Sixteen Key Safety Tips to Help You Get through Tornado Season in Illinois

Plus which insurance coverage is critical to have on deck.

A powerful thunderstorm producing a tornado and lightning. 10 Key Safety Tips to Help You Get Through Tornado Season in Illinois.

About 35 tornadoes hit the state of Illinois every year. Tornadoes can cause extensive property damage and destruction, as well as severe injuries and even death. That's why it's so important to know how to prepare for these natural disasters and what to do once they approach.

An independent insurance agent can also help you get the protection you need with the right home insurance and other coverages. They'll make sure you get all the coverage you need to feel protected against tornado damage. But until then, take a look at our checklist of safety tips to survive tornado season in Illinois. 

How Much Damage Do Tornadoes Cause in Illinois?

You're aware that Illinois sees quite a few tornadoes annually, but how much damage do these disasters actually cause? Check out a few quick tornado stats for Illinois and see for yourself.

Stats for Tornadoes in Illinois:

  • Illinois was one of just five states (along with Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama) that accounted for more than half of the total damage caused by tornadoes between 2010 and 2020.
  • Illinois had seen as many as 124 tornadoes in a single year, in 2006.
  • Property damage by tornadoes in Illinois totaled $1.4 billion between 2010 to 2020.
  • April through June is Illinois's prime tornado season. 
  • Tornado season brings 63% of Illinois’s tornadoes for the entire year.

Knowing that tornadoes aren't only common in Illinois, but also extremely expensive in terms of property damage and destruction, it's critical to review the upcoming safety tips on how to prepare for these disasters.

Sixteen Essential Steps to Help Protect You from Illinois Tornadoes

Tornadoes are funnel-shaped and cloud-like in appearance, and are composed of a vortex of violently rotating winds. Surviving just one tornado comes in three waves, each of which is extremely important to play safe and smart. Before a tornado hits, during the tornado, and after it passes are each unique segments that must be handled appropriately. 

It's also helpful to know what various tornado alerts on the news really mean. A "tornado watch" indicates the possibility of a tornado in your area. But a "tornado warning" indicates the presence of a tornado already in progress or very soon to arrive, and that you and your family should seek shelter immediately.

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What to Do before a Tornado

Preparing for a tornado starts with making sure your family members and your property are well-equipped to handle the storm.

Do the following before a tornado warning ever occurs:

  1. Double-check your insurance: Long before a tornado ever appears is the time to review your coverages with your Illinois independent insurance agent and adjust them if needed. Keep in mind that changes to existing policies don't take place immediately, and there's typically a 30-day waiting period.
  2. Create an emergency kit: Having an emergency kit on hand is essential to tornado survival. Create one that considers all of your family member's needs by filling a kit with medications, non-perishable food, bottled water, pet food and medications, extra blankets, batteries, radios, etc. Store it in an easy-to-find place.
  3. Create a home evacuation plan: For the members of your household, make sure to assign instructions on what to do when a tornado hits. Know which items are important to bring inside, where you'll go to find shelter, where to meet if everyone gets separated, who's responsible for finding the pets, etc.
  4. Follow local storm warnings: Make sure to stay connected to the TV, radio, social media, online news station, etc., if you know a tornado watch or warning has been issued. Be prepared to shelter in place or evacuate if ordered to do so.
  5. Move to an underground safe space: This includes all members of your family, including your pets. Sheltering underground is the safest possible place to shelter against strong tornado winds, but a secondary safe spot in your home is an interior, central room on the lowest floor away from all doors and windows.
  6. Have a road evacuation route prepared: You'll also want to familiarize yourself with easy routes out of town in case you're ordered to evacuate when a tornado is on the way. Try to find routes that avoid bridges if at all possible.

Good prep work before a tornado hits can seriously aid your family's chances of successfully staying safe during and after the disaster passes.

What to Do during a Tornado

Once a storm arrives, there's no more opportunity for prep work. It's time to move into the next phase of keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. 

