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Plan & Prepare

Tornadoes: What to do Before a Tornado

(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross, FEMA and the National Weather Service).

Tornadoes: Basic Preparedness

As with other types of emergency, you should prepare yourself and your family by creating an Emergency Supply Kit and a Family Disaster Plan. See NJOEM's Basic Preparedness page for more details.

  • Your Kit includes items that will help you stay self-sufficient for up to three days, if needed.
  • Your Plan includes evacuation plans, a place to reunite with loved ones, and an out-of-state contact person.

Stay Tuned: Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio and television stations for weather updates, Storm Watches or Warnings, and emergency instructions from public safety Officials. Remember: A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Supply Kit. You can also track current weather conditions with links available on our Current Weather/Traffic Web page.

Identify A Safe Place In Your Home

Pick a safe place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom or closet on the lowest floor.

Keep this place uncluttered. Make sure it is located away from windows. Know where heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc) and do not go under them - they may fall through a weakened floor.

Be ready to shelter yourself under sturdy protection, such as a heavy table or workbench, or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.

If you are in a high-rise building you may not have time to go to the lowest floor! Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.

Manufactured homes are particularly vulnerable. A manufactured home can turn easily during a tornado, even if you have tied down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.

Learn The Danger Signs

There is no substitute for watching the sky.

  • Tornadoes sometimes have no visible funnel! An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if no funnel is visible.
  • Tornadoes may be accompanied by hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
  • There may be a loud, continuous roar or rumble that doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  • Look for a persistent lowering of the cloud base.
  • At night look for small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by a very strong wind, possibly a tornado.

Watches And Warnings

The National Weather Service will issue a Tornado Watch when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind family members where the safest places in your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for updates or for instructions from public safety officials.

A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
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