Tornado Tips for Parents: How to Help Kids

Cousins 5-year-old Colton and 10 year-old Codey stand in front of what was once their home in Bethel Acres, Oklahoma. It was demolished during the EF-5 tornado on May 20, 2013. Colton and Codey participated in the Save the Children child friendly space and attend the YMCA summer camp funded by Save the Children.

Support Our U.S Programs

Tornadoes are more common in the United States than any other country in the world. A tornado is a weather phenomenon that occurs when warm air meets cold air and results in a spinning vortex of air. Tornadoes have been documented in every state, although some regions and states are far more prone to being affected.

“Disasters can cause fear, anxiety and stress in children that can last long after the initial impact,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children. “That’s why we have to do everything we can to help children and families prepare and minimize the negative effects of traumatizing events on children, who are the most vulnerable during emergencies, and provide the support they need.”

We’re providing disaster preparedness tips to help parents across America keep their children safe when tornadoes strike.

10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe in a Tornado


  1. Talk about tornadoes. Spend time as a family discussing tornadoes. Explain that a tornado is a natural event, like rain, and not anyone’s fault. Use simple words that young children can understand.
  2. Know the signs of a tornado. Tornadoes can form quickly, and often before an official warning can be issued. Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds; large hail, cloud of debris or funnel clouds; roaring noise. Teach these signs to your children, should they have to respond without you.
  3. Learn about caregivers’ disaster plans. If you child’s school or child care center is in an area that could be hit by a tornado, learn its emergency plan. Review these details with your child.
  4. Practice tornado drills. As a family, practice what to do in a tornado. Have everyone go to your safe place as quickly as possible. Practicing what to do helps reduce the time it takes to respond in a true emergency.

  6. Seek shelter. The safest place in a home is the interior part of a basement. If possible, get under something sturdy, like a heavy table. If you do not have a basement or storm cellar, consider an interior room of your house without any windows, such as a bathroom or closet. It’s important to stay on the lowest floor of your home.
  7. If outside, seek cover. If you are outside, in a vehicle or live in a mobile home, take shelter. Seek a safe place in a designated shelter or nearby sturdy building. If there is no safe building nearby, life flat in a low spot on the ground and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  8. Wear a helmet for extra protection. Families should always go to a tornado shelter or safe room first. But, if one isn’t available and you must take cover outside, wearing a helmet may provide additional protection.

  10. Stay informed. After a tornado, continue listening to the radio or TV for updates and instructions.
  11. Involve children in recovery. Once it’s safe and the tornado has passed, include your children in clean-up activities if it is safe to do so. Help people who are in need of assistance while being cautious of dangers such as downed power lines or damaged buildings.
  12. Listen to children.Encourage your child to express feelings of fear, and listen attentively when they do so. Show understanding and offer reassurance. Tell your child the situation is not permanent and provide physical reassurance through time spent together and displays of affection.

Download 10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe in a Tornado

For other emergency preparedness tips visit:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Google+ More