Tornadoes: Be Prepared in Every Season

When tornado sirens wail, a good response plan can help keep your people safe. Lifesaving actions start with recognizing severe weather conditions, developing a plan, and being ready to act when a storm hits.

Recognize the Signs

While many people have lived through a tornado, there are still a number of fatalities and injuries each year. With winds that can reach over 200 miles per hour, and funnels that can stretch a mile wide, the unpredictable nature of a tornado should not be taken lightly.

According to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, look for these signs of a tornado:

  • Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base. Some tornadoes have no visible funnel.
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.
  • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.

Be aware, many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen. If you suspect that a storm is brewing, listen to a weather radio programmed for your area, or check local television and radio broadcasts for the latest updates.

Ministries should also know if their area has a siren alert system to warn of approaching storms. Contact local emergency professionals and ask whether the siren will signal for a tornado watch or just a tornado warning.

  • A tornado watch is given when conditions are ideal for a tornado to form. This is the time to start preparing supplies and shelter in case a warning is given.
  • A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted, or touched down, and you should seek shelter immediately. A warning may be issued only a minute or two before the storm arrives, so it is important to make all of your safety preparations once a watch has been issued.

Be Ready Year Round

While certain areas of the U.S. experience a defined tornado season, the National Weather Service cautions that these aggressive storms can strike at any time of day, any day of the year, all over the country. In an effort to protect those on your property during a storm, consider forming a tornado response plan. Your plan should include:

  • A weather radio. They are programmable for the county you reside in, and designed to work on battery power, making it functional even when there is no electricity.
  • A shelter route. Someone in leadership or on your church’s safety team should know how to direct people to safety as soon as an evacuation is needed. Pick a place with no windows or outside facing doors if possible.
  • Readily accessible supplies. Keep extra medical supplies, food, and bottled water handy and ready to bring into your shelter during a storm. Also set aside extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
  • A property inventory. Keep a detailed, accurate inventory of your property, documents, and belongings in case of damage or looting. Use this sample checklist as a guide to get started.

Having these precautions in place can promote a calmer environment in case of a real tornado. A plan prepared specifically for your ministry creates confidence in your leaders and can decrease the potential impact of a storm.

Additional Resources

For more information to help in developing your tornado safety plan, refer to the following resources.

Before, during, and after a tornado resources from
Preparing for a tornado from the CDC.
Tornado safety from the American Red Cross.