Tornadoes can happen anytime, anywhere, with little or no warning. Knowing what to do when seconds count can save lives.  The best way to prepare is to hold your own drill in your school, home or place of business.

Designate one or more people in your home/school/organization to coordinate your drill and have them follow the steps below:

Before the drill

  • Before the drill, make sure that everyone is aware that you are having a tornado drill, that they understand what will take place during the drill and that they know the safest places to be during a tornado.
    • The safest place typically is a building’s basement away from windows.  If there is no basement, go to a windowless interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hall on the lowest level of the building

    During the drill

    • Announce the start of the drill by using a P.A. system or having someone alert staff.  Do this by going room to room and floor by floor of your building.
    • People should act as though a tornado warning has been issued for the immediate area or a tornado has been sighted near the building.  They should evacuate as quickly as possible to the nearest safe place.  Use stairs to reach the lowest level of a building; avoid using elevators.
    • In a real tornado emergency, once people reach safe areas they would crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover their heads with their hands.  Ensure that everyone knows this.
    • After all employees have evacuated, the coordinator can announce that the tornado has passed and the drill is over.  Participants can then return to their tasks.

    After the drill

    • The coordinator should document any necessary changes in the evacuation procedure.
      • Do more safe areas need to be identified?
      • Are some safe areas cluttered and need to be cleaned out to be more accessible?
      • Does everyone know the fastest routes to take to safe areas?
      • Is a better method for letting everyone know of an approaching tornado needed?

    If you have questions or concerns about conducting a tornado drill, please contact the Virginia Department of Emergency Management  at (804) 897-6500 or write to pio@vdem.virginia.gov.