In Illinois, one person was killed and eight more were injured after a tornado recently tore through a small town. Multiple tornadoes were spotted in eastern Iowa during the same severe weather outbreak. And in Texas, thousands were left without power, and the roof of a nursing home in Longview was damaged when a severe thunderstorm brought high winds and rain.
It’s clear another tornado season is upon us.
According to the National Weather Service, about 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States every year. Wind from a tornado can reach more than 200 miles per hour and cause major structural damage, turn debris into deadly projectiles, move houses, tear the bark off of trees and flip cars. It can disrupt transportation, power, water, gas, communications and other services, and the path of destruction can be more than a mile wide and 50 miles long.
While Texans are no strangers to twisters, many homeowners and business owners still get caught unprepared – and suffer the consequences.
How do you protect yourself?
There’s not much you can do to prevent a direct hit by a tornado. But there are steps you can take to minimize the damage to property and lives. Planning is key because when a twister is headed straight for your home or business, there won’t be much time for preparation. Here are a few tornado preparedness tips for both business owners and homeowners:
- Have an emergency response plan that can quickly and securely protect your employees, family, visitors and anyone else at your business or home if a tornado strikes. Conduct periodic drills so everyone automatically knows what to do. Don’t forget emergency communication measures to stay in contact with family members not at home or off-site employees in the event of severe weather.
- Minimize threats to your property by removing dead or dying trees that could cause injury or damage to your property and equipment. Secure any supplies, raw materials or loose items inside their own shelters when possible. Have a checklist of items to bring indoors when severe weather is approaching. Consider installing shutters to cover windows, strengthening garage doors and reinforcing safe areas.
- Be aware of changing weather conditions. With severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, conditions can change fast, sometimes before any warning can be given. Tornadoes can change direction, intensity and speed quickly. Watch for hail and blowing debris, and listen for the signature “freight train” sound of an approaching tornado.
- Stay tuned to local and government media such as the National Weather Service radio for tornado watches – which means conditions are favorable for tornadoes – and be prepared to put your emergency response plan into action when a tornado warning is issued, signaling that a tornado is on the ground.
- Know where to take shelter, preferably underground in a basement or parking garage, or in a windowless area on the lowest level of the building, such as a hallway, conference room or supply closet. Have emergency supplies handy like a First Aid kit, battery powered radio, flashlights with spare batteries and bottled water.
- Stay safe after a tornado. Always avoid dangerous disaster areas, report fallen power lines or broken gas lines to utility companies immediately and use extreme caution when moving through debris.
Finally, don’t forget to protect your assets with proper insurance. The last thing you need after a tornado strike is to find out you’re not covered for the damages.
Before this tornado season gets wound up, make sure you, your family and your employees know what to do before, during and after a Texas twister. Then talk to the experts at Higginbotham Insurance to make sure you’re protected.