Severe Weather Preparedness Episode 2: Safe vs. Unsafe Shelter Options

Knowing where to go when severe weather strikes, no matter where you are, is crucial. When you don’t have to think twice about whether or not the area you are going to is safe, will save you time when you have to take action.

By Hope Kleitsch

When in your home:

  • Get to the lowest level
    • No basement?
      • Get to the most interior part of your home. You want as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • Stay away from all windows and doors
  • Be sure that you have shoes on and use blankets, helmets, mattresses to shield yourself from flying debris

Safe places in your home:

  • Basement
  • Under the stairs
  • Bathrooms that do not have an exterior wall
  • Interior closets
  • Interior hallways 

Places to avoid:

  • Anywhere with windows
  • Rooms with exterior walls
  • Top floors

Public (restaurants, stores, businesses):

  • Most public places will have a plan in place, but it is essential that you have an idea of what to do and where to go
  • Get to the lowest level
  • Seek a backroom or somewhere that has more barriers from the outside
  • Get down and cover your head 

Typical safe places:

  • Coolers
  • Stock rooms
  • Back offices

Places to avoid:

  • Large open areas
  • Rooms with windows
  • Top floors
  • Rooms with exterior walls


  • Get to the lowest level
  • Seek shelter in windowless hallways
  • Get to an interior bathroom
  • Get down and cover your head
    • This can be with your hands or textbooks

Safe places in schools:

  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Hallways with no windows

Places to avoid:

  • Rooms with windows
  • Top floors

On the road or outside:

  • Stay tuned to a local radio station or NOAA radio for the latest information

Safe places while on the road:

    • Ideally, you want to find the nearest building
      • This can include gas stations, restaurants, stores, rest stops, etc. 
        • See the public section to see what to do upon your arrival
    • If there are no public places around, seek a low lying area or ditch
      • Try to get as low as possible
      • Lie flat and protect your head
  • This is a last resort option!

Places to avoid:

  • Your vehicle
  • Standing under a tree