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Campus Emergency Management: National Safety Month, Tornado Awareness


Spring is considered tornado season for much of the United States, but tornadoes can occur any time of the year, day or night.

About 1,200 strike in the United States each year, and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tornadoes have resulted in an annual average of 70 fatalities from 1987 to 2016 (the most recent data available). Twisters also have been recorded in all 50 states.

In the case of a Tornado Watch:


  • A tornado watch means that weather conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado.
  • Stay alert for changing weather conditions and be prepared to take action.
  • Be alert to changes in local weather.

Beginning or During:

  • Move inside a building.
  • Check local weather for updates (using weather radio, Web, or TV).
  • Plan for what you will do if a Warning is issued.
  • Plan for what you will do if you are in a class when a Warning is issued.
  • Make sure you have a way of knowing when a warning is issued.
  • Listen for Sirens, which indicate a warning.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Stay calm.

In the case of a Tornado Warning:


  • A tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.
  • Under no circumstances should you be outside during a tornado warning.
  • Building personnel should listen for the emergency sirens. Weather conditions should be monitored in administrative offices.
  • Laboratories will need to be secured (by turning off gas burners or other laboratory equipment which could cause additional health and safety concerns) if a warning is issued.
  • Have portable radio and flashlight and other emergency supplies.
  • During the spring season, tornado sirens are tested Wednesdays at noon. The tests last for thirty seconds. In the event that the siren sounds on a Wednesday morning for longer than thirty seconds, you should initiate tornado protection procedures.  Sirens are not tested during a Tornado Watch or threatening weather.

Beginning or During:

  • At the first sound of a siren you should seek shelter immediately on the lowest level and toward the center of a building away from windows (for example, interior classrooms, offices, or corridors) and remain there until the Tornado Warning has expired.
  • Take immediate action.
  • Secure laboratories by turning off gas burners or other laboratory equipment which could cause additional health and safety concerns.
  • Keep hallways clear by standing against the wall. When a tornado approaches, all individuals should assume kneeling position facing the wall with heads bent down.
  • The following areas should be considered “off limits” during a tornado evacuation:
    • Near outside doors
    • Any location on the upper floors of buildings
    • Any outside area
    • Near windows
  • Stay calm.
  • Stay in the designated area in the building.
  • Do not leave the shelter area until the sirens have stopped sounding for at least 5 minutes.


  • If buildings are damaged, stay out of the disaster area.
  • Do NOT use telephones except in life-threatening emergencies.


Scott Campbell, Campus Emergency Management and Safety Officer

Safety Office – Facilities

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

201 East Street, Room 209

Memphis, TN, 38163

Email: Scampb62@uthsc.edu

(901) 448-1334 (W)

(504) 377-2619 (C)