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Are you prepared for high winds?

Science-based guidance to help home and business owners prepare, respond and recover.

Narrowing the Path of Damage

Violent EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes are very rare and unstoppable events. When warnings are issued, always seek immediate shelter as if the worst conditions were coming. However, the vast majority of tornadoes and severe windstorm events don’t have to cause catastrophic results. Research proves that much can be done to reduce―or avoid completely―structural damage to your home during lower-level tornadoes and severe wind events. We can narrow the path of damage by taking affordable actions to reduce vulnerabilities during high winds.

Last-Minute Checklist

Know where to go if a tornado warning is issued. Click here to learn more from FEMA.

One of the biggest dangers from thunderstorms is flying debris caused by high winds that can damage buildings and endanger people. Take a look around your home or business and make these improvements to reduce your risk.

  • Promptly remove any debris in your yard or surrounding your business, such as tree trimmings, to reduce the risks of flying debris during high winds. Avoid placing yard debris in an area where it could end up in the street or near drains, which could become clogged during a thunderstorm’s heavy downpour.
  • Secure any parts of fencing that appear weakened or loose. High winds can easily dislodge boards and pieces from a fence, creating flying debris.
  • When thunderstorms are forecast, remove loose objects outside, such as lawn furniture, signs, garbage cans, and potted plants.

Seasonal Guidance

When time allows, the following projects can significantly reduce risks during high winds:

  • Replace gravel/rock landscaping materials and walkways with a softer material, such as mulch or dirt. During particularly strong hurricanes, gravel has been found in mail boxes and has even shredded vinyl siding.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery away from buildings and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto buildings. Learn more about reducing tree damage.
  • Contact your local utility company to trim away any limbs close to utility lines that could potentially pull down lines or even entire poles. When trimming trees it is important never to touch any wires. Trimming should usually be done by a contractor or the local utility company.

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.

Outside

  • 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.

Outside

  • 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.

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Media Contacts

Christina Gropp
(803) 789-4252
cgropp@ibhs.org