Reducing Hail Damage
Hail can occur in any strong thunderstorm, which means hail is a threat everywhere. When it hits, it can shred roof coverings and lead to water damage to your ceilings, walls, floors, appliances, furnishings and contents. Significant hailstorms result in millions—and sometimes billions—of dollars in damages to commercial roofs, siding, and outdoor and roof-mounted equipment. In 2018, there were 4,611 hailstorms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Getting the Roof Right
Having the right materials on your roof is key to its performance during a hailstorm. When repairing or replacing a roof, look for roofing materials rated by UL 2218 or FM 4473 as Class 3 or 4. These standards are recognized by any roofer or building materials store and indicates the material has been tested for impact resistance.
Asphalt shingles are a lightweight, low-cost and easy-to-install roofing material. UL 2218 Class 3 and 4 impact resistance is available and should be used in hail-prone regions.
Metal roofs have a long life and are lightweight. UL 2218 Class 4 products rated for impact resistance are available; these are usually not punctured in hailstorms, but they often receive cosmetic damage or dents from hailstorms.
Slate is a very strong roofing material that can meet FM 4473 Class 3 or 4 impact resistance depending on the type of slate. High-quality slate can outlast most other roofing materials.
Tile is a solid, heavyweight, long-lasting product available with FM 4473 Class 3 or 4 impact resistance. It can be more porous than other products if exposed to blowing rain, requiring a high-quality, well-sealed material underneath it.
According to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, roof slope can have an impact on the severity of hail damage:
“Roof slope is an important factor when considering damage from hail. A steeply-sloped roof can reduce overall hail damage in two ways. First, if the hail falls in a relatively straight path, a steep roof can limit damage as it is usually direct – and not glancing – impacts from hailstones that cause roof damage in hail storms (steep roofs limit direct hits and increase glancing or ricocheted of hailstones). Second, if the hail falls on an angle, while the part of the roof facing the wind will likely experience damage, the wind-shaded side may get less or no damage, depending on the angle of impact and steepness of the roof.”
– Source: ICLR Protect Your Home from Hail
Hail Guards: Protection for Roof-Mounted HVAC Equipment
Just like a roof itself, roof-mounted heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment can be severely damaged by hail, leading to energy loss and potential business downtime. Sometimes, the damage associated with a single hailstorm can cost a business much more than protecting the equipment in the first place. And in some facilities, the cost of downtime and lost productivity can be more devastating than the repairs or replacement of the equipment. Equipment commonly impacted by hail includes:
- Roof-mounted units—condenser coils and fan blades
- Air-cooled chiller—condenser coils and fan blades
- Cooling towers—fan blades and fill media
- Upright/vertical heat exchangers—coils
- Make-up air unit/air handler—exhaust vents
- Rooftop—exhaust fans
Know the Difference—How to React During a Hailstorm and Tornado
Use the following information from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to find out how you should react during a hailstorm and tornado.
During a Tornado
In a Building
- Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- Put on sturdy shoes.
- Do not open windows.
In a Manufactured Home or Office
- Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
- Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
- Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
- Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
- Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
- Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
- Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
During a Hailstorm
In an Automobile
- Stop driving. If you see a safe place close by (like inside a garage or under a service station awning), drive to it as soon as you can. Make sure you pull completely off the highway.
- Do NOT leave the vehicle until it stops hailing.
- Stay away from car windows. Cover your eyes with something, like a piece of clothing. If possible, get onto the floor face down or lie down on the seat with your back to the windows.
- Put very small children under you and cover their eyes.
In a Building
- Stay inside until the hail stops.
- Stay away from windows.
- Account for all family members, building occupants, pets, etc.
- Do not go outside for any reason.
- To avoid the danger of electrocution from lightning, avoid using phones and electrical appliances during a severe storm.
- Seek shelter immediately. If you can’t find something to protect your entire body, find something to protect your head.
- Stay out of culverts and lowland areas that may suddenly fill with water.
- Seeking shelter under trees should be a last resort. It is common during severe storms for trees to lose branches.