Filed Under:Claims, Catastrophe & Restoration

5 keys to preparing for tornadoes

Tornadoes strike with little warning, but taking simple precautions can help mitigate some of the damage. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Tornadoes strike with little warning, but taking simple precautions can help mitigate some of the damage. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the U.S., a majority of tornadoes touch down in Tornado Alley – a group of states located in the central U.S. – and in Southern Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has documented these devastating storms in every state in America and on every continent in the world, excluding Antarctica. (Even so, Antarctica isn't immune, either.)

Given the proper atmospheric conditions, a tornado can strike anywhere. Wherever you live, keep your home and family safe by executing the proper preparedness strategies before a severe storm strikes. Use these simple tips to learn how to prepare for tornadoes to keep your people and property protected this season.

Tornado warning signs

Tornadoes can form without much of a warning. Stay alert and pay attention when a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area. If you see any of the following danger signs, take shelter immediately:

  • A funnel cloud
  • Roaring noises
  • Dark skies, potentially tinted green
  • Debris
  • Hail

Related: Personal emergency preparedness: Are your clients really ready?


tornado shelter identification

Identifying a safe location ahead of time can help keep employees and family safe during a severe weather threat. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tornado safety preparation tips 

Properly preparing your home for disaster is one of the easiest ways to keep your family safe in case of a tornado. You'll be more likely to know where to go for shelter, have the supplies you need to survive, and experience less risk of property damage during and after the tornado passes your area. Follow these key safety tips to make your property as safe as possible:

1. Designate a safe room. This area can either be a storm cellar, a basement or a room on the lowest level of your home or building without any windows, like a closet. This room should be reinforced by a professional to provide extra protection during severe storms.

Related: 8 ways to prepare your insureds for disaster

safety supplies for a safe room

Essentials include batteries, flashlights, bottled water, first aid supplies, canned food and an opener. (Photo: Shutterstock)

2. Put essentials in your safe room. An emergency kit full of food, water, important documents and life-saving supplies should always be readily available in your safe room. Keep extra clothing, blankets, a battery-powered radio, medication, a first aid kit, pet supplies and any other essentials in your safe room in the event you need to wait out the tornado for long periods of time.

Related: Changing weather patterns mean homeowners need to rethink risks

backyard view of a home before a tornado

Items like trashcans, planters, decorations and outdoor umbrellas can become projectiles in a heavy wind. (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Remove outdoor items. Debris, dead trees and furniture are likely to get picked up by the wind and thrown into your home. Secure or remove as many outdoor items on your property as possible.

Related: Severe U.S. weather expected to cost insurers more than $2B in March

chimney repair

Reinforcing the exterior of a building can help mitigate some damage during a tornado. (Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Reinforce your home. Call a professional to reinforce any masonry walls or other structures that provide support to your home. If you have a chimney, have the professionals secure it with reinforced steel to prevent it from falling off during high winds. Professionals can also assess your home and make recommendations to add additional strength and stability.

policyholder and insurance adjuster

Contact your insurer as soon as possible after a tornado or other damaging weather event. (Photo: iStock)

5. Contact your insurance agent. It's important to understand what kind of damage is and isn't covered under your homeowner's insurance. If you need to add any extra items to your policy, do so before a tornado has a chance to hit your area.

Related: Another tornado record's in sight for U.S. as thunderstorms boom

property insurance claim form 

An insurance claim includes providing as much information as possible about the damage sustained. (Photo: iStock)

Making an insurance claim after the tornado strikes

If a tornado does hit your area, you should call your insurance agent immediately and provide the following information to start the claims process:

  • A detailed description of the damage.
  • Photographs and videos of the damage.
  • A detailed inventory of destroyed personal property.
  • Receipts for any expenses, supplies or materials you've already paid out-of-pocket to repair damages.
  • A detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a licensed professional.
  • A record of any expenses paid while waiting for your home to be fixed, including hotel or restaurant receipts.

Even if you never experience a tornado, being prepared for disaster can help protect you in many kinds of emergencies. That way, you'll always have a plan in place if something does go wrong. Your safe room can be used for a number of emergency situations or severe storms, helping you and your family survive together.

Before tornado season hits, make sure you're ready. Follow these simple steps and contact the proper professionals to get your home up to code today.

Pete Duncanson is director of business process and branch operations for ServiceMaster Restore and chairman of the board for the IICRC. He is responsible for the operational procedures established and utilized by the ServiceMaster Restore franchisees. 

Related: NY regulators to property insurers: Develop disaster preparedness courses for consumers

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