what was left of his livestock from getting loose. He had a few basic tools, but nothing more then that.

    • Chris says

      I assume by the year you are referring the May 3rd outbreak. That was some scary stuff for the 8 year old me. First recorded F5, tornadoes dropping left and right, highest winds on record (at the time they might've been beat by now), sirens blaring nonstop…and where was I? Hiding in the hallway closest with the TV tuned to gary england and the volume up as loud as it would go (I could hear it from two rooms over) thinking I was going too die. That was the night my mom decided we needed a storm shelter.

      • Jan says

        Yes, it was May 1999. I cannot imagine how that felt! We are out in CA and were glued to the tv waiting for updates about the area my husbands grandpa lived in. Because he was in the middle of farm country, it took awhile to get in touch with him with telephone lines down. A cousin was killed while he was on a highway. We thought he would be really upset, but the man took everything in stride. He rebuilt everything, even though his body was giving out from 60 years of farm/ranch work.

  5. Susan says

    i'm an Oklahoman, so I've been in many tornado warnings, but (thankfully) our home has never been hit. I would add keeping your dog's leash handy during possible tornado outbreaks. My dog is terrified of storms and will get in the closet with us.
    I don't have a cellar, but am hoping to put one in the backyard within the year. Storms seem to be getting more frequent and more violent – or maybe it's my imagination?

    • Chris says

      If you have a garage (connected to the house) have it put in there, much better than running outside in the middle of a storm. They can put them in a pre-existing foundation we had ours done years after out house was built when I lived in OK. They have them with sliding doors so you can park in the garage and still get in the storm shelter. don't forget to register your shelter so they can find you if you're house gets hit!

      As to frequent violent comment it is tornado season,but i believe theirs a cycle just like with the ice storms. Right now the weather is following me, I was scared to death during the out break in AL,GA,TN. I was tracking it with skywarn,but there was no basement or cellar for miles, they don't build them here. :/

  6. Linda says

    I'm an Alabamian and we ALWAYS take tornadoes seriously. Ask any family around here where to go when the sirens go off and they can always tell you, but when the tornado is a half a mile wide (like the one that swept through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham recently), something like a bathroom or hall closet probably won't be enough. Being in a basement or underground in a storm cellar is always best.
    I read all the suggestions and they're good ones. I would add two or three things, like buy a generator if you can afford one. The power tends to go out and freezers and refridgerators no longer work — not a good thing if you garden and freeze all your produce for the upcoming year like most folks in our rural area do. Many local families do a combination of both canning and freezing, so if the power's out for an extended period, they don't lose EVERYthing. Also, when we go down to the basement, we put our children into sturdy shoes and their bicycle helmets. And finally, it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep a chainsaw on hand, and some extra tarps, as many as you can store. If you don't need these things, your neighbors probably will.

  7. Deborah says

    The category F5 of the original Fujita Scale was created for the Lubbock, Texas tornado of 1970. A few hard-learned lessons from that event include having plenty of clean water available. Because the water system was damaged, everyone had to boil water, even citizens far from the damage path. Learn the name of your own county, and all of the surrounding counties. Most watches and warnings are given, not by city, but by county. This can be particularly tricky if you are traveling far from home (another hard-learned lesson!). Remember that for days (if not weeks) it will be very difficult to travel locally by car because of debris blocking the roads, broken glass, and zillions of nails and screws littering the roadways.

    As a result of that event, the WInd Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University has spent years studying structural safety. Their plans for in home shelters are now available from FEMA. Exisiting homes may be retro-fit, and it is very reasonable to add their specifications to new construction.

  8. Tim says

    Ref #4 & #7 – You can also access the National Weather Service on most smartphones as well as computers. When the weather-people say it’s coming my way, I open NWS on both (have it saved to “favorites”). The computer stays on the radar imagery for the surrounding area. This gives you a good idea of the storm track.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *