Where to go in your home during a tornado if you don't have a storm shelter

TULSA - Weather preparedness experts say the best place you can be during a tornado is in a storm shelter, but not everyone has one.

If you don't have a storm shelter at your home, check out these suggestions from the director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency.

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"It is coming. We will have severe weather this spring. People need to prepare for it now."

That's the first bit of advice from TAEMA Director Roger Jolliff.

"Be it at home, be at work or be at places you frequent, you need to know what your best options are now. So your decision then can be reactionary, not trying to create a plan at that time," Jolliff said.

Outside of a storm shelter, Jolliff says the best place you can go is down to your basement.

Basements are the next best line of defense because the structure above blocks flying debris.

"Keep in mind, these winds can get up to 300 miles per hour in a tornado, and in those winds it could be carrying bricks and other debris, flying glass that, you know, will harm you or kill you so you need to do what you can to avoid that flying debris," he explained.

Jolliff acknowledges that there aren't a lot of basements in Tulsa, which is why he places particular emphasis on your next best options.

"We encourage people to go to small interior rooms, away from windows."

Examples include bathrooms, closets and small interior hallways. Jolliff also advises staying out of and away from larger rooms like bedrooms or living rooms because they're more likely to suffer a structure collapse and typically have larger windows or a greater number of windows.

Closets, Jolliff says, are really your best bet if you don't have a basement.

"A closet would be better because it's a smaller room with more structure around you. Less chance for debris to hit you," he said.

Wherever you seek shelter, Jolliff says you can bolster your protection by covering yourself with blankets, sleeping bags or even a small mattress. That added layer could be the difference in debris hitting you.

In addition to knowing which area of the house you'll go with your family, Jolliff says it's also important to know what you'll be wearing if a tornado hits your home.

"Don't be too proud to put on a jacket, put on a coat, put on a bicycle helmet or a motorcycle helmet to protect your head. You want to have your shoes on because typically after tornados have hit, the area has lots of debris, lots of things to cut your feet on."

Next, as part of your preparedness plan, Jolliff says you should have what he calls a "Go-Bag" ready to grab when the sirens sound.

Included in this Go-Bag are necessities like water, food, a flashlight, batteries and medicine. He also suggests adding important documents like pertinent medical information that you might need but cannot access if your home is damaged or destroyed.

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Jolliff says homeowners should also know how to shut off utilities, have a plan for pets and get in touch with neighbors about their plans.

Finally, Jolliff says Tulsans have become complacent when it comes to "the big one."

"It's easy to look at the other communities getting hit and think, 'Well it's not going to hit us.' It's just a matter of time. We will be hit by a major tornado," he said, which is why Jolliff says it's so important to be proactive now in creating your plan for when severe weather strikes.


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