Skip to main content

Tornado Watch: Where to take shelter

Today, central North Carolina is under a tornado watch for much of the day.  If a tornado strikes, where will you take shelter?

In a severe storm or tornado, the safest place to be is inside a building. “Sheltering in place” means to make a shelter out of the place you are in to protect yourself until help arrives.

Usually, you will know if a “shelter in place” policy is in effect through the news media, the Emergency Alert System, warning sirens or horns, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) weather reports, and announcements from vehicles equipped with public address systems.

Once a shelter in place is called, immediately go inside, bring your children and animals, and close and lock all doors and windows.

Generally, you should choose a room in your home with as few windows and doors as possible. For a tornado, choose a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.

Ideally, your safe room should have a minimum of 10 square feet of floor space per person to allow people to stay inside for at least five hours when sealed. A laptop, cell phone, radio, flashlight,, water, food, snacks and important supplies, such as diapers, prescription medications  and a first aid supply should also be readily available.

The length of time you have to stay put can be short or long, depending on the length and severity of the emergency. However, it is important to stay in shelter until the local authorities say it’s safe to leave. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Hopefully, this weather disturbance will pass without spawning tornadoes, but  inclement weather is top of mind today and Setember is National Emergency Preparedness Month, so now is a great time to make and review a tornado emergency plan with your family, build a kit, and stay informed.  A 14-day emergency supply list can be found at or

Need to know the difference between a watch and a warning, reference our previous blog post.  Tornado Watch or Warning – When do you seek shelter?

For current updates, visit WRAL-TV.

Barb Bisset is the executive director of the WakeMed Emergency Services Insitute.