According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with winds swirling at 300 mph, a tornado can cut a path of devastation up to 50 miles. They strike quickly with little warning, so it's important to know what to do before, during and after a tornado to help try to protect your family and home.
How To Help Protect Your Home and Family From a Tornado
First, understand how to identify a tornado and when they’re like to happen. Tornadoes:
- Can happen any time of year
- Can appear transparent until they pick up dust and debris
- Usually have the following warning signs:
- Dark, often greenish, sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud
- A loud roar, similar to a freight train
No house can withstand a direct hit from a severe tornado, but hardening the target can help it survive if it's on the fringe of the tornado's path. Just as important is preparing your family with rock-solid information about what to do before during and after a tornado.
Consider the following:
- Make sure family members know what to do in case of a tornado – like designating an emergency meeting spot and deciding who takes charge of the dog or cat.
- Show adult and teen family members where electrical, gas and water shut-offs are located and how to turn them off. Make sure the proper tools are nearby.
- Have a well-stocked first aid kit, flashlights and plenty of batteries.
- Install impact-resistant windows.
- Make certain your doors have at least three hinges and a deadbolt lock with a bolt at least 1 inch long.
- Install permanent wood or metal stiffeners on your garage door. Or contact the door manufacturer about temporary supports you can easily attach and remove.
- Make sure your roof covering and sheathing beneath it can resist high winds.
- Consider replacing gravel and rock landscaping with mulch or shredded bark, which can be less deadly in high winds.
- Trim trees and shrubbery. Pay particular attention to weak or dead branches that could fall on your home or your neighbor's home.
- Review Nationwide's Tornado Safety Tips infographic for more info about severe weather awareness.
If conditions are right for a tornado in your area:
- Monitor local radio and television broadcasts for a tornado announcement and instructions.
- Turn off all utilities.
- If it’s safe, move outdoor furniture and grills inside. They can be deadly flying debris.
- If emergency officials haven’t directed you to a public shelter, get your family to the basement, a closet, a small room or a hallway away from windows. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
- Lean a mattress against the wall of the room you're in.
- Don't open your windows. Keep the wind and rain outside.
- Hand out flashlights. The tornado probably will have disrupted electrical service.
- Continue to monitor radio broadcasts. A portable battery-operated or hand-crank radio is a good investment.
- If you’re in a mobile home, find shelter elsewhere.
- If you’re in your vehicle, get out and head for a sturdy building. If one is not near, a ditch can provide shelter.
- Don't take shelter under a bridge or overpass because these structures could be destroyed.
If you and your family were forced to leave your home – or if it has been severely damaged from the tornado – wait for authorities to give the all-clear to re-enter. Then:
- Check for structural damage before going inside.
- If dark, use a flashlight – not matches, a candle or a lighter. An open flame can ignite leaking gas.
- Listen for reports to see when drinking water is safe.
- Don’t turn your power on until an electrician has inspected your system.
- Begin documenting your damage claim by taking an inventory of your damaged or destroyed belongings and gathering your insurance policy documents.
- Use a digital camera or the camera on your cell phone to photograph any damage
- Once you’ve gathered necessary documents and evidence of your claim, contact your insurance company or agent.