6+ Tips for Taking Shelter from a Tornado in an Apartment

Tips for taking shelter from a tornado in an apartment: Go to the lowest level, away from windows, protect your body, avoid heavy objects, and be prepared for the storm.

shelter in apartment

Tornado season is known as the period between March and June when tornados are most likely. While some have access to tornado shelters or basements, that’s undoubtedly not always the case.

We’ll look at some tips on taking shelter from a tornado in an apartment so that you’re never caught off guard.

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Can tornadoes destroy apartment buildings?


Tornadoes can just about destroy anything. Apartment buildings are huge targets because they extend into the sky. So, even if the tornado never touches the ground, it can still destroy high-rising structures.

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How to take shelter from a tornado in an apartment?

You can’t do much about living in an apartment during a weather event, but you can do your best to get to safety.

Go down toward the ground.

The safest place is down, regardless of where you are during a tornado. Sometimes an apartment complex has a basement or a covered, protected parking lot, which is wonderful.

But, if they don’t, go to the lowest level of the building, like a neighbor’s ground-floor apartment. 

Interior stairwells aren’t ideal, but you can use them to get to the lowest level of the floors and use the stairs to hide away from the tornado.

Get away from the windows.

You don’t always have the time to get to the lowest level of your apartment building. The next safest spot is as far away from windows as possible. 

You must always shelter in place even if you feel the tornado has passed and wait for the go-ahead from the National Weather Service and emergency personnel.

Why is the bathroom the safest place in a tornado?

Bathrooms work as a safe place during a tornado because the they tend to have small or no windows and are framed around a small space. Interior rooms, closets, or hallways are also usable spaces to take shelter during an emergency.

Get away from heavy objects.

Furniture can become a weapon during a tornado. While it may seem safe to hide under a bed or couch, it will turn into a dangerous object during a twister. Or, they can fall through a weakening floor or pin you in place.

How do you survive a tornado in a highrise?

  1. Get to the lowest floor possible.
  2. Get to an enclosed and windowless spot in the center of your apartment building, including interior stairwells.
  3. Crouch and cover your head.

Protect your body.

Whether in the basement, stairway, or bathroom, the priority is to protect your body as best as possible. It means covering your head and neck with your arms. 

You can shield your body from debris and wind using thick blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, and mattresses. If you have a bicycle helmet, grab it and put it on. It will protect your head from falling and flying debris.

The aftermath of a natural disaster can be as dangerous. You will need to protect your lungs using a mask or protective face covering. 

Know when a tornado is coming.

Tornado Shelter

Tornadoes don’t come with many warnings, meaning you have to stay on top of weather alerts through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). But there are other signs to be on the lookout for, too.

  • Intense and persistent cloud base rotation
  • Dust and debris twisting on the ground. A twister doesn’t always form a funnel cloud.
  • Hail and heavy rain followed by a weird calmness can signal a tornado. 
  • Roar and rumble that doesn’t fade like thunder may be an incoming tornado.
  • The darkness of night makes tornadoes ten times scarier. If you see small bright blue-green or white lights near a thunderstorm, power lines are snapping against strong winds.

Be as prepared as you can.

At-home emergency drills are a great way to prepare you and your family for any emergency, especially a tornado. And having an emergency kit means you are ready in the case of a delayed emergency response.

FAQs about Taking Shelter

Can tornadoes destroy apartments?

Tornadoes have the potential to destroy apartments, but it is important to note that only the most severe tornadoes, typically EF2 or above, are likely to cause significant damage to the structure. Thankfully, the majority of tornadoes are not strong enough to cause such destruction. The wind speeds of tornadoes can range from 40 miles per hour to over 300 m.p.h., with the strongest winds associated with the most intense tornadoes.

What causes the most deaths during a tornado?

The most common cause of death during a tornado is flying debris, which also leads to numerous injuries. While it is important to note that no location can be considered completely safe during a tornado, certain areas are relatively safer than others.

Is a bathtub safe during a tornado?

A bathtub may be considered a safe shelter during a tornado, as long as it is not located along an outside wall and does not have any windows, according to the NWS. Contrary to common belief, there is no inherent safety in getting into a bathtub with a mattress. Bathrooms have demonstrated their effectiveness as tornado shelters in numerous instances, for a few reasons.

Are high rise apartments safe in tornadoes?

High rise apartments may not be completely safe in tornadoes, but the interior of the building, typically an interior hallway, is the safest location. The main objective is to avoid windows. While no place in any building can provide absolute protection during a tornado, choosing the right location within the structure can help minimize the danger.

