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What Should You Have in Your Tornado Emergency Kit?

When tornado-producing storm systems develop, they move quickly. When a tornado touches the ground, the people in its path have little warning time to seek shelter. 

If you live in an area affected by tornadoes, you should know what warning systems are available. Many communities have sirens and text alert systems to warn residents of tornado watches and warnings.

More importantly, do you have everything in your home to keep you and your family safe in the case of a tornado touching down? Are you adequately prepared for the worst-case scenario? 

Our guide to tornado preparedness gives you a rundown of the different types of warnings, the best ways to prepare for a tornado, and what to include in your tornado emergency kit.

What is the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

What is a Tornado Watch?

When the National Weather Service (NWS) determines conditions are right for tornadoes, 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 vigilant 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. 

You should immediately seek shelter when a warning has been issued for your area. 

You should only leave your storm shelter or safe area once 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. The first deadly tornadoes of 2023 touched down in Mississippi on March 24th, toppling Rolling Fork’s water tower and causing a wide path of destruction.

For the rest of the country, tornadoes occur more frequently during the spring and summer than the rest of the year. 

No matter where you reside, ensuring 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 is important.

4 Ways to Prepare for a Tornado

1. Identify the safest place in your home

When a warning has been issued, you may have minutes to seek shelter, and you must know the safest place to seek refuge in the home. 

In most cases, this will be a basement, storm cellar, or interior room of a home without windows (usually a closet or bathroom.) 

Once you have identified this area, you’ll want to ensure 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 have storm windows, 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. 

Remember 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 to ride out the storm and survive in the aftermath.

What to Put in a Tornado Emergency Kit

Click to open downloadable checklist

Because tornadoes can develop rapidly from a thunderstorm, it is essential always to 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.

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:

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) Biohazard 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 tornado’s aftermath.
  • Easy to move: kits with easy-rolling wheels and shoulder straps avoid back strain and provide go-anywhere flexibility.
  • Durable: 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. 

You must be prepared with necessary survival supplies so you and your family can survive without power, water, and food in the days following a destructive tornado.

Be Prepared for Nature’s Most Violent Storms

Emergency preparedness protects not only yourself but your family and loved ones. Since LifeSecure’s inception, we’ve helped secure over a million lives with our vast selection of emergency kits.

Whether it’s tornado preparedness or planning for blackouts, LifeSecure is here to help you Live Life Secure™.

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.