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The Tornado Preparedness Checklist for Your Home

Farmhouse to the right with possible tornado brewing the skies

Reading time: 5 minutes

While “Tornado Alley” may be located in the center of the US, tornadoes have been happening frequently in other parts of the country as well. For those of us who aren’t Dorothy Gale, check out these tornado safety tips to help your family avoid a dangerous situation with Mother Nature.

#1 – Make a home checklist and complete it now 

A bookshelf with vases and books on them in a living room
Take breakable and heavy objects off the top shelves.

Start by walking around your home and identifying the hazards that you’ll need to fix before a tornado arrives. These may include:

  • Moving any heavy mirrors and pictures away from sitting areas and beds.
  • Relocating heavy objects to lower shelves (lower than 30 inches).
  • Keeping poisons and chemicals in a locked cabinet, away from your emergency provisions.
  • Installing “L” brackets or other devices to secure top-heavy furniture, such as bookcases, to the walls.
  • Securing your large appliances, especially your hot water heater, to the foundation with straps or bolts.

If you’re not sure how to complete these tasks, contact a handyman who can help. Also, these tasks aren’t best left to the last minute, so we recommend completing this list before the usual storm season starts.

#2 – Don’t raise the roof 

a tile roof with a pipe coming up the top
Invest in hurricane clips.

Losing your roof or other sections of home may be covered by insurance, but that doesn’t mean you want to suffer the damage. Instead, consider securing your home structure with “hurricane clips,” or steel brackets that fortify your roof to the walls.

While new builds are required to have these clips, older homes are not. The cost for retrofitting is minimal, so talk to a roofing specialist near you to save your roof with this quick fix.

#3 – Turn your utilities off 

a red round valve shut-off
Know where your shut-off valves are.

If a tornado rips through your gas line, any number of items can spark an explosion – matches, your lights, even appliances. You’ll need to turn off your gas and electricity to prevent a dangerous situation.

For your electricity, find your breaker box and locate the main circuit. It’s usually on the top and a double circuit. Flip that into the “off” position.If you incur difficulty or can’t locate the switch, contact a licensed electrician for assistance.

Your gas shut-off valve should be located on a pipe, next to your gas meter. Use a wrench to turn the valve to the “off” position. Talk to your utility company if you have any questions about your service.

a fire burns up a home
Turning off your gas can prevent a home fire.

If you need to turn off your water, you’ll find this shut-off valve either near your main meter or at the water main entrance to your house. Use a valve wrench to turn off the water line. If you’re not sure how to do this or where your water valve is, speak to a licensed plumber.

In the event of a tornado, you might consider turning off your gas and electricity before the tornado hits. Just make sure you have enough time to get to your safe spot.

Speaking of which –

#4 – Find your safe room 

a brick basement with lights and no windows
Find the safest place in your home before the storm hits.

Scout a safe place and practice moving there, so you’ll know how to stay safe during a tornado. We know what you’re thinking: what is the safest room in the house during a tornado? Ideally, your home’s safe spot is:

  • In a basement or lowest level of the house.
  • An area without windows (a bathroom, a closet, or interior hallway).
  • Underneath heavy furniture, such as a sturdy desk or workbench.
  • With coverage for your body – a mattress, sleeping bag, etc.

Stay away from windows, which can explode and harm you. You should also stay away from large furniture or appliances that can topple and crush you, such as refrigerators. Always protect your head and neck.

the items that would be in an emergency kit - purell, bleach, wipes, toilet paper
Keep an emergency kit ready (and stocked).

Also, equip your safe space with a first-aid kit and emergency supplies. Check out what you need in your emergency kit in “How to make your home earthquake safe.”

Mobile homes are one of the most dangerous places for someone during a tornado. Once you hear severe weather may be on its way, you should seek shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter.

Note: If you have anyone with special needs, understand how best to protect them. See the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website for important tips.

#5 – The more you know, the safer you can be

a battery-operated radio with a tan background
Stay informed with a battery-operated radio.

Awareness saves lives.

Start by understanding the severe weather warning systems. (A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for a tornado; a tornado warning means a funnel exists. Take cover immediately.) You should also know what county you live in, as watches and warnings are assigned by county.

Then keep informed. This may mean getting a battery-powered radio or TV for updates in case the power and internet go down. Even if your phone doesn’t work, these devices will grant you access to information via weather radio reports.

#6 – Keep your friends close and your home documents in a home management app

two cell phones in front of an affluent blue home with the vipHomeLink dashboard up on the screens
Download vipHomeLink now!

In the event that your home is destroyed, you’ll need certain information in order to contact your insurance agent. Keep all your physical documents in one small, fireproof box – birth certifications, ownership certificates, social security cards, etc.

Upload all other documents to a home management app, like vipHomeLink. Having these documents digitally can prevent the information from being destroyed and help you streamline the claims process.

Don’t forget to upload your home inventory. Not sure how to create one? Check out this quick guide!

#7 – Lay off the natural disaster movies for a bit

a tornado on the plains
Maybe save the popcorn for a good action flick.

Natural disasters are “science fiction” in the most basic sense. The likelihood of such stories as San Andres and The Day After Tomorrow actually happening is minimal, which is not a problem in and of itself. (We love a good escapist movie.) However, these movies are full of terrible advice for homeowners.

No, you should never run to open your windows if a tornado is approaching. (Strong winds or flying debris are likely to break the window and harm you.)

The southwest corner of your basement isn’t the safest place to go during a tornado warning, per se. (In a basement, away from doors and windows, is.)

And no, green clouds don’t mean a tornado is on its way, only that the weather will be severe.

Ironically, tornadoes often pick up cows and sometimes sharks, though they probably won’t make it to land. The good news is: Any damage created by sharks or cows from a tornado will most likely be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Don’t forget to check out these posts about keeping your family safe during natural disasters:

 

5 Tips to Save Your Home from Severe Summer Storms

How’s it shaking: How to Make Your Home Earthquake Safe

Our Hurricane Preparedness Checklist


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