Weather Center

Where to Take Shelter During a Natural Disaster

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 10.2.17

Severe weather hits Texas in many different forms, whether you’re in the Panhandle, the Valley, or on the Coast. But here’s what doesn’t change: You should get informed and stay prepared. With advice from the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross, and other experts, you’ll know what to do to stay safe.

Hurricanes

Where to take shelter: You should always heed evacuation orders; if you find yourself in harm’s way, check redcross.org for shelter locations. If you’re at home, stay inside, and avoid the temptation to go out and watch the storm.

What to do in the first three minutes: Stay calm and keep the weather radio on. Stay indoors, but get to higher ground if your home begins to flood.

Myth: You need to protect only windows and doors on the Gulf-facing side of your home.
Fact: Hurricanes rotate. All of that swirling wind and rain means you’ll need to seal all windows and doors on the home. Keep in mind, your property insurance policy will not cover flood-related damage. Flood insurance is available only from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Tornadoes

Where to take shelter: The safest place is the lowest level of your home — a storm cellar or a first-floor, interior room with no windows. Guard yourself against shattered windows, objects, or falling pieces of the building you’re in with blankets, mattresses, mats, or anything that can absorb damage. In a high-rise, go to a hallway. If you’re driving and debris starts flying, pull over and park, with your seat belt fastened, the engine running, and your head covered. 

What to do in the first three minutes: Get to a safe room, if possible, and cover your head.

Myth: Overpasses are great places to shelter during a tornado.
Fact: The worst place to take shelter on the road is under an overpass due to flying debris, traffic hazards, acceleration of already high winds, and the risk of the overpass falling. The safety of being within your car is ultimately an illusion, and your chances of survival increase when taking cover in ditches and lower areas of ground.

Earthquakes

Where to take shelter: Anticipate places at work and at home where you can shelter, including places to hide under and corners on inside walls. If you’re indoors, stay there, avoid doorways, and find a sturdy table or bench to get under. If you’re outdoors, get to an open area, crouch down, and cover your head. If you’re in a car, stop driving; pull over, avoiding utility wires, trees, overpasses, and buildings.

What to do in the first three minutes: Drop to the ground. Cover your head. Hold on to shelter or to your head once you crawl to a safe spot in the room.

Myth: There’s nothing I can do to prepare for an earthquake.
Fact: Experts at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas say securing heavy objects and researching how to shut off utilities can save lives.

Flooding 

Where to take shelter: Higher ground. Don’t wait until it’s too late to leave your residence if flood waters are approaching.

What to do in the first three minutes: Three minutes can mean life or death in a flood. If you’re waiting to decide what to do as flood waters approach, leave for higher ground. Heed evacuation orders, listen to weather updates, and act.

Myth: The most dangerous myth? That you can drive through rushing water.
Fact: Just six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car; 12 inches can carry a car away; two feet can carry away large vehicles. “Turn around, don’t drown” should be your mantra.

Wildfires

Where to take shelter: Follow evacuation orders and research shelters for affected families.

What to do in the first three minutes: Wildfires can move slowly or with windswept fury. Time is of the essence, so listen to reports and prepare to leave quickly. 

Myth: If you live in an urban area, you don’t need to worry about wildfire.
Fact: Wrong. 14,500 communities in Texas have encroached on wildland urban interfaces and are at risk.

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance