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Preparedness Messages

Disaster can strike quickly, without warning. Your health department, other local officials, and relief workers have plans in place for a variety of possible emergencies. Do you? Valuable information can also be found on the following websites: Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) or Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Severe Weather Hazards

There are a number of severe weather hazards that affect Illinois, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning, floods and flash floods, damaging winds and large hail. Severe weather hazards can cause extensive property damage, injury or death.


  • Most tornado damage paths in Illinois are less than 100 yards wide and a couple of miles long. However, the path can be up to a mile wide and more than 60 miles long.

  • Most Illinois tornadoes occur between April 1 and June 30 between the hours of 3 pm and 10 pm, but they have occurred in every month of the year at all hours of the day.

  • There is an average of 44 tornadoes per year in Illinois.

  • Nearly 30% of all tornadoes in Illinois occur after dark. It is CRITICAL that homes and businesses have someone monitor severe weather conditions — especially at night. A weather radio is an excellent way to do this.

Recommended Actions for Severe Weather

By becoming familiar with and implementing the following recommended actions you and your family will be better prepared.

Before a Tornado

Know the terms used to describe tornado threats:

Tornado Watch — Tornadoes are possible.
Watch the sky and listen to the radio or television for more information. Be prepared to take shelter. If you see any rotating funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by telephone to your local law enforcement agency. If you live in a mobile home, this is the time to move to a more substantial structure.

Tornado Warning — A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
The storms may also produce damaging downburst winds in excess of 60 mph and/or hailstones one inch or larger. Take shelter immediately! Turn on a battery-operated radio or television and wait for updated information for your area.

  • It is critical that someone at home, work, or wherever people gather, monitors weather conditions, regardless of the time of day! Don't rely completely on outdoor warning sirens — especially if you're asleep!.

  • Determine the best location in your home and office to seek shelter when threatened by a tornado. A basement or cellar will usually afford the best protection. If an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest level. Closets, small interior hallways, and bathrooms without windows are the best areas.

  • Conduct periodic tornado safety drills at home AND at work. Decide how and where everyone will gather prior to, and after the storm.

  • Learn how to shut off the utilities to your home.

  • If you live in a mobile home, identify a safe shelter outside of your mobile home such as a community park shelter, a neighbor or friend's house, or a nearby public building.

  • Consider retrofitting your house with special fasteners, connectors and reinforcing bands to strengthen the structural integrity.

During a Tornado

Take the following actions when a Tornado Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, when sirens have been activated, or when a tornado has been sighted near your area.

At Home

  • Go immediately to your predetermined shelter (storm cellar, basement or the lowest level of the building). In a basement, go under the stairs, under a heavy piece of furniture or a work bench. Stay there until the danger has passed.

  • If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.

  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

  • Go to the center of the home. Outside windows and walls may be penetrated by high speed, wind-borne objects.

  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table, and hold onto it.

  • Use pillows, mattresses or cushions to protect your head and neck.

  • If in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter elsewhere well before the storm arrives. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions are taken to tie down the unit. If there isn't a substantial shelter nearby, go to a low-lying area, and shield your head with your hands.

In a School, Nursing Home, Hospital, Shopping Center or Workplace

  • Go to the designated storm shelter, basement or to an indside hallway on the lowest level.

  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums and large hallways. Stay away from windows and open spaces.

  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench, heavy table or desk, and hold onto it. If sturdy furniture is not available, make yourself the smallest target possible. Squat low to the ground. Put your head down and cover your head and neck with your hands.

  • If in a high-rise building, go to small, interior rooms or hallways on the lowest level possible and seek protection as detailed above. Stay away from windows and outside walls.


  • If possible, get inside a substantial building, on the lowest floor — away from windows and doors.

  • If indoor shelter is not available, or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or culvert. Use your arms to protect your head and neck. Stay aware of the potential for flash flooding.

In a Vehicle

  • Do NOT park under a bridge or overpass!

  • Get out of the vehicle immediately and try to take shelter in a nearby building.

  • Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Heavy rain, hail, and traffic may impede your movement. Tornadoes can change directions quickly and can easily lift up a vehicle and toss it through the air.

  • If there isn't time to get indoors, get out of the vehicle and lie in a ditch, culvert or low-lying area away from the vehicle.

After a Tornado

  • Monitor the radio or television for emergency information or instructions.

  • Be extremely careful in areas of downed power lines or natural gas leaks. Wear adequate footwear to avoid cuts from broken glass or nails protruding from boards.

  • Check for injured victims. Render first aid if necessary.

  • Check on neighbors or relatives who may require special assistance.

  • Do not attempt to move severely injured victims unless absolutely necessary. Wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive.

  • Exit damaged buildings. Re-enter only if absolutely necessary using great caution.

  • Take photos or video of the damage to your home and property.

  • If driving, be alert for hazards on the roadway.

  • If unaffected by the tornado, stay out of the damaged area until local officials allow entry. Your presence may hamper emergency operations.

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