Harper County Emergency Management: Tornado Shelter
You can prepare for the possibility of a tornado by learning the safest places to seek shelter at home, work, school, or outdoors and while traveling.
Homes & Small Buildings
Move to a predesignated shelter, such as a basement. If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows and outside walls.
For information on building a safe room inside your house visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House.
Schools, Nursing Homes, Hospitals, Factories, Motels & Shopping Centers
Move to predesignated shelter areas. Interior hallways and rooms on the lowest floor are usually best. Avoid areas with wide, free-span roofs. Stay away from windows and outside walls.
Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer no protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
Seek shelter in a sturdy, well-constructed building.
Do not take shelter under overpasses. A dangerous trend has emerged in recent years among people in the path of approaching tornadoes while traveling in a car. Many of those in the path of a tornado are abandoning cars and seeking shelter under highway overpasses, apparently believing this will increase their safety from the storm.
The idea that overpasses offer increased safety probably received an additional boost in 1991, when a television news crew rode out a weak tornado under an overpass along the Kansas Turnpike. The resulting video was seen by millions, and appears to have fostered the idea that overpasses are preferred sources of shelter, and should be sought out by those in the path of a tornado.
In the Oklahoma City area on May 3rd, 1999, at least one person was killed by a violent tornado while seeking shelter under an overpass. Eyewitness accounts from others in the area indicated that roads were blocked at times as people stopped cars to run up into the small crevices under an overpass. Not only is the overpass unsafe as a shelter, blocking roads denies others the chance to get out of the storm's path.
In reality, an overpass in the direct path of a tornado is a dangerous place to be. Airborne debris can easily be blown into and under the overpass where people might try to seek shelter. In the 1991 Kansas Turnpike video, the tornado was relatively weak when it passed near the overpass. A stronger tornado striking the overpass directly would likely have caused serious injury to those attempting to find shelter there.
What Actions to Take if Traveling When a Tornado Hits
The safest course of action when a tornado approaches is to get out of the tornado's path by driving at a right angle away from the tornado, or to seek shelter in a sturdy, well-constructed building. Overpasses offer no protection from a direct hit from a tornado, and should not be used as shelter. If there is no time and no nearby shelter lie flat in a ditch or depression and use your hands to protect your head.
After the Storm Has Passed
- Check for injured or trapped persons
- Give first aid when appropriate
- Don't try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury
- Call for help
- Turn on radio or television to get the latest emergency information
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls