Is A Crawlspace Safe During A Tornado? – How Else You Can Stay Safe


Last Updated on July 25, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas

No, a crawlspace is not safe during a tornado. It is one of the least safe places to be during severe weather events. Tornadoes can easily cause damage to structures, including crawlspaces, leaving occupants vulnerable to flying debris and collapsing walls. Seek proper shelter in a tornado-safe area instead.

Is A Crawlspace Safe During A Tornado?

Tornadoes are unpredictable natural disasters that are capable of causing extensive damage. Therefore, it becomes crucial to have safe places during such emergencies. A crawlspace is often debated as a potential shelter during a tornado. This listicle presents a comprehensive breakdown to understand the safety of a crawlspace during a tornado.

1. Limited Protection:

Crawlspaces offer limited protection during a tornado. While they may provide a shield against flying debris, their design doesn’t account for extreme pressures and high-speed winds that tornadoes bring along.

2. Structural Integrity:

The safety of a crawlspace largely depends on its structural integrity. If the crawlspace is insufficiently reinforced or has a weak structure, it may collapse under the force of a tornado, creating a risky situation rather than a safe hide-out.

3. Exposed Pipes and Wires:

Crawlspaces often house crucial elements of a home, such as plumbing and electrical wiring. In the event of a tornado, these elements may get damaged and pose significant hazards, including electrocution or flooding.

4. Creepy Crawlies and Pests:

Crawlspaces are typically infamous for harboring pests and insects. In emergency situations like a tornado, these unwanted creatures may add to the discomfort and stress, making crawlspaces less safe and less welcoming.

5. Accessibility Issues:

A key factor in a safe shelter during a tornado is its easy accessibility. With their typically cramped design and sometimes challenging entry points, crawlspaces might not provide such accessibility, especially for elderly people or those with mobility issues.

6. Lack of Amenities:

Crawlspaces do not typically provide the necessary amenities—such as sources of clean water, food storage, or sanitary facilities—that are important during a prolonged stay in case of severe and long-lasting tornadoes.

7. Damp and Unhealthy Conditions:

Many crawlspaces tend to suffer from damp conditions due to poor ventilation and water leaks. This can lead to mold growth, which poses serious health risks, especially in a confined space during an emergency like a tornado.

Structural IntegrityPotentially Risky
Presence of AmenitiesNone

While a crawlspace might offer initial protection, it is evident that it is not the safest option during a tornado. The best practice would be to develop and follow a severe weather safety plan that includes reaching a safe room built to FEMA standards or a small, windowless interior room on the lowest level of your house, if possible. No safety guarantee can be absolute during natural disasters, therefore always heed official weather warnings and stay updated on local weather news.

Crucial Safety Tips During A Tornado

Some safety tips are helpful for you and your family during a tornado. These include;


Preparedness is crucial for safety during a tornado, and you can do the following;

  • Always get the latest emergency weather information. Ensure that you have a battery-operated radio, TV, or internet-enabled equipment to listen to news alerts.
  • Have an emergency plan such as access to a safe place where your family, pets, and everyone in your house can move to.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. Have non-perishable food and drinks, water, and medication for the family. 
  • Organize a list of crucial information such as telephone contacts or email addresses of people you may want to contact in case of an emergency. 
  • Educate your children about tornados and the signs to look for. Since warnings are generally issued by parish or county, let your children know their county or parish. Make sure they also know the safe locations in schools or at home

Be Conversant With Weather Changes

To stay safe from a tornado, be familiar with any weather changes in your area. Ensure that you listen to any news release from NOAA weather radio or local TV & radio for weather information. Some tornados may strike so fast that there will be no time for warning. But, you may look out for;

  • A green-colored or dark sky
  • A roar like that of a freight train
  • A large hail 
  • A voluminous dark, low-lying cloud

A sign of any of the above conditions requires you to look for safe accommodation immediately. Be alert for any news on a possible tornado strike. Stay tuned to your local television, radio, or NOAA weather radio. You can also check the internet for any information. 

Look For A Safer Location

While there is no safe place during a tornado, some areas are more dangerous than others. Look for a place where you can take shelter from flying and falling debris, as these are the primary causes of deaths during a tornado. Some of the preferable areas include;

  • A basement or an inner lower room with no windows 
  • Hide under a sturdy item such as a heavy workbench or table. Cover your body with a mattress, or a blanket, or get into a sleeping bag. Ensure that your head is well protected. 
  • Avoid going to a room with windows if possible
  • Do not hide in a mobile room

Which Is The Most Dangerous Place To Be During A Tornado?

