If you live in certain parts of the U.S., tornadoes are probably a normal part of life. However, for many others, they are an unusual and infrequent phenomenon. While the sheer force and power of a tornado can seem overwhelming as depicted in movies such as Twister or The Wizard of Oz, there are some steps you can take to minimize the impact on your home and to protect yourself. Tornadoes come in varying sizes and strengths, and your efforts may prevent some damage from occurring when relatively minor tornadoes visit your neighborhood.
- Before the Storm
First and foremost, you should know what to do in the event of a tornado. By the time a tornado is approaching, you may have very little warning in which to plan your response. Therefore, as with any type of natural disaster or emergency situation, it’s important to know exactly how to respond. This way, it becomes second nature to you and you should just automatically react. Don’t leave things to chance —always have a plan. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you should have an emergency kit and a family communication plan. In the aftermath of a disaster, family members may be separated with no direct way to reach each other. Having an established way of relaying information can calm a lot of worry.
- Home Construction
According to Popular Mechanics, it’s pretty much impossible to build a tornado-proof home. However, most homes are also built to a standard that is woefully inadequate in protecting against tornadoes at all. Because your house is built from many different parts and pieces, they are all potential weak spots in the face of a tornado. The more integrated the parts of your home, the less likely they are to be ripped apart by a tornado. This concept is known as the “load path” and it strives to connect the house’s components in a way that they cannot be easily torn to pieces by a tornado. Newer homes can built with this concept in mind and it’s also possible to retrofit existing homes to increase their strength and resistance.
- Protect Yourself
While it may not be possible to save your home, it’s still possible to do everything you can to save yourself and your family. Your house should be built with a storm shelter or a safe room where you can ride out the tornado. The best place for a shelter is in the basement, and it should be without any windows. For further protection, you should consider getting underneath something that is sturdy and heavy as any flying debris may still land on you. If possible, cover yourself with a blanket or sleeping bag to add some additional layers between yourself and the elements.
As you can see, it is difficult to ride out a direct hit from a strong tornado and expect everything to remain intact. However, there is much you can do to protect yourself and, secondarily, minimize the damage to your home. Of course, while wind damage is a standard coverage on the home insurance policy, it’s always better to minimize or avoid damage, rather than having an insurance claim.