Can a tornado destroy a safe room?

A tornado can destroy a safe room if it is not built to the standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, if an interior safe room is constructed according to FEMA guidelines, it will be able to withstand tornado-force winds and flying debris. This is evident from the fact that, after a devastating tornado destroyed the surrounding house, an interior safe room was the only structure left standing on an Oklahoma farmstead.

Can a tornado pick up a building?

A tornado has the ability to lift a building, and occasionally it will grab a house by its foundation and deposit it a short distance away. Nevertheless, structures that are carried high into the air by powerful winds during storms usually end up being demolished.

Can you hear a tornado coming?

You cannot hear a tornado coming, but you can take protective action immediately if you hear the sound of a freight train, which is the roar of wind as it moves through trees and buildings. This sound may indicate an approaching tornado or severe downburst. Additionally, the rapid rotation of winds in a tornado sometimes produces a high-pitched whistling or whirling noise.

How do you tell if a tornado is coming towards you?

To determine if a tornado is approaching, you can look for the following signs: the sky may take on a dark greenish hue, an eerie silence may settle in or follow a thunderstorm, a loud roar resembling that of a freight train may be heard, a cloud of debris may be seen moving towards you, particularly at ground level, and debris may start falling from the sky.

Should windows be open or closed during a tornado?

Windows should be closed during a tornado to increase the chances of a solid structure escaping major damage. Many individuals in close proximity to a tornado have reported experiencing their ears “popping” as a result of the pressure change. It is now understood that a solid structure, without any open windows or doors, has a higher likelihood of avoiding significant damage.

What to do if you live upstairs during tornado?

If you live upstairs during a tornado, you should seek shelter away from windows. If leaving your apartment unit is not an option, find a safe place like a bathroom, closet, or hallway. Once there, make sure to cover yourself with blankets, towels, or any available materials to protect against debris that may enter your apartment.

How do apartments hold up in tornados?

Apartments generally withstand tornados well, with only the most severe tornadoes posing a significant threat to their structural integrity. In the event of an EF2 or stronger tornado, there is a possibility of roof damage occurring. Fortunately, the majority of tornadoes are not powerful enough to cause such extensive harm.

Is it safe to get under a bed during a tornado?

It is safe to get under a bed during a tornado if you are unable to take shelter in an interior room or basement. If possible, use a sturdy piece of furniture and protect your head and neck with a blanket, sleeping bag, mattress, pillow, or cushion.

What causes most deaths during a tornado?

Most deaths during a tornado are caused by flying debris, which also leads to numerous injuries.

Can you survive tornado on top floor?

If you find yourself on the top floor during a tornado, it is advisable to avoid upper floors and rooms with windows and exterior walls. If you live on an upper floor, it is recommended to identify another safe place to go within your apartment complex. In certain situations, the apartment clubhouse or lounge area may provide more protection if they are accessible during a tornado watch or warning.

Do you open windows during a tornado?

The statement “You should open windows during a tornado” is false. Instead, if a tornado is approaching, it is crucial to seek shelter immediately as homes are damaged and destroyed by the extremely strong winds associated with tornadoes, not by pressure.

Should you close interior doors during a tornado?

You should close interior doors during a tornado for greater protection. In homes or public buildings, it is recommended to go to the basement or a small interior room, such as a closet, bathroom, or an interior hall on the lowest level. Closing all doors to the hallway can provide additional safety. If possible, seek shelter under something sturdy like a heavy table.

What corner of the house is safest in a tornado?

The safest corner of the house in a tornado is the center of the room. It is recommended to avoid corners as they have a tendency to attract debris. Instead, seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a heavy table or desk, and hold on to it. If available, use a blanket to protect your head and neck.

How do you tell if a tornado is coming at you?

To determine if a tornado is approaching, one can look for signs such as a dark, sometimes greenish, sky, the presence of wall clouds or a cloud of debris moving towards you, large hail falling without rain, a calm and still atmosphere with a decrease in wind, and the possibility of hearing a loud roar resembling that of a freight train.

Is a closet or bathroom safer in a tornado?

A closet or bathroom is safer in a tornado because windowless spaces provide greater safety. Bathrooms, in particular, are often equipped with small or no windows for ventilation purposes, making them the optimal choice. Tornadoes can easily shatter windows through increased pressure or flying debris, which is why windowless spaces are considered safer.

Where is the safest place to be in a tornado apartment?

The safest place to be in a tornado apartment is on the lowest floor, in a small center room such as a bathroom or closet, under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. It is important to crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down, and cover your head with your hands.

Why is a bathtub safe during tornado?