One of the most dangerous places and to avoid during a tornado is inside a car. Since objects are lofted and circulated in the air during a tornado at high speeds, being inside a car would make you more vulnerable. The flying debris can hit you regardless of how far you are from the tornado. The vehicle may also be thrown and crushed by the tornado moving at very high speeds. 

However, if you are caught inside the car, try to do the following;

  • Look for a safe building such as a gas station or a convenience store and take shelter
  • Move at right angles from the tornado if you can see it from a distance (for example, drive south if the tornado is going towards the east)
  • Leave your car, look for a ditch, get in and cover your head if there is no safe building nearby
  • If it is not possible to get into a low-lying place or a ditch on time, then you can fasten your seat belt and cover your head
  • Avoid sheltering in an overpass as the winds may enter there and speed up

What To Do When You Have No Shelter Or A Basement During A Tornado

If you have no basement or a shelter to hide during a tornado, you can do any of the following to stay safe;

Take A Shelter At A Friend’s Place

If you have no basement or shelter in your home, you may talk to a friend about moving to their place. If your pal agrees to your request, ensure that you carry enough water and food to last your family and you a few days. Do not leave behind your emergency kit and any documents which you feel are necessary. Be sure to carry some rechargeable batteries to help in emergency radios or flashlights. 

Compile a list of family members or friends with a safe refuge and include their phone numbers and names. Post the list on a visible site such as a cupboard door. Inform all family members where to find the list, when they need to call, and give directions for each location. 

Move To A Community Storm Shelter

Some regions have storm community shelters that come in handy during a tornado. Ensure that you make a list of all accommodations in your area and indicate the easiest route to get there. Find out about the regulations of each shelter, (for example, if they allow pets or not), if you need to carry water & snacks. Do not wait until the last minute since most of these places fill up very fast. 

Be ready for some slight discomfort since most shelters are sweaty and cramped. They may also have kids who are bored or frightened. 

Go To Churches, Large Stores, Or Libraries

Some public buildings have safe areas or storm shelters where their customers and employees can hide during an emergency. Such places include libraries, churches, large stores, and malls. You can speak to their manager to find out the requirements for allowing the public to access these facilities. 

If this becomes your best option, you can go there before the storm begins. Do not ignore the fact that a tornado may strike at night when public places are closed. 

What To Do When You Choose To Stay In Your House During A Tornado

Sometimes it may not be possible to move to a friend’s or a public place to take shelter due to lack of adequate warning. You may also decide that you want to face it out in your home together with your family members. Whatever your reason for staying put is, there is a need for proper preparations to stay safe. 

Follow these guidelines 

  • Do not stay upstairs but move to the ground floor
  • Ensure that there are several walls between you and the outside. You can do this by moving to the middle of the structure. 
  • Avoid exterior walls, doors, and windows.
  • Be in a tiny space as much as possible. Some of the best places would be in your closet, bathrooms, or under stair storage areas. 

Which Are The Top Worst States For Tornadoes

According to IIS (the Insurance Information Institute) and NWS (National Weather Services), some of the worst-hit states by tornadoes in 2019 include; 


Number of tornadoes (from the highest to the lowest)







Oklahoma (worst hit in April, May, and June)










North Carolina


Ohio (59% occur in May and July)


Do Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Cover Tornado Damages?

Most homeowner insurance policies protect your home from destruction as a result of tornadoes. They also cover damage from debris and fallen trees that may be blown into your property during a storm. Your structure and its contents will also be covered by hazard insurance. This policy is included in the standard homeowner insurance. 

The insurance may also cover the medical bills of your guest if they get injuries on your property. You may also have liability protection if you are found guilty of damages and injuries. It is, however, advisable to find out what your cover includes as some companies may offer inadequate coverage for worst-hit states. 

Besides causing heavy winds, tornadoes may also be accompanied by floods. Homeowners’ Insurance policies cover wind and tornado damages but exclude destruction from the flood. It is advisable, therefore, to purchase a different policy against a flood if you need one. 

How To Protect Your Home From Tornadoes

Besides having a policy for your home for damages against a tornado, you can also take some steps to minimize the destruction. The following tips are helpful;

  • Reinforce your garage with vertical bracing to make it stronger
  • Use hurricane clips to reinforce your home’s roof
  • If any trees or branches are overhanging your roof or are about to break, remove them beforehand
  • Use clips, and plywood to fasten your windows
  • Place all vital documents in waterproof containers and keep them in a secure location.
  • Invest in a room that will act as a safe shelter in the event of a storm


There is no single place with a guarantee of safety during a tornado, but a crawlspace is better than other areas. But, for a crawlspace to be safe, the house above must be built on concrete and not a wooden foundation. There are other places that one can also shelter in, such as bathrooms and closets, but one needs to be careful when choosing where to hide.