Follow these tips when a tornado is already in progress:

  1. Get inside: If you’re outside when a tornado begins, get into a basement or sturdy building immediately and prepare to wait out the storm.
  2. Keep protected: Keep yourself and all family members away from any windows, doors, and exterior walls of your home or building, and try to avoid potential flying debris.
  3. Stay connected: Keep following EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alert systems for instructions on whether to stay put or evacuate, as well as for updates on the tornado's location and status.
  4. Cover up: If you're stuck outdoors or in a vehicle during the tornado, protect yourself by covering your head with your arms, or preferably with blankets or furniture.
  5. Stay put: Stay in your safe shelter and don't leave until it's been declared safe by official alerts or news updates.

During the tornado itself, things are often at the the highest point of stress and urgency. However, having this checklist memorized ahead of time can aid you in successfully navigating a tornado that's already in progress.

What to do After a Tornado

After the tornado's passed and you've all taken a deep breath, there's still work to be done. Your home or other property might not be safe for immediate reentry if it has been damaged, and certain areas may have been compromised.

After the tornado passes, take these actions steps for safety:

  1. Get in contact: After EAS and other weather alert systems have declared it safe to stop sheltering, get in touch with any family members you might have been separated from and arrange a place to meet up.
  2. Stay cautious: Be wary of any fallen power lines, large puddles, pieces of broken glass, and other debris left in the wake of the storm.
  3. Call your agent: Take a moment to call up your Illinois independent insurance agent to begin the claims process if the tornado has damaged your property.
  4. Document damage: You'll want to have proof of damage to your home and other property from the tornado, so take photos or videos where necessary.
  5. Stay protected: Keep appropriate gear on at all times during property cleanup, including face masks, boots, and protective gloves. Don't tread through any standing water because it could contain pests, be aware that mold may be present indoors, and watch for sharp debris.

Once you and your family are safe and your home's been declared okay for reentry, that's when it's time to worry about what property's been damaged, lost, or destroyed. Then your Illinois independent insurance agent can help you start the process of recouping your losses by filing insurance claims for you.

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What Kind of Tornado Insurance do You Need in Illinois?

Having the right type of insurance already in place before a tornado hits is useful for you and your family's recovery from the disaster. The following protections are available in Illinois:

Homeowners insurance:

  • Property coverage: Homeowners insurance provides coverage for your home's structure as well as your contents like clothing, furniture, dishes, etc., if it gets damaged, lost, or destroyed by tornado winds.
  • Endorsement coverages for valuables: If you have especially valuable belongings like jewelry, furs, firearms, gold, etc., you might need to add a floater or endorsement to your policy and list these items separately to increase their coverage.
  • Outbuilding add-on coverage: Regular homeowners insurance provides coverage for extra structures on your property at up to 10% of your limit, however, you can add additional coverage to your policy.
  • Additional living expenses: If a tornado damages your home to the point that it needs extensive repairs and you have to stay somewhere else during the process, your home insurance can pay for hotel costs, takeout meals, and more.

Car insurance:

  • Comprehensive coverage: Having comprehensive coverage is critical to protect your vehicle against windshield breakage or other damage caused by a natural disaster like a tornado.
  • Rental reimbursement: This coverage can help pay for the cost of a rental car if your own is badly damaged by a tornado and needs repairs or replacement.
  • Property damage liability: This coverage is essential if you cause damage to another person's property with your vehicle while fleeing town during a tornado.

Some home insurance policies reimburse for the actual cash value of damaged property, which factors in depreciation, while others compensate for the original purchase price. The best way to know how much coverage you need is to have regular conversations with your Illinois independent insurance agent about your property, assets, etc. Also, you can check out ready.gov or redcross.org for more information about tornado preparedness and additional safety tips.

Why Choose an Illinois Independent Insurance Agent?

Illinois independent insurance agents simplify the process by shopping and comparing insurance quotes for you. Not only that, but they’ll also cut through the jargon and clarify the fine print so you'll know exactly what you’re getting.

Illinois independent insurance agents also have access to multiple insurance companies, ultimately finding you the best home insurance and car insurance coverage, accessibility, and competitive pricing while working for you.

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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin

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https://stateclimatologist.web.illinois.edu/climate-of-illinois/tornadoes-in-illinois/#:~:text=About%201%2C000%20tornadoes%20develop%20from,as%20124%20tornadoes%20in%202006

https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/tornado.html

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