Though peak tornado season is technically April through June in the United States, the cyclones can happen at other parts of the year. If you grew up somewhere prone to tornadoes, you probably had tornado drills alongside fire drills at school, and learned how to find and take shelter during a bad storm. But school was a long time ago, and maybe you grew up somewhere else and then moved to a tornado zone.
Either way, it’s probably a good idea to spend a minute learning about the best places to shelter during these strong storms. To make this a little easier, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created an infographic showing options on a spectrum from worst to best. Here’s what to know.
Where to take shelter during a tornado
When that National Weather Service issues a Tornado Warning for your area, that means you should seek shelter immediately. But what type of structures are safest? This infographic from the NOAA ranks your options:
The good news is that your chances of surviving a tornado are pretty good if you’re able to shelter in time, and knowing the nearest and safest locations can help you get inside and stay safe.
If you’ve seen post-tornado destruction footage on the news, it may have included shots of mobile homes completely upended or destroyed. According to NOAA, they are among the worst places to find shelter during a tornado, along with vehicles and underneath a highway overpass. Large, open rooms (like gymnasiums) and manufactured housing are slightly safer, but definitely not ideal.
For most people, the most accessible and safest place during a tornado is a basement of a building—whether it’s your house, apartment building, office, or wherever you happen to be at the time. An interior room of a well-constructed home or building would work too. The safest of all locations are official NSSA/ICC 500 compliant tornado storm shelters (either above or below ground), or specifically designed FEMA safe-rooms, though not everyone has access to one (especially on short notice).