Tornado Preparedness

Page updated on Aug 18, 2021 at 11:56 AM

Are you ready when severe weather strikes?  A tornado can happen anytime and anywhere. The best thing to do to prepare for a tornado and other severe weather conditions is to prepare a basic emergency kit, make and practice a family emergency plan, and learn how to stay safe by reviewing the information and links below.

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Since tornadoes usually occur with little warning, it is important to prepare for them before they happen. Do not wait for disaster to strike.

Note that a Tornado Watch means that the weather conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornado development. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has actually been sighted.

Communities will be better prepared if residents make plans in advance. Be sure to:

  • Meet with neighbors to plan how the neighborhood will work together
  • Identify elderly and disabled neighbors and discuss transportation, medication, etc.
  • Keep a first aid kit, medications, eyeglasses and hearing aid batteries accessible.
  • Teach children how to reach family members in case of separation.
  • Discuss dialing emergency numbers and practice escape routes from all rooms with children.

When a thunderstorm threatens, weather experts advise residents to pay close attention to weather forecasts and seek safe shelter. Having a battery radio and extra supply of batteries may prove helpful. Continuous news for Alexandria and the surrounding region can be found on WTOP radio (103.5 FM & 107.7 FM). To learn more about creating a family disaster plan, visit and share information with your neighbors.

Here are some clues suggesting a tornado is possibly approaching:

  • A dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A load roar similar to a freight train

Do not look for a tornado. Many tornadoes are not visible until it is too late. They may also be hidden by rain. The following Virginia Department of Emergency Management and National Weather Service tips could prove helpful:

  • A basement is your best shelter. If a basement is not available, go to a room with no windows (bathroom, closet, interior hall) on the lowest level of the house.
  • Protection can be provided by covering the body with a heavy blanket or a sleeping bag.
  • Avoid being close to windows.
  • When inside a large building (civic center, gym, mall) shelter in a restroom if possible.
  • If inside a car, get out of it and try to find shelter or a nearby ditch.

Encouraging family members to discuss these tips will enable residents to maintain control in the event of an emergency.

For more information on how to prepare visit these additional sites: