Skip Navigation LinksHome News Ask Fairfax! Archived Discussion Room
Tornado Preparedness Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Tornado Preparedness

Ready for a tornado? The next statewide Tornado Drill will take place Tuesday, March 15, at 9:45 a.m., Tornado Preparedness Day. More than 1.2 million Virginians participated last year. Ask our Office of Emergency Management questions about tornado safety. Refresh your browser for the latest answers.

Marcelo Ferreira : Good Afternoon,
This is Marcelo Ferreira, Community Liaison with the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management. Welcome to today's chat about tornado preparedness!

Please send in any questions that you have.

Bonnie : Our home does not have a basement. We go into the tiny powder room on the lowest level which does not have a window. What are other recommendations? Thank you very much.

Marcelo Ferreira :

You're doing the right thing. If you don't have a basement in your home, sheltering in an interior room with no windows on the lowest level is the best thing to do. Along with sheltering-in-place, crouch as low as possible on the floor, facing down and protect your head and neck with your arms.  Be sure to keep an emergency radio (and don't forget the extra batteries) in your shelter-in-place room in order to stay informed.


Other tips are available at:

Anonymous User : when's the last time a tornado struck fairfax county?

Marcelo Ferreira :

The last time the touchdown of a tornado occurred in Fairfax County was last week during the evening of March 10. No injuries or structural damage occurred as a result of the storm.


Previously, in 2004 a category F2 tornado struck in Centerville uprooting trees and causing property damage. Before that, there was a category F1 that stuck Newington in 2001, and in 1996 another category F2 struck Centerville. Numerous others have been reported in Fairfax County and the surrounding area.

diane sholly : I am disabled and cannot evacuate my home on my own. What is in place in Fairfax County for people who need assistance with evacuating and possibly after a tornado?

Marcelo Ferreira :

If you are experiencing an emergency, it is best to call 9-1-1.  Fairfax County maintains a Medical Needs Registry to assist with communication, pre-event emergency planning, and for evacuating and sheltering during actual emergencies for individuals with medical needs.  If you qualify for the Medical Needs Registry, sign-up at


A Medical Shelter may be opened if there is a need during a disaster.  Shelters should only be considered as a last resort. If you need to evacuate, you should first seek shelter with relatives or friends. Medical shelters do not offer the same level of care or equipment available at health care facilities. Only basic care and assistance will be available. Medical staff, cots, and food are expected to be provided but may be limited due to the type and extent of the emergency. 

Additional information is available at

Bonnie : What kind of weather emergency radio is recommended? Thank you very much.

Marcelo Ferreira :

When selecting a NOAA Weather Radio, it is important to have redundant power sources, such as a battery back-up or a hand-crank back-up.  The National Weather Service also provides consumer information for National Weather Radio’s at


Fairfax County also offers local emergency notifications that are delivered via e-mail or text message through the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN). Register for emergency alerts, including severe weather alerts, at

green : We have no interior rooms in our house without a window. Where should we go?

Marcelo Ferreira : If your house does not have any interior rooms without a window, consider sheltering in a bathroom or a closet. It is also helpful to get under sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or a heavy table.

Anonymous User : If you are on the 10th floor, shouldn't you go under the stairs in stead of a room without windows?

Marcelo Ferreira :

If you are in a high-rise building during a tornado, go to a pre-designated area such as a basement or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

ken malmberg, COA : what preparations are available for the aging community and the handicapped?

Marcelo Ferreira :

In order to keep our residents informed about possible emergencies, Fairfax County sends notifications through the Community Emergency Alert Network. Residents can also stay informed about severe weather through the NOAA Weather Radio’s, the County website and through the County’s Facebook and Twitter account.



As referenced in a previous answer, the Medical Needs Registry and Social Needs Registry are resources available to individuals with access and functional needs.


We encourage every individual and family to be personally prepared for 3-5 days in the event of an emergency by taking a few simple steps, Make a Kit, Make a Plan, and Stay Informed. If you take any medication, it is important to have extra supplies in case you have to shelter-in-place. For a list of recommended items to include in your emergency kit, visit  

Green : We were sheltered in the bathroom in the office. Could the option have been a interior copy room with no windows?

Marcelo Ferreira : Yes, that is an option. Someone in your office should discuss this issue with building or facilities management. They would know the best, structurally sound locations to shelter-in-place for your particular building.

Marcelo Ferreira : Thanks for participating in today's Ask Fairfax! Chat. It is important that every individual prepare themselves and take the initiative to be ready for all possible emergencies.

Before we conclude today's session, I wanted to be sure to pass along the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning so that you will know how to respond should you hear either one issued:

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Thanks again for joining me today. If you would like to stay informed about local emergency preparedness, sign-up for our Emergency Preparedness Newsletter at

The best way to receive emergency alerts and notifications is to register for the Community Emergency Alert Network at