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What Should You Have in Your Tornado Emergency Kit?

Tornado Emergency Kit

Pay Attention to Storm Alerts, Watches and Warnings


Updated 2020.

When tornado producing storm systems develop they can move quickly. By the time a tornado touches the ground the people in its path may have very little warning time seek shelter. If you live in an area affected by tornadoes you should know what warning systems are available to you. Many communities have sirens and text alert systems systems to warn residents of tornado watches and warning.

What is a Tornado Watch? 

When the National Weather Service (NWS) determines that conditions are right for tornadoes to form they will issue a watch. A tornado watch does not indicate that a tornado has formed or been identified. Instead, it indicates that the conditions are favorable for a tornado to form and that people in the area should remain vigilent and regularly follow the NWS for updates.

What is a Tornado Warning?

A tornado warning is more serious because it confirms that a tornado has formed and is visible on the radar. When a warning has been issued for your area, you should immediately seek shelter. You should not leave your storm shelter or safe area until the warning for your county has expired. In most cases, you should not attempt to leave the area in a car. 

Preparing for a Storm Ahead of Time

In the southern states, tornado season runs all year.  For the rest of the country, tornadoes occur more frequently during the spring and summer months than the rest of the year. No matter where you reside, it is important to make sure you and your family are prepared by monitoring storm alerts, creating a family tornado plan, securing your home and having a tornado emergency kit on hand.

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for a Tornado

  1. Identify the safest place in your home: When a warning has been issued you may have a matter of minutes to seek shelter. It is important that you know the safest place to seek shelter in home. In most cases this will be a basement, storm cellar, or interior room of home without windows (usually a closet or bathroom.) Once you have identified this area, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your family knows where it is, including young children.
  2. Reinforce your home: If you live in an area that frequently experiences tornado activity your home should be equipped with storm windows, storm doors, and a secure foundation. If you live in a mobile home, it is recommended that you install an earthen storm cellar adjacent to your home where you can seek shelter. 
  3. Monitor Storm Updates Frequently: Storms develop quickly, fortunately, we have many resources to monitor alerts including our mobile phones, computers, tv, and radios. We recommend downloading a weather alert app on your phone and setting up notifications for your area. Keep in mind that storms can take out the power in your home and disable cellular networks. You should always have a battery powered radio in your tornado emergency kit. 
  4. Gather Supplies and create a Tornado Emergency Kit: Your tornado emergency kit should include everything that you might need both to ride out the storm and survive in the aftermath of the storm.

What to Put in a Tornado Emergency Kit

Because tornadoes can develop rapidly from a thunderstorm, it is important to always be prepared for them. Prepare for a tornado by investing in a tornado emergency kit.

Your Kit Should Meet the 10 Basic Disaster Survival Needs

  • water
  • food
  • breathing protection
  • first aid
  • shelter
  • warmth
  • communication
  • light
  • tools
  • sanitation & hygiene

Tornado Emergency Kit Checklist:

We recommend investing in the following items for your tornado emergency kit.

Tornado kit checklist

For protection and shelter:

(4) N-95 respirators (face masks)
(4) Emergency thermal blankets
(4) Emergency ponchos
(1) Roll plastic sheeting
(1) Roll duct tape

For turning off utilities and other tasks:

(1) Multifunction tool [needle nose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutter,file/cutter, flat file, pointed screwdriver, mini-screwdriver, small screwdriver, screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, can opener, bottle opener,punch, knife blade]
(1) Pair leather-palmed work gloves

For communication and light:

(4) Metal whistles with lanyard
(1) AM/FM radio with two sets of AAA batteries
(1) Flashlight with two sets of D batteries
(8) 12-hour light sticks
(1) LED Safety Signal
(1) Notepad
(1) Pen
(1) Waterproof document pouch

For hydration and nutrition:

(1) 2-gallon water bag for carrying, purifying and storing water
(4) 2,400-calorie food bar (bar contains 12 individually wrapped 200-calorie portions) [5-year shelf life – U.S. Coast Guard approved]
(24) 4 oz. emergency water pouches [5-year shelf life – U.S. Coast Guard approved]
(50) water purification tablets

For medical, hygiene and sanitation needs:

(4) Personal First Aid packet
(1) Family First Aid kit
(1) First Aid Guide
(3) Bio-hazard bags
(1) Toilet paper roll
(24) Moist towelettes

Optimize your Emergency Kit

Your tornado emergency kit should have the following characteristics:

  • Compact: so it can be easily moved if you need to relocate during the aftermath of the tornado.
  • Easy to move: kits with both easy-rolling wheels and shoulder straps avoid back strain and provide go-anywhere flexibility.
  • Durable: in order to keep supplies safe and undamaged during the tornado.

During the aftermath of a tornado, outside help may not be able to arrive for several days and you and your family will need to be seen and secure as you respond and recover from the injuries that occurred.  It is critical that you are prepared with necessary survival supplies, so that you and your family can survive without power, water, and food in the days following a bad tornado.

Tornadoes are Some of Nature’s Most Violent Storms

The damage tornadoes cause can happen in a matter of seconds. They frequently cause fatalities and devastate homes, businesses, and entire neighborhoods. From January to November of 2019 there were 1,431 tornadoes in the United States alone. That was an increase from 1,060 from the same period in 2018. Tornadoes killed 38 people in 2019, a dramatic increase from 2018 in which 8 people died. 

The states that are most frequently hit with tornadoes are Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi. While they are much more common in the Midwest, South, and Southeast, tornadoes can hit any part of the United States. With the ability to develop rapidly from thunderstorms, there can be very little warning for tornadoes. They are sometimes clearly visible to the human eye and at other times are obscured by rain or low hanging clouds.

States with the most tornadoes

David Scott
David co-founded LifeSecure in 2005, just a few months before Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that one can go hungry and thirsty in America and even die before help arrives. For over a decade David has focused on developing and discovering superior emergency and disaster survival solutions - kits and supplies. He has trained community groups in emergency preparedness, helped non-profit organizations prepare emergency kits for needy individuals, conducted community emergency response exercises, and developed emergency plans for non-profit organizations. David makes an ongoing study of how best to prepare for and respond to various natural and man-made disasters, and his mission has been to help others “live Life SECURE” every day by preparing for what may come someday.