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Tornado Safety Information

Tornado Safety Information

Tornado Facts
Safety Questions
Tornado Safety Areas
Tornado Warning Information

 Tornado Facts

  • Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, but in this area, most occur in March through May.
  • Tornadoes can occur at any hour, but are most likely to hit between 3 P.M. and 9 P.M.
  • Tornadoes usually come from the southwest and go northeast, but sometimes they move in other directions.
  • About 69% of tornadoes are weak (winds less than 110 mph) and produce little damage or injury.
  • About 29% are strong (winds 110-205 mph) and account for 30% of all tornado deaths.
  • Only about 2% are violent (winds greater than 205 mph) but they account for 70% of tornado deaths.

Safety Questions

  • If you are in your car and hear about an approaching tornado, would a highway underpass be a safe place to park and wait out the storm?

No, it would probably not be a safe place because of the debris that could be flying through the underpass. If you cannot drive at right angles from the tornadoe's movement, abandon your vehicle and take cover in a ditch, depression or culvert. If you cannot drive at a right angle to it, never try to outrun it. Although it is sometimes possible to escape, many people have been killed in cars while trying to outrun a tornado. FEMA and NOAA recommend that you not try to drive away from a tornado, even if you can travel at a right angle to it, because tornadoes can change directions quickly and their paths are unpredictable. (If you see a tornado and it looks like it is not moving to the left or right, it is probably moving either away from you or towards you).

A word of caution: If you seek cover in a culvert or ditch and it is raining, flash flooding may be more dangerous than the tornado in some areas; but lying flat in a ditch or low-lying area may be the only thing available.

  • If a tornado is approaching, should a window or two be opened to equalize pressure?

Opening a window to equalize pressure is usually ineffective in reducing damage. It also lets damaging winds enter the structure.

  • Do building really "explode" from the low pressure generated from a tornado passing overhead?

Not really. Most structural damage is caused by violent winds and debris slamming into the building.

Tornado Saftey Areas

Dunbar Building

Top Floor
General information: If at all possible, always avoid the top floor of any building during a major storm. Also avoid areas with windows or glass. Evacuate to the lower floors.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Stairwell, across from room 119
  • Hallway, by rooms D115-127 (as close to the middle as possible)
  • Restrooms, across from room 125
  • Stairwell, across from room 127
  • Areas listed below

Second Floor
General information: Avoid the hallway because of the glass and office areas with exterior windows.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • In the interior rooms that back to the hallway in the Student Services areas. (Avoid the Financial Aid room on the end because of the glass window wall)
  • In the interior area in front of the Business Office Cashier window
  • Vault room
  • In the interior area by the Center for New Student Admissions. As far from the exterior window walls as possible)
  • In the restrooms by the mail room
  • Interior hall, between rooms D119 and D125
  • Areas listed above

Ground Floor
General information: (Avoid the Student Lounge area across from the Bookstore and all exterior rooms with glass window walls).

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms
  • Vending machine hall
  • Food serving line area
  • Hallway, by stairwell and under stairwell
  • Bookstore, office and storage room
  • Faculty Dinning Room
  • Areas listed above


General Information: Unfortunately, buildings with wide-span roofs frequently suffer heavy damage from tornadoes and are some of the least suitable shelters. However, there are still some areas in these structures that are relatively safe. As in other buildings, avoid areas with glass window-walls. Evacuate the top floor, Wellness Center and gym playing area.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Storage area on lower level. (Storage room door is near the men's locker room)
  • Tunnel-ways on ground floor
  • Restrooms on lower level
  • Former music practice rooms
  • Locker rooms
  • Stairwells

Technology Building

Speaking from a safety point of view, this building provides a good number of relatively safe areas to go to in the event of a tornado.

Top Floor
If a tornado warning is given, the top floor should be evacuated.

  • Seek shelter on the middle or ground floors.

Middle Floor
If a tornado warning is given, evacuate all offices and rooms that have exterior windows.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms
  • Hallways
  • Interior rooms that do not have windows

Ground Floor
If a tornado warning is given, evacuate all offices and rooms that have exterior windows.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms
  • Hallways
  • Stairwells
  • Interior rooms that do not have windows


General information: The Library is fairly well designed, as far a libraries go; but it obviously was not built to serve as a good storm shelter....too much glass, large open spans, relatively few interior rooms, no basement, higher elevation, etc. There are, however, a few areas that offer protection.

