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The costliest tornado last year caused $4 billion in insured losses. These storms can tear through communities and decimate individuals’ finances. That makes tornado season nerve-racking, especially for folks living in vulnerable areas like the Southeast and Midwest.
Certain proactive steps—like making sure you have the right insurance coverage in place—can help you prepare for tornado season.
Check Your Insurance Policies
Homeowners, condo and renters insurance
If a tornado strikes, here’s how tornado insurance works:
- The dwelling coverage in a homeowners insurance policy covers tornado damage done to the structure of the house.
- Home insurance also covers structures like fences and sheds.
- Personal property coverage, another standard component of a home insurance policy, kicks in to cover damaged possessions, such as electronics, clothing and furniture.
If you live in a condo or apartment, the landlord’s insurance or HOA coverage will typically cover the structure of the building, and your personal renters insurance or condo insurance covers the items inside your unit.
Your car insurance policy will cover tornado damage if you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive car insurance is an optional coverage that pays out if your vehicle is damaged in a non-crash incident, such as by a tornado, falling objects, weather such as hail, fire, theft, vandalism or a collision with an animal.
If you’re not sure if you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, confirm with your insurance agent.
Protect Your Property
The following steps can help you prepare your property for tornado season.
- Sign up for weather alerts and warnings. Sign up for mobile weather alerts from a reliable organization like a local news station.
- Remove unnecessary landscaping. Consider trimming or removing large trees on your property that could fall on your house or turn into flying debris during a storm.
- Secure outdoor property: If a tornado is in the forecast, or if it’s tornado season, it’s a good idea to secure outdoor items that can be hazardous in high winds, like lawn furniture and grills.
- Consider constructing a storm shelter. If you live in a tornado-prone area and don’t have a basement, you may want to consider building a safe room made of reinforced concrete. Shelters that comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines can withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph.
Prepare an Emergency Supply Kit
Disaster supply kits can help you prepare for tornado season. Good disaster preparation kits often include:
- Necessary medications and a first aid kit
- Water and food for several days
- Local maps
- Cell phone chargers
- Dust masks
- Personal hygiene items
- Can opener
- Plastic utensils
- Pet supplies such as dog food and extra water for your pet
- Changes of clothes
- List of your family’s prescription medicines
One of the best ways to prepare for tornado season is to stay updated on the weather forecast and sign up for local alerts. Tornadoes strike with little warning, so mobile weather alerts can help you stay informed and reach a safe area quickly.
Knowing the signs of an impending tornado may also help you act quickly. Before a twister, you may see a dark green cloud or hear a loud sound similar to an oncoming train. If you experience these warning signs, it’s time to take shelter.
What to do During a Tornado
A tornado watch is issued when the surrounding area is exhibiting weather and pressure conditions that could allow a tornado to develop. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted in your area.
If a tornado warning is issued, gather your family members and head to the basement or an internal room without windows on the lowest floor available.
If you live in a mobile home, the American Red Cross recommends seeking shelter in a sturdy building. If you can’t make it to shelter, experts recommend taking shelter in a ditch. A mobile home is never safe during a tornado.
If you’re in a high-rise building and don’t have time to make it to the bottom floor, take shelter in a hallway, away from windows.
Officials also recommend protecting your head by putting your arms, blankets or furniture above you. Sheltering in place is the best option during a tornado. If you are in a vehicle, do not try to outrun the twister. Instead, try to find a sturdy building or ditch where you can take cover.
What to do After a Tornado
The first order of business after a tornado is to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Then, make a list of the damage caused by the tornado and take corresponding photos for your insurance agent. Be sure to steer clear of downed power lines while surveying the damage. If you are cleaning up debris, wear sturdy, protective clothing.
Contact your home or renters insurance company as soon as possible to notify them that you have a claim. While you should make emergency repairs, don’t do more extensive repairs and cleanup until your company sends an insurance adjuster to see the damage.
Tornado Insurance Checklist
The following tips may help you prepare for tornado season and maintain peace of mind before, during and after a storm.
- Gather important documents. Keep vital documents, like birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, and home and auto insurance documents in an easy-to-access safe box.
- Create an inventory of your belongings. It’s always a good idea to create a home inventory of your personal property, including furniture, electronics, and jewelry, for insurance purposes. Doing so in advance of any disaster can save you time and help you file a more complete claim after a tornado.
- File an insurance claim. If your house or anything in it is damaged by a tornado, you can make a homeowners insurance claim. It’s common for a claims adjuster from your insurer to visit a property and survey the damage in person. Nonetheless, take photos or video to document the damage.
- Be persistent. The claims process may be slow, depending on how many properties in your community were affected by the tornado. Don’t be afraid to ask for status updates on your claim. If your home experienced significant damage, consider hiring a public claims adjuster to help you navigate the claims process.
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