Tornadoes occur on every continent, except for Antarctica. Unfortunately for those of us living in the United States, our nation has the highest incidence of tornados in the world. Due to America’s size, central flat lands, and intersecting weather patterns, the conditions exist for tornados to be a common and frequent occurrence. Though the area known as “Tornado Alley,” which comprises Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Texas is most associated with this destructive weather phenomenon, only Kansas ranks in the top-five states with the highest average tornados per 10,000 sq. mi. from 1991–2010, according to the National Climactic Data Center. The other four? Illinois, South Carolina, Maryland, and Florida, which holds the top spot. My point is: Just because you don’t live on the plains doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for unpredictable spring tornadoes. Here’s how to pick shelter spots in your home and stay alert to this hazard.

Stay Informed
Tornados can happen any day (or night) of the year. Keep a NOAA weather radio in your home, with loud alert tones to signal of local weather emergency. You might also be able to set up weather alerts on your mobile phone.

Shelter In Place
If you’re in a house with a basement, head on down and crawl under some kind of sturdy protection. This could be a heavy table, work bench, or the like. Be aware of the location of heavy objects (refrigerators, waterbeds, pianos, etc.) on the floor above the basement, and don’t shelter under those spots. Stay away from windows and sliding glass doors. Keep some drinking water and shelf-stable food nearby, too, in case the area is decimated.

If you’re in a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment, the first thing you need to do is stay away from the windows. Go to a bathroom, closet, or a space under the stairs on the lowest floor. Failing that, get to an interior hallway with no windows. Alternately, jumping into a bath tub may offer partial protection, but cover up with some sort of thick padding like a mattress or several blankets, to cushion you from flying debris.

In a church, theater, mall, or large store, seek shelter as quickly as possible in an interior bathroom, storage room, or some similar small enclosed area. Again, this should also be away from any windows.

Assume The Position
To protect yourself further while sheltering, crouch low with your face pointed down. Cover your head with your hands. If you have a helmet of any kind, wear it for protection against head injury. Wrap up in blankets or sleeping bags to pad against bodily injury or drag a mattress on top of you.

Have you ever lived through a twister? What did you do? Please tell us your story in the comments.