How Should You Prepare Your Home For A Tornado In Advance?

There have been many devastating cyclones in Australia over the years, with destructive winds causing extensive property damage. Being prepared for the cyclone season well in advance can go a long way to help protect your home during a tropical cyclone.

Before The Cyclone Season

  • Check with your local council or your building control authority to see if your home has been built to cyclone standards.
  • Check that the walls, roof and eaves of your home are secure.
  • Trim treetops and branches well clear of your home (get council permission).
  • Preferably fit shutters, or at least metal screens, to all glass areas.
  • Clear your property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage during extreme winds.
  • In case of a storm surge/tide warning or another flooding, know your nearest safe, high ground and the safest access route to it.
  • Prepare an emergency kit containing:
    • A portable battery radio, torch and spare batteries
    • Water containers, dried or canned food and a can opener
    • Matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking gear, eating utensils, and

a first aid kit and manual, masking tape for windows and waterproof bags.

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers on display.
  • Check neighbours, especially recent arrivals, to make sure they are prepared.

When A Cyclone Watch Is Issued

  • Re-check your property for loose material and tie-down (or fill with water) all large, relatively light items such as boats and rubbish bins.
  • Fill vehicles’ fuel tanks. Check your emergency kit and fill water containers.
  • Ensure household members know which is the strongest part of the house and what to do in a cyclone warning or an evacuation.
  • Tune to your local radio/TV for further information and warnings.
  • Check that neighbours are aware of the situation and are preparing.

When A Cyclone Warning Is Issued?

Depending on official advice provided by your local authorities as the event evolves, the following actions may be warranted. First, if local authorities request, collect children from school or childcare centre and go home.

how should you prepare your home for a tornado in advance (3)

  • Park vehicles under solid shelter (hand brake on and in gear).
  • Put wooden or plastic outdoor furniture in your pool or inside with other loose items.
  • Close shutters or board-up or heavily tape all windows. Draw curtains and lock doors.
  • Pack an evacuation kit of warm clothes, essential medications, baby formula, nappies,
  • valuables, important papers, photos and mementos in waterproof bags to be taken with
  • Your emergency kit. Large/heavy valuables could be protected in a strong cupboard.
  • Remain indoors (with your pets). Stay tuned to your local radio/TV for further information.

On Warning Of Local Evacuation

Evacuation may be necessary based on predicted wind speeds and storm surge heights.

Official advice will be given on local radio/TV regarding safe routes and when to move.

  • Wear strong shoes (not thongs) and tough clothing for protection.
  • Lock doors; turn off power, gas, and water; take your evacuation and emergency kits.
  • If evacuating inland (out of town), take pets and leave early to avoid heavy traffic, flooding and wind hazards.
  • If evacuating to a public shelter or higher location, follow police and State/Territory Emergency Services directions.
  • If going to a public shelter, take bedding needs and books or games for children.

During A Severe Tropical Cyclone

Find the best shelter, such as a stairwell or a room with walls reinforced with pipes on the lowest floor of the building. Stay clear of windows and glass doors. Listen to the local radio for alerts of high winds or a tornado and disconnect all appliances. If the building starts to break up, protect yourself with a rug, blanket, mattress or shelter under a bench or table. Find cover away from the wind and protect your head if you’re outside. If you’re inside a vehicle, keep your face away from windows and ensure you have the hand brake on. It would be best to park away from trees and power lines.

If you need to evacuate 

  • Make sure you act immediately and find a public shelter inland or on higher ground—lock doors and windows on the way out.
  • Wear protective clothing and strong footwear.
  • Take your emergency kit with you.
  • If you can’t take your pets, make sure they’re in a safe place inside the property with food and water (don’t tie them up).

FAQs About Preparing Your Home For A Tornado In Advance

Know where to shelter.

  • Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (bathroom, closet, centre hallway).
  • If possible, avoid sheltering in a room with windows.
  • For added protection, get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench)
  • Do not stay in a mobile home.

Causes structural damage during a tornado. It is not the pressure change. The air pressure will drop near a tornado. It is now believed that a solid structure (no windows or doors open) has a better chance of escaping major damage.