The bathtub is considered safe during a tornado because it is securely anchored to the ground, often remaining intact while everything else is destroyed. By getting inside the bathtub and covering yourself with a couch cushion, you are surrounded by protection from all directions and the bathtub itself serves as an additional anchor to the foundation.

What makes a room tornado proof?

A room can be made tornado proof by constructing it with ICF walls, adding a solid concrete roof, and installing a steel door.

How do you use a mattress in a tornado?

Using a mattress in a tornado involves cushioning yourself for protection, but it is important not to use it as a covering. Instead, shield your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to safeguard against potential hazards like flying debris and shattered glass. It is advisable to prioritize safety and avoid wasting time by rearranging mattresses during such emergencies.

What room is the safest room in the house during a tornado if you do not have a storm cellar?

The safest room in the house during a tornado if you do not have a storm cellar is the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor, such as a bathroom, closet, or center hallway. It is advisable to avoid seeking shelter in any room with windows if possible. To enhance protection, find cover under something sturdy like a heavy table or workbench. Additionally, it is recommended to cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress for added safety.

Can you survive an F5 tornado in a basement?

Basements, although they offer a suitable space for seeking shelter, are unable to withstand the immense power of F5 tornadoes. These tornadoes are the most powerful ever recorded, capable of uprooting houses, trees, billboards, and even larger structures, causing extensive damage.

Why is the tub the safest place during a tornado?

The tub is considered the safest place during a tornado because it is securely anchored to the ground and often remains intact even after the tornado passes. By getting inside the bathtub and covering yourself with a couch cushion, you are surrounded by protection from all sides and benefit from the additional stability provided by the bathtub’s connection to the foundation.

Are you 100% safe in a basement during a tornado?

You are not 100% safe in a basement during a tornado.

Are brick houses safer in tornadoes?

Brick houses can provide a higher level of safety during tornadoes, as they are more resistant to wind and impacts compared to other building materials. They are often able to withstand tornadoes with an EF3 rating or lower. However, it is important to note that additional storm-proofing measures are still necessary to further reduce the risk of tornado damage to a brick home.

Can a tornado pick up a safe room?

A safe room has been proven to withstand the most severe storms, including EF5 tornadoes. Thirteen of our shelters have been directly hit by some of the largest tornadoes in recent years, such as the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes in 2013.

What level tornado can destroy a house?

The level of tornado that can destroy a house is determined by its EF rating. An EF3 tornado is capable of causing catastrophic damage, such as removing roofs and walls. On the other hand, an EF2 tornado can cause significant damage to a house’s roof and walls. Tornadoes with an EF4 or EF5 rating have the potential to produce immense and devastating damage, including the complete destruction of buildings.

Should you open windows during a tornado?

The statement “You should open windows during a tornado” is false. Instead, if a tornado is approaching, it is crucial to seek shelter immediately as homes are damaged and destroyed by the extremely strong winds associated with tornadoes, not pressure.

What if your basement has windows during a tornado?

If your basement has windows during a tornado, it is important to get to the lowest level of the building, preferably the basement. It is crucial to stay away from windows. In the event that there is not enough time to reach a tornado shelter or a lower level, try to find shelter under a door frame or position yourself against something that can provide support or deflect falling debris.

Can any building withstand an EF5 tornado?

Any building can withstand an EF5 tornado if it is constructed as a reinforced concrete shell. To ensure maximum strength, a disaster-resistant concrete shell should include an integral reinforced concrete roof designed as a diaphragm.

What month is the most active for tornadoes?

The most active month for tornadoes is April, as indicated by long-term weather records which show that tornado activity peaks during this time. Additionally, May and June also exhibit high levels of tornadic activity, making them the three most active months for tornadoes in the U.S.

What is the safest room during a tornado?

The safest room during a tornado is the interior part of a basement, or if there is no basement, an inside room on the lowest floor without windows, such as a center hallway, bathroom, or closet.

What part of basement is safest during tornado?

The safest part of the basement during a tornado is a spot near the center and away from any windows. It is important to stay away from windows as they can be affected by air pressure and flying objects. Additionally, it is crucial to consider the weight of objects on the floor above you.

At a glance

How do people in a tornado shelter without a basement?

  1. Know when bad weather is coming and be on the lookout for warning signs of a twister.
  2. Go to the lowest space of the structure. (basement, floor-level)
  3. Stay away from windows. (bathrooms, stairwells, hallways)
  4. Avoid heavy objects during a tornado. 
  5. Protect your body with what you have handy. (mattresses, pillows, bike helmets)

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