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Preparing for Tornado Season

Sabrina Garity
February 15, 2018

While tornados might not seem like a common occurrence, there are tornadoes in every state and over 1,200 every year in the country, it’s a very real possibility that a tornado could affect your home. They can occur in any season, at any time of day; however, it is more likely for a tornado to come through in the warmer months in the evening hours. Many tornadoes are the result of a tropical storm making landfall, but they can appear with little to no warning and rapidly form into highly destructive cyclones. It is important to note the difference between a Tornado Warning and a Tornado Watch: a watch means that the conditions in the area could make a tornado likely, a warning means that there is an active tornado and you need to seek shelter immediately. While there might not be much that you can do to prepare your family and home in the moment, there are lots of ways to prepare yourselves before a disaster occurs.

Preparing Your Home While the investments needed to make your home “tornado proof” are costly and essentially unrealistic, there are some things you can do to help minimalize damage. Tornadoes can have wind speeds of 300 mph, which would be devastating to a home—and little can be done to prevent losses in that event. Keep in mind that making these improvements to your home could lower your insurance costs, and some of these options can be used as tax breaks. Contact your insurance agent to confirm that you have wind damage protection, and see if they can discount your rates when you make these and other renovations to your home. While a tornado can cause incredible amounts of damage, there are ways to reinforce strategic points in your home that will help to lessen the destruction.

The garage door is the weakest point in your home and once it has been compromised, the structural integrity of your house will likely be damaged. When a garage door is blown in, it can cause a surge of pressure which pushes through the whole home. The pressurized air can blow out walls and even the roof, in the same way that a tube of biscuits pops open when the slightest crack is made in the casing. Secure Door braces are made by several companies and will help to keep the garage door in place. The airplane-grade aluminum attaches to the floor, the hinges, and the ceiling. These however, will require some assembly ahead of time, by bolting the frame to its three points of reinforcement. Once installed, the beams can be fitted into place within minutes in the event of a tornado watch.

Similar to the effect of the garage door becoming compromised, windows being blown out will incite exponential damage. In addition to the obvious hazards of broken glass flying around your home, the wind entering your home through the windows will weaken the walls and roof, as the pressure builds in the space. To help reduce the chance of the windows being blown out, there is the option of having double paned windows installed. These, unlike the garage door, do not need to be secured in the moments before the tornado. They will appear no different than regular windows, and give the additional benefits of better insulation, keeping your home warm in winter and cool in the summer.

The upward pressure exerted on your roof is immense during a tornado, and in the event that the roof is ripped off by the wind, the house is essentially a total loss. To help reduce the chance of the roof becoming separated from the frame of your home, hurricane clips can be installed on the rafters and trusses to the top plate. These are easily installed and can be a DIY project. Simply purchase the hurricane clips and follow the instructions—you’ll need a drill and screws as well. These will help keep the rafters from becoming separated from the frame of the home. There are various ranges of sturdiness to hurricane clips, and for the most protection, you’ll want to go with the clips that have the maximum uplift guarantee.While these investments can save your home and thousands of dollars in the future, you could spend upward of several thousand in these three reinforcements alone. However, if what you are looking for is personal protection for you and your family, creating a safe room is a much easier process and will be less expensive. Additionally, talk with your insurance agent about getting coverage for wind damage. Essentially, a safe room is a fortified interior room that can be accessed in the event of an emergency like a tornado or hurricane. It needs to be in the basement or ground floor, and it is recommended to be windowless—the windows create opportunity for the tornado’s wind force to enter your home. The door to the room will need to be replaced with an exterior door, which is stronger than the doors designed to go from your bathroom to the hallway. Install a deadbolt as well, and in the event of an emergency, locking the door will help secure the room. While it might seem extreme, reinforcing the walls with steel can ensure the sturdiness of your safe room. You’ll want to keep supplies in the safe room for you and your loved ones as well.