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Tornado Watch: Where to Take Shelter

If a tornado strikes, where will you take shelter?

Sheltering In Place During a Tornado

In a severe storm or tornado, the safest place to be is inside a building. “Sheltering in place” means to make a shelter out of the place you are in, protecting yourself until help arrives.

Usually, you will know if a “shelter in place” policy is in effect through the news media, the Emergency Alert System, warning sirens or horns, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather reports, and announcements from vehicles equipped with public address systems.

When a ‘Shelter in Place’ is Issued

Once a shelter in place is called, immediately go inside, bring your children and animals, and close and lock all doors and windows.

Choose a room in your home with as few windows and doors as possible. For a tornado, choose a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.

Inside Your Safe Room

Ideally, your safe room should have a minimum of 10 square feet of floor space per person to allow people to stay inside for at least five hours when sealed. You should also have the following readily available:

  • laptop
  • cell phone
  • radio
  • flashlight
  • water
  • food
  • snacks
  • diapers
  • prescription medications
  • first aid supply
  • other important supplies

The length of time you have to stay put can be short or long, depending on the length and severity of the emergency.

It is important to stay in shelter until the local authorities say it’s safe to leave.

Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Stay Informed About Severe Weather

Inclement weather is top of mind this season, and September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, so now is a great time to make and review a tornado emergency plan with your family, build a kit, and stay informed.  A 14-day emergency supply list can be found at or

Need to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning? Reference our blog post: Tornado Watch or Warning – When do you seek shelter?

For current weather updates, visit WRAL-TV.

About Barb Bisset

Barb Bisset is the executive director of the WakeMed Emergency Services Insitute.