Getting ready for a storm is critical. Building a plan can help you stay safe, mitigate damage and make the recovery process as smooth as possible. This MasterKit will guide you through the steps you should take ahead of time, so you'll be ready to take action when a storm hits.
Your home is your safe space, but it can be a target when severe weather hits. There are simple things you can do to make sure it's more secure in the worst-case scenario.
If you live in Tornado Alley, and even if you don't, you already know just how destructive and deadly these storms can be. Keeping your family safe is your first priority. Keeping your home and property safe is secondary. And while you can't prevent every risk, the following steps can increase the odds that your home will withstand a direct hit from a major tornado.
1. Assess Your Home's Exterior
In very strong winds it's easy for things on your property to become airborne. Remove or securely store things that could be potential hazards, including:
Lawn chairs, outdoor furniture, and children's toys.
Empty planters and potted plants.
Large downed tree limbs.
Trees that present a risk to your home or electrical lines.
Also look for loose or damaged items on the exterior of your house that could blow off and cause further damage during a tornado. Inspect the roof, chimney, brickwork, siding, soffit, and fascia. If you see any needed repairs, ensure they are made by a professional. Since torrential rains often accompany tornadoes, have any leaks patched up as soon as you discover them to avoid water damage.
Pro Tip: Toxic materials like rodent poison and insecticides can release dangerous gases into the air if they spill during a storm. Store them in a safe location outside of your home, such as in a garage or a locked shed.
2. Reinforce Your Roof
One sure way to protect your house is to prevent your roof from flying off in a tornado. You can help reinforce its strength by having hurricane clips or straps installed by a professional. The concept is simple — the clips or straps are fastened directly to your roof trusses or rafters and to the studs of a load bearing wall, which creates a much stronger connection. The clips are available in a variety of uplift protections, and the right one for your house depends on its design and where you live.
3. Protect Your Doors and Windows
Doors and windows help keep the high winds and rain out, but they can blow off if they're not secured or shatter when hit with flying debris. The simplest protection is to either install permanent storm shutters or make your own out of plywood that you can quickly put in place when a storm is approaching.
Also, consider having your garage door reinforced or replaced, especially if it's a double-wide (two-car) door, as these can buckle easily in tornados. FEMA suggests you hire a garage door systems technician or professional engineer to handle the job rather than attempting to do it yourself.
4. Secure Appliances and Large Furniture
When you're sheltering indoors during a tornado, there's a real risk of injury from heavy furniture and large items toppling over due to high winds or the impact from trees or other debris. But you can reduce those odds if you do the following:
Attach large pieces of furniture, such as bookcases and dressers, to the wall using furniture anchors.
Secure large appliances and your water heater using metal strapping, braided wire or flexible cable.
Use childproof latches or sliding bolts to keep cabinet doors shut.
5. Know How to Turn Off Your Utilities
Some of the biggest risks during a tornado are gas leaks, fires, and flooding. But you can help avoid them if you know where your utility shut-off switches and valves are — and how to turn them off.
Electrical: If your house has electrical damage, you'll need to turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or electrical panel. Make sure you know where it is and how to disconnect the main circuit breaker.
Gas: As soon as the storm passes, if you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, you'll have to be able to turn off the gas (after you first get out of the house!). Find out now where the main shut-off gas valve is outside and learn how to turn it off.
Water: If a water line breaks during a storm, you can turn off the water off at two places: at the main water meter near the street, and at the water line that leads into your house. Locate both and make sure you have the right tools to turn them off in an emergency.
Pro Tip: Turning the handle of most main water valves clockwise will turn off the water. You may need to turn it several times to fully close the water line.
6. Keep Copies of Documents Off-Site
If the worst happens and your house is damaged during a tornado, you'll want to have copies of your important documents in a safe location, whether it's at your bank or in the cloud. Be sure to include:
Mortgage paperwork and property deed
Social security cards
Wills and medical directives
Bank account numbers
Important contact information
You'll also have to file an insurance claim. One thing that will help you more than anything is having proof of what you owned and lost. So, create a record of your home's contents.
Take photographs of your valuables
Rather than photographing individual items, take group photos of similar items.
Make a written list of everything you own, when you bought it and the dollar value.
If you have store receipts for valuable items, keep a copy of them off-site.
Pro Tip: Make sure someone other than you knows how to access the documents in case of a dire emergency.
7. Designate a Safe Room
In the event of a tornado, you need a safe room where your family knows to go inside your house. This best options are:
In the basement, away from windows
Small center room (like a bathroom or closet) on the lowest floor
Keep a storm emergency kit here, too. It should include things like non-perishable food, water, flashlights, batteries, and a first-aid kit.
Nobody wants to think about a weather-related worst-case scenario, but if you prepare for it now, and it does happen, you and your family will be much safer in the end.