Your home is your safe place, but it can easily become a dangerous place to be in the event of a tornado. Even if you don’t live in the area of the U.S. known as Tornado Alley, tornadoes have been known to occur in every state and in every month. You can never over-prepare when it comes to the safety of your family and your assets.
Although we can’t prevent the catastrophes Mother Nature throws our way, we can do everything in our power to fortify our homes against them. These tips will increase the odds of your home being able to withstand a direct hit from a major tornado:
1.Identify Outdoor Hazards
The winds that accompany a tornado can exceed 300 mph, making it easy for debris to be thrown in every direction. Remove or securely store things that could potentially be a hazard, including:
- Outdoor furniture, lawn chairs and children’s toys.
- Large downed tree limbs.
- Trees that present a risk to your home or electrical lines.
- Empty planters and potted plants.
Take a walk around your home's exterior and look for loose or damaged items that could detach and cause additional damage during a tornado. Inspect the roof, chimney, siding, brickwork, soffit, facia, etc. Also, do your best to locate any leaks that need patching to avoid water damage from the torrential rain that accompanies tornadoes. Call your local professional to make any needed repairs.
2.Reinforce Your Roof
Your roof protects everything inside of your home, so by preventing your roof from flying off you can prevent more extensive damage from occurring. You can help reinforce its strength by having a professional install hurricane straps or clips.
The straps/clips are attached directly to your roof trusses or rafters and to the studs of a load-bearing wall, creating a more solid connection.
3.Add Extra Protection to Windows and Doors
Windows and doors can potentially blow off if they’re not secured, or shatter if hit by flying debris. There are many precautions you can take to strengthen them so this doesn’t happen:
- Storm Shutters – Storm shutters are the simplest form of protection you can implement for your windows. You can either have permanent storm shutters installed by a professional or create your own out of plywood that you can quickly put in place if a storm is near.
- Impact Resistant Windows – Although this is a more expensive option, it will add another layer of protection to your home. Impact resistant windows are less likely to shatter when struck with a foreign object – reducing the likelihood of injuries and increased property damage.
- Brace Garage Doors – Your garage door poses a significant vulnerability during a tornado because if it goes missing, it completely compromises the structure of your home. If you have a multi-car garage or an oversized door, install wood or metal stiffeners for added support. We recommend using metal bracing, but wood is acceptable in certain circumstances.
4.Secure Large Furniture and Appliances
Heavy furniture and large items can pose a real risk when you’re sheltering indoors during a tornado. High winds and impacts from trees and other debris could force these items to topple over in the wrong direction, but you can reduce the chances of this happening by doing the following:
- Attach childproof latches or sliding bolts to cabinets to keep the doors shut.
- Use furniture anchors to attach large pieces of furniture, such as dressers and bookcases, securely to the wall.
- Use metal strapping, flexible cable or braided wire to secure large appliances and your water heater.
5.Monitor Your Utilities
Tornadoes frequently cause fires, gas leaks and flooding. When a storm is approaching, be prepared to locate your utility shut-off switches and valves in case anything needs to be turned off.
- Electrical – If you suffered electrical damage from the storm, you’ll need to locate the main electrical panel or fuse box and turn off the power.
- Gas – Immediately after the storm passes, if you hear a hissing sound or smell gas, make your way outside immediately and locate the main shut-off gas valve. Turn off the gas and keep your family a safe distance from the home until professionals arrive.
- Water – Tornadoes can potentially break a water line and cause extensive water damage. If you suspect a line has been broken, shut off your water immediately. You can turn your water off at two places: at the main water meter near the street and at the water line that leads into your house. Locate both and learn how to turn them off in the event of an emergency.
6.Secure Copies of Important Documents Off-Site
You should always have copies of important documents in a safe location away from your home in the event of a disaster, such as a tornado. Whether you keep them on a computer in the cloud or in a safety deposit box at your bank, here are some documents you don’t want to forget:
- Insurance information
- Property deed and mortgage paperwork
- Social security cards
- Wills and medical directives
- Bank account numbers
- Birth Certificates
- Important contact information
Something else you’ll want to keep off-site is a list of your home contents – that way you’ll have evidence of what you owned and lost to present to your insurance company when you file a claim.
7.Designate a Safe Room
Your family should have a specific room they know to retreat to in the event of a tornado, your best options include:
- In the basement, away from windows
- A small center room on the lowest level, like a bathroom or closet. Avoid rooms with windows, if at all possible.
Keep your storm emergency kit in your safe room, too. The kit should have items like water, flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit and non-perishable food.
Hopefully you’ll never have to experience the devastation of a tornado, but if your home does happen to fall into the path of danger, the stronger the better. Contact your local Rockford Mutual Insurance Agent to make sure you’ve got the protection you need for your home and family.