In 2019, my home was hit by a tornado. To say it was terrifying is an understatement. But it’s important that you know how to prepare yourself and your home for this extreme weather event, and what to do afterward to protect your home and your belongings.
Dealing with extreme weather events are never easy, especially when your home is part of the wreckage. I hope these tips, taken from my own experience, will help make your life easier when recovering from a tornado strike.
Before the Tornado
If you live in an area where natural disasters are prevalent, make sure you take some time preparing for the storm in an off season. At the very least, you should know which room in your home is the safest for seeking shelter. Tornados strike without much notice, so it’s important your entire family knows what to do and where to go if a storm hits.
During a tornado, the best place to seek shelter inside your home is an interior room on the ground floor or in the basement that has no windows. If you have time, it’s also helpful to bring these important items into the shelter with you:
- Wallets and purses
- Passports and other forms of ID
- Outerwear such as a coat and shoes
- Pillows and blankets
- Flashlight and batteries
- Bottled water
Immediately After the Tornado
As soon as the tornado passes and it’s safe to leave your home, you should do so. You should take the following valuables with you when you leave, just in case your home is further damaged in the storm or looters come to take advantage of your hardship:
- Cash and credit cards
- Medical records and other family records, like birth certificates
- Portable electronics like laptops, tablets and camera equipment
- Tax files for the current year
- 3 – 5 days of clothing
- Essential toiletries like glasses
- Family photos
The evening the tornado hit our home, we thought our belongings were a total loss. It was impossible to see anything between the dark and the rain. Once the storm passed and we knew we were safe, my son put on gloves and cleared trees and glass from our garage and driveway. We put the items listed above in our car and drove to a friend’s home to stay the night.
Though my son and I were quick to take action, gathering our valuables and securing safe passage to another location, that won’t always be the case. My husband wanted to stay and protect our home. Developing a plan before the storm hits, including a list of valuables you want to take with you, will help your whole family stay focused on getting to safety once the danger has passed.
The Day After a Tornado
When it’s safe for you to return to your home, you’ll need some volunteers to come with you and help sort through the debris. Documentation of the damage is very important in order to take advantage of your homeowners insurance as much as possible.
Have friends or family members help you make lists of what wasn’t damaged, what can be salvaged and what must be thrown out. Don’t wait for your insurance company to sort through these items for you — they will likely be inundated with claims from other customers in your area, and the longer you wait to get a claim filed, the longer it will take to get repairs, secure storage and find a temporary home.
As you’re cleaning up, many service providers may come asking if you need assistance and trying to sell you their services. While most are good people trying to help, it’s important to stay vigilant and complete due diligence before hiring anyone.
How an Interior Designer Can Help After a Tornado
Most people wouldn’t think of calling their interior designer after a tornado hits, but I highly recommend this be one of the first things you do. I was able to offer many of my clients so much relief by:
- Providing records of the value of damaged items
- Getting quotes for repairs, which are often required for insurance purposes
- Connecting them with a quality, trusted contractor to complete the repair work
- Sourcing replacement items and materials for those that were damaged
- Coordinating handling and storage of furniture and art
The rebuilding of your home can take months and can be a costly and emotional experience. Don’t wait until you’re too far in the process. Contacting a design professional early on can make rebuilding after a tornado less stressful.