Tornado Safety: Staying prepared this tornado season

  • Published
  • By 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Tornadoes are a serious concern in Arkansas as seen by the destruction one laid last year to Little Rock and the surrounding area. As such, you should understand the dangers they pose and the actions you can take to help you and your families remain safe during this year’s tornado season.

The terms watch and warning are used when describing severe weather. If there is a tornado watch, it means the conditions are favorable for a tornado. On the other hand, if there is a tornado warning, this means a tornado has been seen or picked up on radar.

When a tornado warning is issued sirens will be activated both on base (using the “Giant Voice” system) and in the surrounding areas. Another way members of Little Rock AFB will be notified is through Little Rock AFB Command post issuing AtHoc messages to computers and phones via pop-ups, emails, phone calls, and text messages.

Once a weather notification has been sent out, units should follow their internal shelter plans to protect occupants of the facility.

***Important note: All gates to LRAFB will close upon the issuing of a tornado warning (sirens activated). With this in mind, see the locations given below to shelter at if you are caught off base.

Safe Rooms in the City of Jacksonville, Arkansas, are located at Jacksonville Police and Fire Training Facility 1400 Marshall Road Jacksonville, AR, 72076, and the Senior Citizens Center 100 Victory Circle, Jacksonville, AR 72076.



  • Take shelter immediately during a tornado warning (sirens activated). A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is sighted or indicated by weather radar.
  • Take shelter if you see signs of a tornado. Sometimes tornadoes strike quickly, without time for a tornado warning. Signs that a tornado may be approaching include:
    • Rotating funnel-shaped cloud
    • Approaching cloud of debris
    • Dark or green-colored sky
    • Large, dark, low-lying cloud
    • Large hail
    • Loud roar that sounds like a freight train
  • Keep tuned to local radio and TV stations, a NOAA weather radio, or your mobile phone.


If you spot a tornado that is far away, seek shelter and help alert others to the tornado by immediately reporting it to the newsroom of a local radio or TV station. Use common sense and exercise caution.

No one can know a tornado’s strength before it touches down, so keep up with local weather information, especially when thunderstorms are forecasted. Prepare your home and family for the possibility of a tornado. Moving to a shelter quickly is easier when everyone knows where to go, whether in your home or outdoors. Following these tips will give you the best chance for staying safe.



Falling and flying debris causes most injuries and deaths during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.

  • Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (bathroom, closet, center hallway).
  • If possible, avoid sheltering in any room with windows.
  • For added protection, get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench). Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress. Protect your head and neck with anything available – even your arms. 
  • Do not stay in a mobile home.

If you’re in a vehicle, Do NOT try to outrun a tornado. 

  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado. Drive to the closest shelter. The least desirable place to be during a tornado is in a motor vehicle. Cars, buses, and trucks are easily tossed by tornado winds.
  • If you’re unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your vehicle and cover your head and neck or leave your vehicle and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
  • Stay away from highway overpasses and bridges. 

If you live in a mobile home, go to a nearby building.

  • Don’t stay in a mobile home during a tornado. Mobile homes can turn over during strong winds. Even mobile homes with a tie-down system cannot withstand the force of tornado winds.
  • If you live in a mobile home, go to a nearby building, preferably one with a basement.
  • If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert and shield your head with your hands.



  • Gather necessities such as: first-aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, at least three gallons of water per person, protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bags, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, and special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Bring written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. Remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.



MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000-ft. mountain.


MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.

FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.


MYTH: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

FACT: Opening windows allows damaging wind to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.


For a more in depth look at tornado safety, follow this link: how to stay safe during a tornado