Editorial Note: We earn a commission on partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.
Last year’s costliest tornado caused $4 billion in insured losses. These storms can tear communities apart and decimate individual finances. This makes tornado season nerve-wracking, especially for people living in vulnerable areas like the Southeast and Midwest.
Some proactive measures, like making sure you have the right insurance coverage in place, can help you prepare for tornado season.
Check your insurance policies
Home, condominium and tenant insurance
If a tornado hits, here’s how tornado insurance works:
- The home coverage in a home insurance policy covers damage caused by a tornado to the structure of the house.
- Home insurance also covers structures like fences and sheds.
- Personal property coverage, another standard part of a home insurance policy, comes into play to cover damaged property, such as electronics, clothing, and furniture.
If you live in a condo or apartment, homeowner’s insurance or HOA coverage will typically cover the structure of the building, and your personal renters insurance or condo insurance covers the items inside your unit.
Your auto insurance policy will cover damage caused by a tornado if you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive auto insurance is optional coverage that pays if your vehicle is damaged in a non-accidental incident, such as a tornado, falling object, weather conditions such as hail, fire, theft, vandalism or collision with an animal.
If you are unsure if you have full coverage on your auto insurance policy, confirm with your insurance agent.
Protect your property
The following steps can help prepare your property for tornado season.
- Sign up for weather alerts and warnings. Sign up for mobile weather alerts from a reliable organization like a local news station.
- Remove unnecessary landscaping. Consider pruning or removing large trees from your property that could fall on your house or become flying debris during a storm.
- Secure exterior property: If a tornado is forecast or it’s tornado season, it’s a good idea to secure outdoor items that can be dangerous in high winds, such as patio furniture and grills.
- Consider building a storm shelter. If you live in a tornado-prone area and don’t have a basement, you might want to consider building a reinforced concrete secure room. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Compliant Shelters guidelines can withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph.
Prepare an emergency supply kit
Disaster supply kits can help you prepare for tornado season. Good disaster preparedness kits often include:
- Necessary medication and a first aid kit
- Water and food for several days
- Local maps
- Cell phone chargers
- Dust masks
- Personal hygiene items
- Can opener
- plastic utensils
- Pet supplies such as dog food and extra water for your pet
- Changes of clothes
- List of your family’s prescription drugs
Stay up to date
One of the best ways to prepare for tornado season is to stay up to date with weather forecasts and sign up for local alerts. Tornadoes strike without warning, so Mobile Weather Alerts can help you stay informed and reach a safe area quickly.
Knowing the signs of an impending tornado can also help you act quickly. Before a tornado, you may see a dark green cloud or hear a loud noise similar to an oncoming train. If you’re feeling these warning signs, it’s time to take shelter.
What to do during a tornado
A tornado watch is issued when the surrounding area has weather and pressure conditions that could allow a tornado to develop. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted in your area.
If a tornado warning is issued, gather your family members and head to the basement or an interior windowless room on the lowest floor available.
If you live in a mobile home, the American Red Cross recommends seeking shelter in a sturdy building. If you can’t get to shelter, experts recommend sheltering in a ditch. A mobile home is never safe during a tornado.
If you’re in a high-rise building and don’t have time to get to the ground floor, take shelter in a hallway away from the windows.
Authorities also recommend protecting your head by putting your arms, blankets, or furniture above you. Sheltering in place is the best option during a tornado. If you are in a vehicle, do not attempt to outrun the tornado. Instead, try to find a sturdy building or a ditch where you can take cover.
What to do after a tornado
The first thing to do after a tornado is to make sure everyone is safe and taken care of. Then, make a list of the damage caused by the tornado and take the corresponding photos for your insurance agent. Be sure to avoid downed power lines while examining the damage. If you are cleaning up debris, wear sturdy protective clothing.
Contact your home or renter’s insurance company as soon as possible to let them know you have a claim. Although you should perform emergency repairs, do not perform larger repairs and cleanups until your company has dispatched an adjuster to inspect the damage.
Tornado Insurance Checklist
The following tips can help you prepare for tornado season and have peace of mind before, during and after a storm.
- Gather important documents. Store essential documents, such as birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and home and auto insurance documents in an easy-to-access safe.
- Create an inventory of your belongings. It’s always a good idea to create an inventory of your personal possessions, including furniture, electronics, and jewelry, for insurance purposes. Doing this before any disaster can save you time and help you file a more comprehensive claim after a tornado.
- File an insurance claim. If your home or anything in it is damaged by a tornado, you can make a home insurance claim. It is common for a claims adjuster from your insurer to visit a property and see the damage in person. Nevertheless, take photos or videos to document the damage.
- Be persistent. The claims process can be slow, depending on how many properties in your community were affected by the tornado. Don’t be afraid to ask for updates on the status of your application. If your home has sustained significant damage, consider hiring a public adjuster to help you navigate the claims process.
Are you looking for home insurance?
Compare the rates of participating carriers in your area via Policygenius.com