Data compiled by the Insurance Information Institute found that the years between 2008 and 2013 represented the five highest years of insured losses due to tornadoes in U.S. history. A 2013 report by U.K. insurance firm Lloyd’s of London concluded that the atmospheric phenomena known as El Nino and La Nina contributed to increased tornado activity in those years and beyond. The report, however, did not directly correlate climate change and recent tornado intensity.
Without notice, there’s little you as a homeowner can do to prevent damage if a tornado is headed your way. However, if you’re in an area that is prone to tornadoes, there are several upgrades and precautionary measures that you take to make your home as tornado-resistant as possible.
Here are a few tips:
Moore, Oklahoma, was hit with one of the most devastating tornadoes ever recorded in May 2013. It caused nearly $2 billion in damages and cost 24 people their lives. Oklahoma is part of “tornado alley,” but Mike Hancock, of Edmond-based Basement Contractors, told CNN that less than 1 percent of homes in Moore have basements. Additionally, less than 3 percent of homes in Oklahoma City have them. High water tables, shallow freeze lines, and the subsequent high costs to build them are the main reasons most Oklahoma homes lack basements.
A safe room built to FEMA specifications can be retrofitted in any home for about $6,000. The agency provides detailed blueprints to fortify one room in any home with steel-reinforced cinder blocks and other safeguards pursuant to International Code Council (ICC) 500 standards. It’s best to build your safe room in a garage or large closet big enough for your whole family to fit in, along with pets and valuables.
Proper anchoring and material manipulation are essential to building safe rooms, so it’s not an ideal DIY venture. As with any home improvement project, get at least three quotes from contractors to get the best price and terms.
Roofing companies today offer several features with their products, such as six-nail fastening systems and lifetime warranties on shingles to help mitigate wind and storm damage costs. But the bottom line remains unchanged; once the roof comes off your home, there’s no saving the rest of it.
Randy Shackelford, an engineer with structural systems firm Simpson Strong-Tie, told Popular Mechanics that the minimum home building standards required by International Residential Code are inadequate. He recommends continuous load paths, chains, or cables that tie down the entire structure to the foundation are the first steps to making homes wind-resistant.
Cable-Tite is one such solution. It’s a system of cables running through a home’s walls that connect (tie-down) the roof to the foundation. The cables keep the roof from being ripped off by high winds, even if it somehow detaches.
Shutters are ideal for covering windows when tornados strike. Homes that don’t have them can utilize PlyLox Window Clips and pre-cut plywood boards to cover all windows in a matter of 20 minutes. Homes with connected garages should also reinforce the door with braces—once the door comes off the garage, consider the whole house destroyed due to the air pressure.
There is no real way to tornado-proof a home, but these fixes will help keep your family safe and minimize damage.