[Part 1 of 2 due to post length limits]
I don’t live in tornado country now but I did for 20 years.
IMO/IME What_Exit’s first reply is close. But could use some refinement.
As others have said, you’ll get a hundred or a thousand warnings before your own personal residence gets hit for real. So if every time a warning happens you’re madly prepping, praying, and hiding, you’re probably doing it wrong. On the other hand, when the tornado shows up with no warning, or with 2, 3, or 10 minutes warning, now’s not the time to start a 30 minute prep process that has you outside half the time & preoccupied the whole time. And it’s definitely not the time to begin to try to figure out what to do because you’ve never given it a thought before.
One thing you can do is actually prepare your shelter ahead of time, even if it’s just a designated area in your basement that you fortify as best you can.
What_Exit talks about immediately grabbing perishables and putting them in the shelter. I say that’s a dumb waste of what may be precious time and exposes you to risk. Instead keep a supply of those things in the shelter & rotate them seasonally.
Here we have hurricanes where we need supplies for a week+, not just a few hours. But the same idea applies: I have 20 cases of bottled water stored in my shelter area. And one open case in the kitchen. As I use up the open one in the normal course of living, I replace it from the shelter stock & buy a new one for the shelter stock on my next grocery run. Canned foods, power bars, batteries, flashlights, etc., are done the same way. For an initial investment of <$150 I’m always ready for a 2 week shelter in place without running water or power. For post-tornado survival you need a lot less supplies & the cost is even less.
IMO doing anything outside, like messing with patio furniture, in the face of a possible tornado is nuts. You’re vastly increasing risk to life for a minimal change in your total risk of property damage. If you live in an area with lots of trees or hills, you’ll never see it coming until it hits you. Often it’s dark and you’ll never see it. Often they’re so rain-wrapped that it just looks like heavy rain … until the wind goes from blustery to insane in about 3 seconds and you’re swept way to your death.
Far better to be at almost any random place inside your house when that happens versus outdoors moving furniture or scanning the sky or taking a vid to post on TwitFace or …