How to Prepare Your Community for a Tornado
While homeowners’ associations (HOAs) near and far are feeling the stresses of daily life, you can’t lose sight of the need to prepare for not only one, but all disasters. The other not-so-quiet threat that’s currently looming? Tornado season. With tornados occurring mostly during the spring, summer, and fall months, now is the time to ensure you have the proper protocols in place to face the dangerous consequences of a tornado. Committed to helping communities understand the risks of disasters, we’ve detailed the effects tornadoes can have on your community and highlighted five steps to help prepare your association.
Understanding the Tornado Scale
One of the biggest concerns about tornadoes is the amount of damage they can bring. The Fujita scale for tornadoes details the degree of intensity you can expect:
- Category F-0 tornado: Light damage with wind speeds at 40-72 mph
- Category F-1 tornado: Moderate damage with wind speeds at 73-112 mph
- Category F-2 tornado: Considerable damage with wind speeds at 113-157 mph
- Category F-3 tornado: Severe damage with wind speeds at 158-207 mph
- Category F-4 tornado: Devastating damage with wind speeds at 208-260 mph
- Category F-5 tornado: Incredible damage with wind speeds at 261-318 mph
Tornadoes can happen anywhere, but the United States leads the list with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year.
Are You in Tornado Alley?
While Florida sees a high frequency of tornadoes, Tornado Alley is known for producing the most tornadoes throughout the rest of the country. This south-central part of the United States spans from central Texas, northward to northern Iowa, and from central Kansas and Nebraska eastward to western Ohio. But the fact of the matter is that a tornado can happen anywhere.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Community for a Tornado
1. CREATE A TORNADO RESPONSE COMMITTEE.
The first step to preparing for a disaster is to create a committee of homeowners that will be responsible for disseminating information to the board and other homeowners. Though this is a voluntary role, committee members should:
- Know and understand the National Weather Service (NWS) terms used to describe changing weather conditions—advisories, watches, and warnings.
- Sign up for your local Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
- If your community has sirens, become familiar with the warning tones.
2. MAKE A PLAN.
This plan should be a useful guide for homeowners and responders to reference in times of emergency. Outline what will happen inside a community in the event of a tornado. How should your homeowners and board members respond if emergency help is not immediately available? Some key factors to consider including in this plan:
- Emergency contact phone numbers
- Area maps
- Shut off locations for water, gas, and electric
- Location of any emergency supplies
- Designated shelter locations in your facilities
3. CONDUCT TORNADO DRILLS.
Casualties and injuries occur when people don’t or can’t get to adequate shelter quickly. On average, tornado warnings get issued 13 minutes before the storm hits. The goal of taking shelter is to put as many walls as possible between yourself and the wind-borne debris. These drills are especially important for those who live in stacked homes with stairwells and high-rises with elevators.
4. REVIEW YOUR INSURANCE.
In 2019, tornadoes from May 26-29 in 13 states caused $2.8 billion in losses, according to this report from the Insurance Information Institute. Tornadoes strike insurance policies hard. While your governing documents may determine what type of coverage is mandatory and what is not, this is the time to revisit your policy. Some types of coverage, like replacement coverage, can provide compensation for the full cost of replacing your HOA’s property. Also, make sure that the CAM or board members have copies of insurance policies, so they’re available during times of emergency.
5. HELP YOUR HOMEOWNERS PREPARE.
Homeowners may make their own efforts to prepare, but some may be unaware or unable to formulate their preparedness plans. Reach out to all homeowners, including the elderly and those with special needs, to ensure they have proper plans in place. Share the Tornado Plan with them and encourage them to create an individual plan that includes key factors like:
- Securing your home and boarding doors and windows
- Finding a safe space away from windows, doors, and outside walls
- Keeping a storm emergency kit with things like water, batteries, non-perishable foods, and a flashlight
Prepare for Any Disaster
While it makes sense to be prepared for an emergency of any kind, many communities don’t have any plan in place for its residents. Take time to plan and create an emergency management plan to help keep your community and residents safe when disaster strikes. Find helpful tips on where to start in our article, “Community Association Emergency Preparedness.”