Severe Weather Preparedness – Tornadoes

Severe Weather Preparedness


Fast Facts


  • Illinois ranks fifth in the United States for the most tornadoes per square mile.
  • The majority of Illinois tornadoes have occurred between April 1 and June 30 and between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Nearly 30% of all tornadoes in Illinois occur after dark.
  • On average, 50 tornadoes occur each year in Illinois.
  • There were 50 tornadoes reported in Illinois during 2017, which resulted in three fatalities, 17 injuries and more than $12 million in property damage.


Before a Tornado


  • Know the terms used to describe tornado threats:
    • Tornado Watch: This means tornadoes are possible near your area. Stay alert for the latest weather information. Be prepared to take shelter.
    • Tornado Warning: This means a tornado has been sighted by someone or indicated by weather radar. The storms may also produce damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and/ or hail one inch or larger. Take shelter immediately. Turn on a battery-operated radio or television and wait for updated information for your area. Many smartphones automatically receive tornado warnings to alert you about a tornado nearby, even if you’re traveling.
  • Purchase a weather alert radio with a battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology that automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued for your county
    • Many deadly tornadoes occur at night. Monitor watches and warnings in your areas using a weather alert radio, cell phone app, local TV, local radio or the Internet. Do not rely solely on outdoor warning sirens, especially if you are asleep. If it is safe to do so, contact family members and friends when you become aware of a tornado that may threaten them.
  • Determine the best location in your home and workplace to seek shelter when threatened by a tornado. A basement or cellar will usually afford the best protection. The best areas are closets, small interior hallways and bathrooms without windows. If you live in a mobile home, identify a safe shelter outside of your mobile home such as a community storm shelter, a neighbor or friend’s house or a nearby public building. Half of all tornado fatalities occur in mobile homes, even though they only account for seven percent of all residences.
  • Make sure family members and friends know how to stay safe
  • Conduct periodic tornado safety drills at home and work. Decide how and where everyone will gather prior to and after the storm
  • Maintain an emergency supply kit. This kit will help your family cope during extended power outages.
  • Keep all of your important records and documents in a safe deposit box or another safe place away from the premises.
  • Insure your property and possessions. Make an inventory of your possessions using paper lists, photographs and/or videotapes of your belongings. Give a copy to your insurance company. Update your inventory and review your coverage with your insurance company periodically.



During a Tornado


Take the following actions when a Tornado Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, when sirens have been activated or when a tornado has been sighted near your area:


  • At Home
  • Monitor the radio, television or Internet for the latest weather information.
  • Go immediately to your predetermined shelter, such as a basement or the lowest level of the building. In a basement, go under the stairs, under a heavy piece of furniture or a work bench. Stay there until the danger has passed.
  • If in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter elsewhere, well before the storm arrives. If there is not a substantial shelter nearby, go to a low-lying area and shield your head with your hands.
  • If there is no basement, go to an interior hallway or a small interior room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table, and hold onto it. If sturdy furniture is not available, make yourself the smallest target possible. Squat low to the ground. Put your head down and cover your head and neck with your hands
  • Use pillows, mattresses or cushions to protect your head and neck.


  • Outdoors
  • If possible, get inside a substantial building on the lowest floor, away from windows and doors.
  • If an indoor shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, then, as a last resort, lie in a ditch or culvert. Use your arms to protect your head and neck. Beware of the potential for flash flooding


  • In a Vehicle
    • Do NOT park under a bridge or overpass! The embankment under an overpass is higher than the surrounding terrain, and the wind speed increases with height. Additionally, the overpass design may create a wind-tunnel effect under the span, further increasing the wind speed. Many overpasses are completely exposed underneath, and most lack hanging girders or a crawlspace-like area to provide sufficient protection from debris, which can travel at high speeds even in weak tornadoes. People stopping underneath overpasses block the flow of traffic, putting others in danger
    • Immediately exit the vehicle in a safe manner and take shelter in a nearby building.
    • Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Heavy rain, hail and traffic may impede your movement. Tornadoes can change directions quickly and can easily lift up a vehicle and toss it through the air
    • As a last resort, if there isn’t time to get indoors or if there is no secure shelter nearby, lie flat in a ditch, culvert or low-lying area away from vehicles.




Severe Weather

In the event of a severe weather or a tornado warning, the following procedure should be put in effect by the Supervisor or Emergency Action Committee:

  1. Wait for direction from your Supervisor. If weather conditions are severe and you feel threatened, move to an interior shelter area (See e. below)
  2. Listen for latest advisories on radio or scanner.
  3. Post outlooks for outside observation
  4. Close all doors of outside offices.
  5. Move personnel into designated safe areas within the building (eastbound and westbound ramps, tunnels, basement)
  6. During Severe Weather do not leave or evacuate the building unless told to do so by your Supervisor or a member of the Emergency Action Committee.
  7. After tornado passes, restore calm and check for injuries.