Tornadoes are one of the most destructive natural disasters. Because they are largely unpredictable, having an emergency preparedness plan that you review annually for your home will help your family be ready for any natural disaster, such as tornadoes. This tornado preparedness guide will help you understand the risks and safeguard your home and property for tornadoes.

Before Tornado Season Begins: Review your Policies and Coverages

In the U.S., tornado warnings are issued an average of 11 minutes before touch down, according to the NOAA National Weather Service. If you live in an area with a high probability of tornadoes, make sure to review your insurance coverage annually with your Gallagher advisor. Unlike floods or hurricanes, most property insurance policies provide coverage for tornado damage to your home and personal property. It’s critical to secure the appropriate insurance coverage and understand what is covered under your current property policy.

Pre-Planning: Preparing your Home & Property before a Tornado

Tornadoes can be among the most violent phenomena of all atmospheric storms we experience. If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, you may plan on building a safe room or reinforcing an interior room in your home, such as the basement or a first-floor bathroom. FEMA safe rooms and ICC 500 storm shelters are designed for “near-absolute” protection. Sturdy buildings with a small, window-less interior on the lowest level offer moderate protection from a tornado.

It is helpful to have an emergency plan and kit for your home ready to be prepared should a tornado strike.

Create a Tornado Emergency Plan and Kit

Before tornado season starts, we recommend creating a personal emergency tornado plan using the bulleted list below to ensure you and your family are prepared for whenever a tornado touches down. You must also have an action strategy if you receive a tornado watch alert. We recommend the following as essential emergency elements to create and review on an annual basis:

  1. Create an Emergency Kit. Maintain an emergency supply kit that will sustain you and your family for a 72-hour period. The American Red Cross has guidelines on how to build a survival kit.
  2. Practice moving quickly to your protective location. Plan with other family members how to conduct your tornado drill, including how much time to reach your destination.
  3. Communicate with family members. In case you are not together when a tornado watch or tornado warning is issued, have a plan on how to reach each other. Texts are faster than phone calls and keeping important numbers stored in your wallet is essential.
  4. Develop an Emergency Contact List. Develop a contact list and choose an evacuation location for all family members. Include contact procedures post event and designating a point of contact for all family members to reconnect.
  5. Practice first aid skills and emergency response actions. Attend training classes and practice response skills so you know how to administer first aid to any injured parties before professional help arrives.
  6. Secure important documents. Keep all important documents, such as legal papers, birth certificates, marriage license, financial papers and insurance policy information in a safety deposit box or fireproof and waterproof box.

Sheltering in Place during a Tornado

Once you receive an alert that a tornado is approaching, there will be little time to act. If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor. Follow the guidance of your local authorities.

If you are in a moving vehicle, try to take shelter in a sturdy building. Do not park your car under an overpass or bridge, or try to “beat” the storm. If you cannot leave your car, you can stay inside the vehicle with your seatbelt on, lower your head down below your windows and protect your head with your hands. Or, you can opt to find a spot lower than the level of the roadway, such as a ditch, exit your car and lie down in that.

After the storm has passed, use extreme caution. Listen for current emergency information and instructions from your local and regional authorities on next steps. Once the storm has passed, if possible, you should assess the damage to your home.

Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim after a Tornado

If you suffered damage as a result of the tornado, it is best to notify your insurance carrier to begin your home insurance claim due to the tornado damage. It is important that your claims handler receive this information as quickly as possible so they can begin the claim resolution process. If you need assistance reporting your home insurance claim, please contact your Gallagher advisor.

Claims Contacts for Home & Property

Starting a Homeowners Insurance Claim after a Tornado

In order to initiate a home insurance claim after a tornado, you will need to provide as much detail as possible to your claims handler. The following is recommended:

  • Photographs and/or video of the damage are extremely helpful.
  • A preliminary list of damages.
  • Secure your location(s) to prevent further loss and begin to sort damaged items from the undamaged items.

Claims Process for 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:

  • Initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contract, so the adjuster’s contact information may appear different than expected. 
  • Limited access to affected areas.
  • Competition for labor and materials will be high, which may impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Working closely with your claims adjuster. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, Gallagher is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your insurance company’s website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. We have listed many insurance companies in the event you do not have the contact information readily available.