  • We are not taking tornado warnings seriously. There is a tornado warning false alarms all of the time.
  • Look out the window.
  • Open the windows of your house.
  • Try to outrun a tornado.
  • Take cover underneath an overpass.

The probable answer is that they would be hit by debris several times, probably dying in the process if they managed not to be hit by debris (And that’s a big if), they would hit the ground hard and probably not survive the impact. So there you go. Being sucked up by a tornado would result in probable death.

After The Cyclone

how should you prepare your home for a tornado in advance (3)Always wait for the all-clear from emergency services, and don’t assume the danger has passed – as you may be in the eye of a tropical cyclone. If you have evacuated your property, don’t return until you have an official all clear.

When returning to your home:

  • Check for any gas leaks.
  • Don’t use any electrical equipment if wet.
  • Boil or purify water with tablets and check with authorities if water has been declared safe.
  • Stay clear of damaged power lines, trees and floodwater.
  • Check your insurance

Making General Emergency Preparations

  • Create an emergency supply kit
  • If the storm is likely to cause a lot of damage, it’s important to be prepared for various problems. Things that you should put in a basic supply kit include:[1]
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Emergency radio.
  • First aid kit.
  • Whistle to alert people to your location.
  • Personal sanitation products include garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, wet wipes, and tampons/pads.
  • Plastic tarps
  • Extra warm clothes.
  • Dusk masks.
  • Utility shut off tools.

Make a severe weather plan.

Having a plan that your family understands can help all of the people in your family know what to do when a storm hits. So make sure to plan out:

  • Where to take shelter in your home.
  • What phone number to call in case of emergency.
  • How you will get out of your home in an emergency.
  • Family members will meet if a storm hits while not at home.

Store an emergency supply of food and water

You should have enough water so each family member can have one gallon of water per day for three days. You should have enough food to feed your whole family for three days as well. This food and water should be put in a location where you can reach it during a disaster, such as in the spot where you will take shelter during a storm.

  • Canned food ready to eat, such as tuna, beans, or fruit, is a good choice for your emergency food supply. You can also put protein bars, dried fruit, dried cereal, and non-perishable pasteurized milk in your stash.

The Signs Of A Tornado

To ensure you have time to act properly before a tornado hits, it’s helpful to identify the warning signs. You can spot a tornado by:

  • A rotating, funnel-shaped cloud extending from a thunderstorm and reaching the ground. Tornadoes only form during a thunderstorm. A funnel cloud is the most obvious sign of a tornado, but it won’t always be visible.
  • Dark green skies. When a tornado forms, there’s usually a lot of hail accompanying it. The light from the sun often refracts off the hail as it’s blown around by the tornado, which can turn the sky green.
  • Debris. If the tornado’s funnel isn’t visible, a cloud of ground-level debris can indicate an approaching tornado.
  • A roaring sound. The rumble of a tornado sounds like a train approaching. The crashing of the debris can make a lot of noise, too.

There’s no set time for how long a tornado can last, but most of them last for less than 10 minutes.

Tornado Watches And Tornado Warnings - What’s The Difference?

Tornado watch

Conditions are favourable for a tornado to form, but it isn’t imminent. Tornado watches can be updated as conditions change.

Tornado warning

A tornado is imminent. National weather forecasting agencies issue tornado warnings, usually after a tornado or funnel cloud has been reported.

How Are Tornadoes Categorized?

Tornadoes are categorized using three main scales: The Fujita Scale, the Enhanced Fujita Scale, and the TORRO scale.

The Fujita Scale

Ranks tornadoes as F0, F1, F2, F3, F4 or F5. F0 is the weakest; F5 is the strongest. An F0 tornado means minor damage, such as branches ripped off trees. An F5 tornado lifts houses from their foundations and carries them through the air.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale

It uses a similar scale to the Fujita Scale – EF0, EF1, EF2, EF3, EF4 and EF5 – but it’s designed to assess tornado damage better.

The TORRO scale

Ranks tornadoes between 0 and 11. It’s different from the Fujita Scales in that it only uses wind speed to categorize tornadoes, whereas the Fujita Scales take the extent of damage into account.

The United States uses the Enhanced Fujita Scale to categorize tornadoes. It replaced the Fujita Scale in 2007. Canada adopted the Enhanced Fujita Scale in 2013.

When Is Tornado Season? And The Which States Get The Most Tornadoes?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over 1,000 tornadoes hit the US every year. Although tornadoes can hit at any time, the highest concentration of tornadoes occurs between March and May. Therefore, these months are known as “tornado season.”

All states get hit by tornadoes, but some more frequently than others. The top 10 states, in order of annual tornadoes, are:

  • Texas
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Florida
  • Nebraska
  • Illinois
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Alabama
  • Missouri

The area covering Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska is known colloquially as “Tornado Alley.” This is the area of the US most frequently hit by tornadoes.

How To Stay Safe During A Tornado

When a tornado hits, head for the lowest floor of the building. Find an interior room – one that isn’t connected to the front door of the building – with thick walls and no windows. If there’s a heavy table or desk, it’s a good idea to take shelter under it. If possible, look for something to protect your head, such as a helmet. Cover the back of your head with your arms to protect it from debris. If you’re in a mobile home, it’s best to reach a more secure building. Most injuries and fatalities from tornadoes happen in mobile homes.

Don’t open any windows. There’s a myth that the pressure drop can cause a house to explode, and opening windows can prevent this. In reality, the pressure drop won’t cause a house to explode, but letting the tornado-force wind inside through the windows can cause the roof to be lifted off your house. If you can’t get into a building in time, move away from trees and cars. Lie down as flat on the ground as you can, and hold onto something secure. If you can, find a ditch or other low ground to lie down in until the tornado passes.

Is A Garage Safe During A Tornado?

Are garages safe in a tornado? Because of numerous issues with safety regarding a garage in a tornado, garages should not be considered an adequate tornado shelter. The lack of interior walls and a large garage door make a garage unsuitable as a tornado shelter.

What Month Are Tornadoes Most Likely To Occur?

Tornadoes can form at any time of year, but most occur in the spring and summer months, along with thunderstorms. Therefore, May and June are usually the peak months for tornadoes.

How Deep Should A Tornado Shelter Be?

How deep should a storm shelter be? It should be at least 10 feet from the mean sea level. This will prevent water from flooding the cellar.

How Long Does A Tornado Last?

Tornadoes can last from several seconds to more than an hour. The longest-lived tornado in history is unknown because so many of the long-lived tornadoes reported from the early-mid 1900s and before are believed to be tornado series instead. Most tornadoes last less than 10 minutes.

What To Do After A Tornado?

Once the tornado has passed, there are several things you need to do, particularly if the tornado caused a lot of damage.

Evacuate the immediate area

Don’t return until you’re told it’s safe. This allows emergency services to get to work unchecked.

Look for others

See if there are any injured people around you, but don’t put yourself in further danger to search for others. If you find anyone injured, call for help and contact emergency services ASAP.

Contact friends and family members 

Using the emergency contact list, you created as part of your tornado plan, get in touch with family members and friends. Let them know you’re safe, and make sure they are too.

Get the latest updates.

Find a radio or TV and tune into local stations to hear the latest safety and weather conditions updates.

Check your property and understand the hazards.

A tornado can damage your property in ways that make it hazardous. For example, gas leaks, electrical damage, or sewage leaks are possible. Contact your utility company and emergency personnel immediately if you notice or suspect any of these hazards after a tornado.

Take pictures

Once your home has been deemed safe to return to, take photos of any damage. Documenting the damage caused will be useful when making insurance claims, especially if you have “before” photos of the damage.


Being prepared for the cyclone season well in advance can go a long way to help protect your home during a tropical cyclone. Always wait for the all-clear from emergency services, and don’t assume the danger has passed – as you may be in the eye of a tropical cyclone. If you have evacuated your property, don’t return until you have an official all clear. Ensure your home and contents insurance is up-to-date and the sum insured amount is enough to cover natural disasters. And make sure you have your insurer’s details in your emergency kit, so you can contact them in a hurry if you need to. 

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