What Are the Outdoor Safety Rules for Tornadoes?


A tornado is a violent windstorm, with winds up to 300 miles per hour, identified by a funnel-shaped cloud. Before a tornado hits, the air may become very still and the wind might die away. If you are caught outdoors, take steps to stay safe.


  • This fast-moving, funnel-shaped cloud can be quickly identified by flying debris that is circling around the cloud itself as it moves across the landscape. When you see one coming, you have only seconds to make life or death decisions.


  • If caught outside during a tornado, find a low lying area or a ditch in which to lie down. Use your arms to cover and protect your head and neck.

Things to Avoid Outside

  • If you are outside when a tornado is approaching, always avoid downed electrical power lines, utility poles, trees, overpasses on a freeway and bridges.


  • If you are outside and you can see a tornado in the distance, move out of its path by traveling away from it at right angles. Do not try to outrun it. Either seek shelter or find a low place to lie down in. Take necessary precautions to protect your neck and head.

Outside in a Vehicle

  • Never try to out-drive a tornado. The average speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour. However, some travel as fast as 70 miles per hour or become completely stationary. Get out of the car. Move as far away from the automobile as time allows. Find a group of rocks, a ditch or a low lying area and get down, protecting your head and neck from flying debris.

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  • Community Emergency Response Manual. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Are you Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness. FEMA. August 2004
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