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County offices closed May 27th

Macomb County offices will be closed on Monday, May 27th in observance of Memorial Day. Online services are available 24/7.

Sheltering guidelines

Sheltering guidelines for severe wind and tornado events.

Sheltering for Severe Weather

Selecting  a severe weather  shelter in your home depends  on many factors. When selecting where to shelter, your goals should be:

  • Get as low as possible - completely underground is best.
  • Avoid windows and exterior doors whenever possible.
  • Put as many barriers between you and the outside as possible.

Much of the danger presented by severe weather is presented by the debris carried by high winds. It is essential that a proper severe weather shelter protects from flying or falling debris to the greatest extent possible. Both small and large objects can cause significant injury or death. Please read the expandable sections below for information about various places to shelter from severe storms.

Underground shelters are safest during severe wind events, whether a basement or an underground storm cellar.

If you have a dedicated storm cellar and the entrance is outside of your home, you should allow plenty of time to get to the shelter before the storm arrives. If you wait, you significantly increase your exposure to  wind, hail, rain, lightning, and flying debris.

If your basement is your primary shelter, stay as far away as possible from doors and windows, especially those that lead to the exterior. Take cover under the stairwell or a sturdy piece of furniture, as debris can fall from the floors above. Use pillows, blankets, or other objects to protect your head and body from flying debris. Avoid areas of the basement where you know a heavy object is on the floor above. 

Your home may have a reinforced tornado shelter area installed in an above-ground room, and in many cases are the best option for sheltering from a storm, including seeking shelter in a basement or underground shelter. If your home has one of these rooms, you should ensure that it meets Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines for constructing an above-ground shelter. 

If your home doesn’t have an underground storm cellar or basement, you will need to seek shelter elsewhere in your home. Find a location that is:

  • On the lowest level of your home
  • Away from doors, windows and outside walls

Examples of good spaces include interior bathrooms, closets, hallways, or underneath a stairwell. As in a basement, consider covering yourself with pillows or blankets and/or taking cover under a sturdy piece of furniture.

According to the National Weather Service, 54% of tornado fatalities that occur in the home happen in mobile/manufactured homes, even though they account for just 6% of housing in the United States.

 Residents of mobile/manufactured homes are 15-20 times more likely to be killed in a tornado compared to a permanent home. It takes just 45% of the wind load to destroy a mobile/manufactured home as it does an average permanent home. This makes it critical that residents of mobile/manufactured homes have a plan for when severe weather strikes. 

Mobile and manufactured homes are especially susceptible to high winds due to the methods used to anchor them to the ground. If you live in a mobile or manufactured home, identify potential shelter areas that are available day and night prior to a storm and don’t wait to go there until a storm arrives. Sign up for weather alerts, and consider going to a shelter when the National Weather Service issues a watch for your area as opposed to a warning. 

Basic tornado safety guidelines apply if you live in an apartment. Get to the lowest floor, with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

It is particularly important for residents of upper-level apartments to identify potential shelters beforehand. If your complex does not have a reinforced shelter, you should make arrangements to get to an apartment on the lowest floor possible.

In some cases, the apartment clubhouse or laundry room may be used as a shelter, provided the basic safety guidelines are followed. You need to have a shelter area that's accessible at all times of the day or night.


If you are caught outdoors when severe weather arrives, take the following steps to help you stay safe from severe winds and lightning: 


  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and place your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie down. Remember, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

Severe winds: 

  • If you are caught outside or in a vehicle, get out of your automobile. Never try to outrun a tornado in your car.
  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch, gulley, or depression and cover your head with your hands. If no ditch or gulley is available, lie down as low as you can.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out and follow the instructions above. DO NOT try to outrun a tornado in an automobile.
  • Never take cover under  a highway overpass. Overpasses can act as a wind tunnel and accelerate wind speeds.