Mike Hollingshead/Science Faction/Corbis

There aren’t many things in nature as pure a killer as a tornado. Destructive … unpredictable … incapable of listening to reason. All you can do, really, is get out of its way.

But there are smart ways to do that and not-so-smart ways. For instance, a lot of people think that when they see a funnel cloud heading their way, the smart thing to do is jump in the car and drive like a maniac. No, that’s the not-so-smart thing.

Beware of Flying Buses

For starters, a twister can easily lift a car off the road. It can do the same to a van or school bus. In fact, vehicles with big flat surfaces are particularly vulnerable. So even if you avoid having your own car blown away, you could get hit by a flying bus.

Not to mention tree branches or power lines or the occasional shopping cart. Bottom line: Stay away from your car. In fact, experts say you’re better off getting out of your car and flattening yourself out in a ditch or any low-lying area that gives you some cover.

The Basement is Best

If you’re in a mobile home, go somewhere else. If you’re in a house, head to your basement. If you don’t have a basement or storm cellar, seek shelter in an inner hallway or even a closet. Above all, get away from the windows. If it’s convenient, grab a mattress to use as a shield. Failing that, a blanket or heavy jacket can protect you from swirling debris and glass.

According to one myth, you can reduce damage by opening the windows, so you can equalize pressure inside and out. Uh … no. All that does is increase your chance of getting hit by something. Stay away from the windows!

Finally, don’t go out to gawk at the damage once you think the tornado has passed. Other twisters can develop from one storm; think how stupid you’d feel if you dodged one, only to find yourself face-to-face with another. Listen to a portable radio — a key possession in a tornado — and wait for the official all clear.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Army Survival Manual