Top Floor
If a tornado warning is given, the top floor should be evacuated, including the Center for Teaching Arts and Technology.

  • Seek shelter on the ground floor.

Ground Floor
If a tornado warning is given, evacuate the reading areas and other rooms with large exterior windows.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms
  • Hallway by restrooms
  • Stairwell by elevator
  • Technical Services Rooms (work rooms and workroom storage area) behind circulation counter
  • Hallway area that leads to loading dock

O'Brien Building

General information: The theatre's wide span roof structure makes it unsuitable as a tornado shelter. Other unsuitable areas include the stage, work shop areas. The main entrance lobby is also unsafe because of the glass window-walls.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Dressing rooms
  • Hallway by dressing rooms
  • Lower hallway by stage entrance, opposite end as far from glass as possible.

Top Floor
General information: The top floor of most buildings are not as safe as the ground floor and should not be used for shelter unless there is no space available on the ground floor or if there is not enough time to reach it. If this is the case, seek shelter in the areas shown below. Classrooms, offices and other rooms with windows are not safe and should be evacuated. Avoid the stairwells because of the window-walls.

Seek shelter in the following areas if none is available on the ground floor or if there is not enough time to reach the ground floor.

  • Restrooms across from O-206
  • Restrooms by O-229
  • The Art Gallery, room O-225 (Avoid window and keep blinds closed)
  • Hallway between rooms O-225 and O-211 (Close doors by room O-227)

Ground Floor
General information: If a tornado warning is given, evacuate offices, classrooms and other rooms that have exterior windows. Avoid stairwells because of the window-walls.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms across from Rehearsal Room
  • Hallway by practice rooms
  • Practice rooms
  • Hallway by Music Library
  • Music Library, room O-121
  • Piano Lab, room O-120
  • Hallway by Computer Art Lab. (Move to end of hall, as far from the window as possible)
  • Restrooms across from the Alumni Office

Expo Center

General information: The wide span of the roof makes the Expo Center and its related structures unsafe shelters in the event of a tornado.

If time permits, occupants should seek shelter elsewhere. (The adjacent Physical Plant Building has some relatively safe areas). If unable to evacuate the center, seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Restrooms
  • Tunnel way entrances to arena
  • Ticket booth
  • Show Office

Physical Plant Building

General information: Most areas of the building do not provide suitable shelter in the event of a tornado. However, the concrete reinforced areas under the mezzanine provide the best protection. Avoid the shop service bays, the boiler rooms, upper mezzanine, offices with windows, outside trailers and the equipment storage shed.

Seek shelter in the following areas:

  • Custodial Supply Room
  • Maintenance Supervisor's Office
  • Restrooms

Tornado Warning Information

Here is some general information about what to do when you receive notice that a tornado warning has been issued. Notification will be provided by security guards, physical plant staff and/or other college employees.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

What to do?

  1. Immediately vacate your office, classroom or work area and proceed to a place of greater safety, closing doors behind you. (If you are instructing a class at the time, tell students to follow you to a safer location).
  2. Avoid the top floors of buildings, elevators, lobbies, gymnasiums, auditoriums, theaters, and similar places with wide span roofs. Avoid areas with windows or glass window-walls.
  3. Move to the lowest floor of the building and to inner hallways or rooms, restrooms, stairwells or other areas that are directly supported and free of windows and glass. Try to put as many walls as possible between yourself and the tornado.
  4. If possible, use heavy furniture, such as a large desk or table to shield yourself from debris or a collapsed roof. (People who get under something usually survive). Get behind a counter if one is available. If wearing a heavy jacket or have access to a blanket or mat, use it to cover the upper body and head. Lie flat or crouch on your knees with your head down and use your arms to protect the head and neck.
  5. Wait patiently and calmly until your receive the all-clear message or are sure the tornado has passed. If the building was not damaged, resume normal activities.
  6. If the building was damaged and there were injuries, provide assistance to others until help arrives.

While the above information is not all-encompassing, it should go along way to improve your chances of surviving a tornado.

Roane State Community College
276 Patton Lane
Harriman, TN 37748-5011

(865) 354-3000 or toll free 866-462-7722
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