Safety Tips

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and National Weather Service offers the following tornado safety tips. Knowing these simple safety rules could save your life.

Know the names of the counties, cities and towns near you. It will be easier to track the tornado’s direction if you are familiar with the geography of your area.

Focus on finding appropriate shelter for your location and protecting yourself while there.


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In your home, go to your basement. If you don’t have a basement, move to a small, windowless interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hall on the lowest level of the house. Avoid windows and protect your body from flying debris with a heavy blanket or sleeping bag. (Do not open windows to equalize pressure because it is ineffective in reducing tornado damage.)

In mobile homes, leave immediately and seek shelter inside a nearby sturdy building or lie down flat in a ditch away from your home covering your head with your hands. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.

In open buildings like shopping malls, gymnasiums or civic centers, try to get into the restroom or hallway. In larger buildings, these areas are usually made of concrete block and will offer more protection. If there is no time to go anywhere else, seek shelter right where you are. Try to get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris and protect your head by covering it with your arms.

If you are outdoors, try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.

If you are in a vehicle when a tornado strikes, get out and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. A culvert or ditch can provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby. Do not take shelter under a highway overpass.

– Compiled by Barbara Lee Allen