A tornado can wreak havoc on any business and its employees. Having a business continuity plan which takes tornadoes into consideration may help you recover from a natural disaster faster and minimize business interruption. This tornado preparedness guide will give you tips on how to plan before and after a tornado, as well as how to file an insurance claim should a tornado disrupt your business.

Pre-Planning your Business’ Safety before a Tornado Occurs

According to the NOAA National Weather Service, in the U.S., tornado warnings are issued at an average of 11 minutes before a tornado touches down. You may receive warnings from your emergency outdoor warning siren system or local news. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.

If you live in an area with a high probability of tornadoes, make sure to review your insurance coverage, communications and business continuity plans quarterly or annually with your Gallagher advisor. It is never too early to start planning or purchasing insurance. Most property insurance policies provide coverage for tornado damage to businesses.

Emergency Response and Business Continuity Planning for Tornado Preparedness

We recommend you review your emergency communications with your emergency response team. Equip your emergency kit to be prepared for any natural disaster, including tornadoes. Create an emergency kit including these sample documents below, and you can review and update annually to prepare your business and your employees in case of a tornado or other natural disaster:

Sheltering During a Tornado

If a sudden tornado or severe thunderstorm strikes, recognize the dangers of rapidly increasing wind speeds, dark and greenish skies, large hail, and a loud roar. Safety, at this point, is the first order of business for your staff, employees and possible tenants. Seek shelter immediately, utilize the tornado preparedness checklist and use any previously mentioned safety guidelines in addition to those listed below.

  • Go to a safe room, basement or storm cellar.
  • If you are in a building with no basement, move to a small interior room on the lowest level.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Do not open windows to "equalize the pressure."
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge.
  • Try to find a sturdy building to seek shelter in.
  • If neither are available, you may:
    • Stay in your car with the seatbelt on, head down below the window and head covered with your hands.
    • Find a spot on a lower level of the road, exit the car, and lie in that area.
  • Watch for flying debris.
  • Move as far away from trees as you can.
  • Cover your head with a blanket or jacket, or if neither is available, use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.
  • Rely on emergency broadcast radio for the latest storm information.

Post-Tornado Recovery Guidelines for your Business

Make sure that the tornado is over, as multiple tornadoes are known to emerge from the same storm. Once winds and precipitation have stopped and there is no longer the roar of the storm, then it will be safe to go outside.

While organizing your post-tornado recovery efforts for your business, be sure to review the tornado emergency plan, and update as necessary. Also, replace and restock items on your Disaster Supply List.

You may also review your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list on how to assess possible business interruption impacts, as well as potential claims coverage. Lastly, complete any mitigation items as directed by FEMA or your insurance carrier.

  • Inspect your property for immediate dangers – watch for animals, falling debris, downed power lines or unstable buildings surrounding your area.
  • Secure any areas where dangers exist with caution tape. Keep areas cordoned off until a determination is made regarding safety.
  • Watch for downed trees and large limbs fallen on power lines, vehicles and buildings.
  • Use flashlights to examine walls, floors, doors and windows to ensure your building is not in danger of collapsing. If the building is in danger of collapsing, do not enter.
  • Inspect the foundations for cracks and other significant damage, paying particular attention to retaining walls.
  • Complete an incident report and forward pictures to your supervisor, corporate office and insurance agent.
  • Notify staff and corporate of the situation.
  • Assist all staff, especially those with disabilities and special needs, walking down stairs, entering small spaces or leaving the facility.
  • Ensure you have the following items available: cellphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, battery operated handheld radio(s), flashlights, cameras, additional chargers and batteries, water, food, first aid supplies and additional items from your disaster supply list.
  • Check local emergency broadcast radio for information regarding the tornado and subsequent storms.

When inspecting your property, make sure to avoid all areas with exposed electrical circuits or submerged power lines and electrical appliances until the power has been cut. Also, watch for gas lines, electrical lines or flammable materials. Limit use of cellphones, laptops and hand-held radios to preserve battery life.

You may need to contact the following groups after a tornado:

  • Emergency services, such as the fire department, gas and electric companies, as necessary based on the review of the property.
  • A security company if there is sufficient damage to the property to arrange for surveillance. Instruct them to assist in directing emergency vehicles into the area and supply a list of approved employees to reduce the possibility of looters.
  • Local hospitals regarding injured staff and keep a log of all calls.
  • Your corporate office and insurance carrier to verbally report damage so that an adjuster can be sent to the site.
  • Vendors, such as cleaning services, biohazard companies, electricians or plumbers, to help reduce further damage to the property

Filing a Commercial Insurance Claim due to Tornado Damage

Once your local agencies or emergency personnel has said it’s safe to return to your business, you can begin your post-tornado recovery measures. Examine your property and complete your Preliminary Damage Assessment Report with pictures or video of the damage and property, a facility inspection and inspection to the foundations for cracks and other significant damage. You may also bring your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list to determine insurance coverage and business operations impacts.

It’s important that your Gallagher claims handler receives this information as quickly as possible. Also make sure to maintain an up-to-date Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory, should such an event occur.

Claims Reporting Reference Guide

Coverage FAQs and forms to help your claims process.

Download Claims Guide

Find your Insurance Carrier

Use our Commercial Claims Contact List to find phone numbers and email addresses of your insurance carrier.

View Claims Contacts

Starting a Commercial Insurance Claim due to Tornado Damage

In order for a commercial insurance claim to be initiated and an investigation to begin, you must provide your claims handler with as much detail as possible. The following is recommended:

Claims Process for Commercial Insurance: What to Expect

Throughout the claim investigation process, you may have various coverage-related questions. Please reach out to your Gallagher advisor with specific policy and claim questions. During this high-volume claim reporting period, you should anticipate the following:

  • The adjuster assignment and initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contact rather than staff adjusters, so the adjuster’s contact information may appear different than expected.
  • Access to the affected areas may be limited for some time after the storm clears.
  • Competition for labor and materials may be high, which could impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Work closely with your adjuster. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, your Gallagher advisor is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your policy and insurance company’s website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. To summarize your policy details, use our Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory.