Tornado Preparedness: What to Do in a Tornado

Tips for Protecting Your Home and Family

The Joplin, Missouri tornado of May 22, 2011, was deemed one of the top ten deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, killing 158 people and injuring more than 1,000. In 2013 alone, there were 55 fatalities from an estimated 908 tornado touch downs. With paths as wide as 1,600 feet and wind speeds in excess of 300 mph, tornadoes are truly a force of nature. Flying debris causes a great deal of damage, but tornadoes can also cause homes to shift on their foundations. In the most severe storms, homes are completely moved off their foundations.

Unfortunately, tornadoes are difficult to predict but we've pulled together the following tips to help you stay safe in these serious storms.

First things first – fortify your home, protect your family

Prepare yourself and your family. If you or your family is in an area that has been issued a tornado watch, keep an eye on the skies and an ear on the TV or radio for changing conditions. If your area has been issued a warning, seek shelter immediately. Go to the basement or an interior room of the lowest available level. Visit our Tornado Safety Action Guide for more information.

Strengthen windows and doors. Outside openings are particularly vulnerable to damage. If you're able, consider making some investments to strengthen windows and doors with double-pane glass. Most houses are built to withstand 90 mph winds, the speed generally seen in weak tornadoes. To be tornado-resistant requires reinforcing structural elements and connecting points to able to withstand 250 mph wind gusts. While this may not be possible for all homeowners, bear in mind that the stronger the structure, the more safe you – and your family – will be.

Reinforce your roof. The pressure on roofs and tall walls is especially critical. Your roof may be your home's weak point when a tornado strikes, but there are a few steps you can take to limit any damage, depending on your shingle type:

  • Shake: Reinforce by adding more nails
  • Slate: Seal using cement or mortar
  • Tile: Reinforce by placing steel straps over the tiles and tying them into your roof

However, there is little you can do to reinforce asphalt shingles other than repair any damage after a storm.

Build an in-home tornado shelter. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends in-home or underground shelters. No matter how it is built, in-home safe rooms are engineered to be independent of the original construction of the house. The shell should be impact resistant so as to sustain repeated blows by debris. For more information, visit: FEMA's website. Manufactured shelters can cost thousands of dollars to install, but examples of less expensive DIY blueprints are available online.

Understand your coverage

Get proper coverage. The current value of your home may not be what it would cost to rebuild it. Rebuilding can cost a great deal more. Is your coverage sufficient for the cost of reconstruction from the interior to the exterior, foundations to the roof? What about the cost of replacing the possessions in your home? If you think you need to make adjustments to your existing policy, give us a call. We're here to help. Insurance coverage varies by region or state. Certain restrictions and limitations apply.

In case disaster strikes

Give us a call. Touch base with us as soon as you can, even if you don't know the complete extent of damages. If possible, keep your policy number in a variety of places so you can access it easily. After that initial call, we'll know we can expect a more detailed written claim in the coming days. Our Emergency Service partners can help take the burden off of you, so you can focus on the safety of your family. If necessary, we'll contact an on-call adjuster to visit your home and work on your claim.

Take action. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure things don't get worse. If a tornado blows out a window, cover it with plywood. Do what you can to protect your home, even if it has been damaged.

Take pictures. In advance, take a picture of your home from the outside, as well as all of the rooms on the inside, and store them in a location other than your home. If you or your family fall victim to a tornado, these photos will help our adjusters develop a clearer picture of before versus after, helping to expedite your claim.

Save receipts. If you are the victim of a tornado and you can't live in your home, you may file a claim for additional living expenses. These are expenses beyond what you would normally incur – things like charges to stay at a reasonably priced hotel, half the costs of meals, and even pet boarding fees. Save all receipts for the purposes of reimbursement at a later date.

Tornadoes don't negotiate with anyone, they just strike. Plan ahead today to protect your home tomorrow.