Tornado Preparedness Tips

With shifts in extreme weather around the world, facilities teams should include or review emergency preparedness plans for this threat.

On the night of June 20, a tornado touched down in the western suburbs of Chicago. Located about 25 miles southwest of downtown, Woodridge and Naperville were reported to be hardest hit with more than 100 homes damaged by the EF-3 tornado. The Chicago area has seen a number of tornadoes over the past century, with the most devastating in 1990 — when an EF-5 tornado hit Plainfield, IL. As areas around the nation and the world see shifts in extreme weather, tornado preparedness is important to include or review on emergency preparedness plans.

Barry Wood, Director, Operations at JLL, offers this list of measures for property owners and managers shoring up emergency planning for extreme weather and natural hazards in or around their buildings and sites.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus

Preparedness And Training

  • Teams should know their local Emergency Weather resources that provide storm watch, storm warning, tornado warning, and tornado watch alerts before and during severe weather incidents.
  • Ensure your team is trained in tornado response including on and off-site management, maintenance, security, and housekeeping.
  • Ensure your team knows all building and emergency shutdown procedures.
  • Evaluate needs for emergency supplies including plywood, studs, plastic sheeting, tarps, tape, nails, screws, tools sandbags, backup generators, pumps, extension cords, fuel, and provisions for personnel that may need to stay on site for extended periods. This list may grow based on the type and needs of the property.
  • Ensure your tenants know all primary, secondary, and tertiary safe areas including procedures when vacating their space into common areas.
  • Encourage tenants to train their employees on all tenant-specific emergency response procedures and building specific information.

Weather Alerts

  • Ensure your facility has an assigned person listening to weather alerts during higher probability weather patterns.


  • Ensure the property has means of communicating to tenants and all occupants in real time. Ensure the system is updated regularly with tenant emergency and local contact information. This system should be dedicated to emergency response notifications and tested regularly.

Building Response Actions

  • Ensure tenant notifications are accurate, concise, and current.
  • Property staff, contractors, and tenants must participate in directing public to safe areas.
  • Ensure elevators are utilized and prioritized for use by employees and public patrons with access and functional needs during tornado warnings.
  • Have plans to quickly remove outside equipment and FF&E that may become projectiles if the property is in close proximity to the tornado.

Immediate Response At Facility

  • Ensure that employees, tenants, and public patrons have sheltered in safe areas and have means of safe egress from the building.
  • Check building for damage, and evaluate the need for implementing shutdown procedures.
  • Communicate to the building owner or property management team the conditions that are known at the facility. Coordinate with the building owner for mobilization of an
    approved emergency restoration provider (this should be coordinated and under agreement with approval of the building owner and the building owner’s insurance provider).
  • Implement access plan for tenants and tenant contractors to access restore their spaces.
Read more preparedness tips for Hurricanes, Wildfires, and Earthquakes in this article from the June 2021 issue of Facility Executive.