Illinois Severe Weather Preparedness Week: How to react to a tornado warning

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Would you know what to do if a tornado warning was issued for where you live?

The destructive, strong tornadoes that ripped through parts of Nashville this week serve as a reminder that severe weather and tornadoes can strike anywhere and at any time.

We are entering the time of year when severe weather becomes more favorable in Illinois so now is the perfect time to go over your severe weather safety plan.

Ensure you have weather safety procedures at home, work, school, place of worship, on the road, and elsewhere. There are three basic things everyone in your home or business should know:

1. Pick a Spot.
Find a safe, interior room, preferably the lowest level in the building, and let everyone know that's where they should go during severe weather.

2. How to get in touch.
Everyone should know how to reach one another afterwards. In disasters, texting is often better than calling.

3. Choose a "Meet Up Spot."
It's a good idea to have a standard meet up spot that everyone knows.

Know where to go when sheltering from a tornado. Your basement or underground storm shelter is the safest place, and remember to bring your emergency supply kit. If you don't have a basement, move to an interior room with no windows. An interior bathroom or under a stairwell would offer the best protection.

Stay away from top floors that will not protect you. Exterior rooms and rooms with windows also do not protect you. No place outside is safe from a tornado.

Tornado Terminology:

Tornado Watch: Weather Conditions could lead to the formation of severe storms and tornadoes. Be prepared! Know your safe location. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.

Tornado Warning: A Tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar, meaning a tornado is expected soon. Take action! There is imminent danger to life and property. Immediately seek refuge in the safest location possible.

Tornado Emergency: An exceedingly rare situation with a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage due to a confirmed violent tornado. Take action! There is imminent danger to life and property. Immediately seek refuge in the safest location possible.

When a Tornado Watch is issued, make sure the following items are stored in your safe place:

  • Helmets, pillows, or even a mattress to protect your head from falling debris.


  • Shoes to protect your feet from broken glass or other sharp objects.


  • A whistle or noise-making device to signal for help after the storm passes.


  • Baby formula, diapers, and other necessary items for your children.


  • Pet carriers, leashes, and other pet supplies.


Remember, densely populated areas are every bit as susceptible to tornado strikes and recent years have shown this. Violent tornadoes such as the ones that have hit Nashville (2020), Tuscaloosa, Ala. (2011), St. Louis (2011), and Moore, Okla. (2013) have occurred in the area including Belvidere, Lake Zurich, & Oak Lawn (1967) and Plainfield (1990). Tornadoes can and do happen in cities such as Chicago.
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