With approximately 1,000 tornadoes touching down each year, the United States leads the world in tornado activity. While the majority of these tornadoes occur in the area known as “Tornado Alley,” they can, and do, happen all over the country. Tornadoes are among the most expensive natural disasters; in fact, about 57% of all U.S. catastrophic losses are tornado-related. You can minimize your risk of financial burden in the aftermath of a tornado with insurance.
Unlike floods or hurricanes, tornadoes are generally covered under homeowners insurance policies and do not require a separate endorsement, or “rider.” Because of the potential for extensive damage, homeowners are strongly advised to review their policies to make sure their coverage is sufficient if a tornado touchdown occurrs.
If you rent your home or who live in a condominium, you will want to be sure that you have renters or condo insurance to cover your property. While your landlord or condo association will have a policy in place to cover damages to the structure of your home, personal belongings kept inside are not covered under these policies.
To obtain coverage for tornado damage to your vehicle, you will need to have a comprehensive car or truck insurance policy in place. Simply carrying liability insurance will not provide you with reimbursements for potentially extensive repairs following a tornado. Those who live within the boundaries of "Tornado Alley" are strongly encouraged to carry comprehensive auto insurance.
Tornadoes can cause peripheral damage from high winds to more extensive damage if your home is directly in the path of the storm. Those whose homes are directly hit by one of these powerful storms could lose most if not all personal belongings.
Consider the contents of your home and how expensive it would be to replace absolutely everything, including clothes, furniture, and tools. Most homeowners policies “cap” certain categories of items based on the total coverage amount of the policy. If you have a lot of expensive electronic equipment, artwork or collectibles or own anything of extraordinary value, you may need additional endorsements to fully cover them.
You may want to consider paying a little extra to get replacement value insurance coverage. Replacement value insurance will provide you with reimbursement for what it would cost to purchase new what was lost or damaged, rather than receiving compensation for the items at their depreciated value. If you find yourself in a position where you need to replace everything in your home, this type of coverage can prove extremely beneficial.
Insurance professionals recommend making a list that inventories all belongings in your home and updating it annually. Walking through your home with a video camera and keeping the recording in a safe place can help prove the value of your belongings during the claims process.
While securing your personal belongings and valuables is important, protecting yourself and your family should be your top priority when a tornado watch is in effect. Your family should have a plan in place so that you can quickly find shelter, particularly if you live in a vulnerable structure such as a mobile home. You should also pre-designate a place to meet up after the storm in the event that you are separated.
Basements and storm cellars are the safest places to wait out a tornado. If shelter below ground is not available, go to the lowest floor possible and seek protection a bathroom, closet or other interior room far from windows and as close to the center of the house as possible.
Conventional wisdom holds that opening windows helps by equalizing pressure in the house. This is no longer advised, however, as doing so allows damaging debris to enter your home.
If you see a tornado touch down while you are in your car, do not try to out-drive it, particularly if you are in an urban or congested area. Instead exit your vehicle and, if possible, find a sturdy building or storm cellar to take shelter in. If none is available, lie down in a low, flat area, such as a ditch, and cover your head until the tornado passes. Do not go underneath a bridge or overpass as this is extremely dangerous.