Every spring, homeowners across the South and Midwest steel themselves against the possibility of devastating tornadoes. However, any American ? no matter where they live ? can become a victim of the 100-plus mile-per-hour winds, torrential rains and dangerous flying debris associated with a tornado. What can you do to mitigate the effects of such a disaster? What should you do before, during and after a tornado in order to secure your family's safety and protect the integrity (and value) of your home?
How to Prepare for a Tornado1. Before a tornado ever arrives, be proactive and create a disaster kit outfitted with the following items:
• Food and water suitable for human and pet consumption, sufficient to stave off hunger and thirst for at least 72 hours.
• A powerful flashlight or electric lantern.
• A battery-powered or hand-crank emergency radio. Make sure the model you purchase is capable of receiving broadcasts from the National Weather Service.
• Basic medical supplies such as bandages, gauze and antiseptics.
• A reserve supply of important prescription medications and active prescriptions, as well as ?backups? for any hearing and vision aids, like contact lenses and reading glasses.
• Cash, or a reserve of traveler?s checks. You might also include photocopies of your credit and debit cards as well as driver?s licenses.
• Blankets and/or sleeping bags, and a change of clothing for each member of the household. If possible, include waterproof shoes or boots with your change of clothing.
• Store your disaster or tornado survival kit in a durable, waterproof container, and be sure to stash it in a safe area of your home.
2. Create a Family Communications Guide
Document all work and school addresses and all phone numbers for members of your immediate household. Include contact information for any extended family who may live in the vicinity and may also be affected by a tornado. Include social media contacts in your guide. If services have been significantly disrupted, the best way might be through Facebook or Twitter. Print and laminate copies of this guide for each member of your family. You can also create ?pocket? versions about the size of a credit card and carry them in your wallet or purse.
3. Collect copies of vital documents you may need to consult in the aftermath of a disaster.
• Driver's licenses
• Birth certificates
• Lists of prescriptions,
• Insurance policies (auto, life, home)
• Insurance claims forms
• Documents pertinent to your home mortgage
• Any home inspection reports or plans specifying the basic layout of your property (including information regarding gas lines water mains and electrical meters)
• Lists of personal valuables and any relevant home warranty coverage information
• Family communications guide. Laminate these documents or enclose them in some kind of waterproof material.
What To Do In a Tornado
Seek shelter and protect your loved ones in the event of a tornado.Tornadoes can be very unpredictable. However, if you find yourself in the middle of a severe thunderstorm or under a tornado watch, you can be on the lookout for the following warning signs:
• Any dark, heavy clouds characterized by a greenish tint.
• Intense rain or heavy hail that ceases suddenly and is followed by a "dead calm."
• Any extreme shift in the direction of the wind and/or air temperature of the wind (cold or hot drafts).
• Any loud, sustained rumbling that does not sound like thunder, is not accompanied by lightning and/or does not taper off after several seconds.
• Any evidence of advancing debris.
In the event that your home is threatened by a tornado, seek shelter immediately. Cellars, basements and other below-ground rooms offer the most reliable protection from a tornado. If you are unable to retreat underground, try to secure your family in the most interior room on the ground floor of your home. The best shelter in your home may actually not be a room, but an inner hallway or closet. Whatever the case, avoid any areas featuring windows, flat roofs and doors opening onto the home?s exterior. Do not bunker yourself in the corner of a room, as any debris is more likely to accumulate in corners than in the center of the room. Finally, to avoid injury from any flying debris, cover your head and face with a blanket, heavy coat or some other easily manipulable covering.
What to Do In the Immediate Aftermath of a Tornado
Once you are absolutely certain that the storm has passed and there are no other tornadoes in the area (listen for reports on your emergency weather radio), check your immediate surroundings and attend to any family members or neighbors who may need medical attention.
• Provide first aid for minor injuries if you can. But for individuals suffering from more serious injuries, resist the temptation to move or otherwise disturb them. Instead, call 911 or seek out emergency workers in the area. Once the injured have been attended to, contact any family members in your guide who may need to be notified of your current situation.
You may also be tempted to move about and assess the damage to your home. However, you should exercise extreme caution in doing so. Downed power lines and ruptured gas lines pose a danger. Shut off utility service and vacate your home if you smell a gas leak or detect smoke from an electrical fire. Moreover, structures that appear to have retained their integrity may be seriously compromised and on the verge of collapse. Stay clear of damaged buildings until local emergency management officials have notified you that it is safe to go back inside. Above all, cooperate with local public safety officials. This includes evacuating the affected area around your home in an orderly fashion. Difficult as it might be, prepare for the fact that you may not be able to return to your home for days and perhaps even weeks as damage is assessed and measures are taken to ensure public safety.
Picking Up The Pieces
Coping with the dislocation, chaos and grief that follows any disastrous weather event can be the greatest challenge you and your family face following a tornado. That said, there are many individuals and organizations prepared to help in case of disaster. For example, the American Red Cross can supply vouchers that will allow you to purchase emergency supplies, from food and clothing to temporary lodgings. You can even procure donated cleaning supplies through the American Red Cross. The Salvation Army also provides disaster assistance by bringing necessary services into affected communities. You may never have imagined yourself in such circumstances, but if you need it and it?s being offered, don?t feel shy about accepting it.
Of course, your insurance company is also there to help. At your earliest convenience, you should contact your insurance company and let them know about the damage to your home. Pull your policy documents, claim forms and list of valuables from your disaster kit. To streamline the claims process, know the full extent of your coverage before you contact your insurance provider. For example, in many states, coverage for flood damage is not provided by standard home insurance policies and must be purchased separately. Should you home become infested with mold as a result of water damage, you may want flood insurance to fall back on in your recovery efforts. (For more information on flood insurance, consult the National Flood Insurance Program website. To learn more about flooding hazards in your area, you can search a https://msc.fema.gov/portaldatabase of national flood maps at the FEMA website.)
Once it is safe to return to your property and survey the damage, do not go alone. Make sure you are accompanied by at least one other able-bodied adult and make your whereabouts known to a third party. Once you have returned to your property, be prepared for a long review of your home?s exterior and interior. Be sure to consult with your claims adjuster and discuss the following topics before beginning your clean-up and restoration efforts:
• Does the adjuster need to be present?
• What's the best way to document damage to your property?
• Can you or should you remove any debris from your property?
• To what extent can you begin cleaning the interior of your home?
• What supplies should you bring with you?
Finally, once you are ready to make your home familiar and comfortable again, a disaster restoration service, such as ServiceMaster Restore®, can be of real assistance. These services specialize in mitigating damage from fires and floods. Not only will they remove standing water and sewage from your home, but they will also dry your walls, carpeting and furnishings as well as remove stains and take mold remediation measures.
You can even find more tips on tornado recovery on the ServiceMaster Restore® blog.Next > Helpful Tips In the Event of Flooding