Tornado watch

A tornado watch means conditions are right for the development of a tornado.  During a tornado watch, staff should be alert to weather conditions.  

Tornado warning

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by National Weather Service radar.  The University of Iowa will activate the outdoor warning system and HawkAlert, upon official tornado warning notification from the Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Center and the National Weather Service. The outdoor warning system will sound the “alert” tone for 3 minutes, followed by a pre-recorded voice message announcing the warning.  When you hear these sirens, take cover immediately, and seek additional information from local media sources.

Note – The warning sirens are intended to warn persons outdoors, to seek shelter.  The tornado season for the Iowa City area is primarily April through June, but possibilities of tornados can be from March through October.  

Immediate Action

  • Remain calm and avoid panic.

Areas to Seek Shelter

  • Rooms and corridors in the innermost part of a building at the lowest level possible.
  • Close all doors, including main corridors, making sure they latch.  
  • Crouch near the floor or under heavy, well supported objects and cover your head.

Areas to avoid

  • Stay clear of windows, corridors with windows, or large free- standing expanses.  (Examples are auditoriums and cafeterias).  There is no guaranteed safe place during a tornado.  However, it is important to seek shelter in the best location to help minimize your exposure.
  • DO NOT use elevators during a tornado warning. 

Seek shelter early

Persons with mobility concerns should seek shelter in an area suggested above at the time of a tornado watch; DO NOT wait for a tornado warning.

All clear

Once the tornado warning has been allowed to expire or is cancelled by the National Weather Service, the outdoor warning system and HawkAlert will transmit the information via messages and pre-recorded voice announcements. 


If a tornado damages any of the University of Iowa buildings, the decision to return to your work space or vacate the affected building(s) will be made by the Director of Public Safety or designee in consultation with the University President or designee and Facilities Management.