In recent years during tornado season, we’ve seen news reports of areas that have suffered devastating personal and material losses to tornadoes. In their most severe form, tornadoes can toss cars around like toys, uproot trees, damage homes and commercial buildings, and devastate entire communities.
Once the wind has died down and you’ve accounted for everyone’s safety, it’s time to inspect the aftermath and identify potential tornado damage at home.
Follow general safety precautions
Of course, you need to be sure it’s safe before you start inspecting your home. Ready.gov offers some general safety precautions that can prevent injury after a tornado and advice on entering a home that may have been damaged:
- Wear sturdy boots, work gloves and long sleeves to avoid injury from storm debris.
- Look for exposed nails, broken glass and other common post-storm hazards.
- Report any downed power lines to police and to your utility company. (Don’t touch any object in contact with downed lines).
- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights as light sources, not candles.
Inspect your home safely
Once it’s safe to enter your home, focus on the following areas during your post-tornado inspection:
- Be aware of electrical and gas-leak hazards. Ready.gov says a tornado can cause electrical damage and gas leaks. A burning smell, sparks or frayed wiring are all potential signs of electrical issues, and you can typically smell a gas leak as well. If you identify either, leave the property and call the appropriate services immediately. Even if you don’t see or smell signs of a leak, you still may want to turn off utilities as a precautionary measure.
- Inspect walls for cracks. Look for new cracks in your foundation and in walls, especially around doors and windows. Cracks of a quarter-inch width (or more) are signs that walls may have shifted or settled. Don’t forget to check any frequently unused rooms.
- Check the levelness of floors. Any change in the levelness of a floor could be caused by a crack in the home’s foundation.
- Carefully inspect the plumbing. Inspect your water heater, pump and softener for signs of water leaks. Run all faucets, flush all toilets and watch to see if there’s any leakage from the connecting water pipes.
- Keep an eye out for roof leaks. Even if your roof appears intact, there might be damage you haven’t noticed. Keep an eye on the ceiling and walls in the weeks following a tornado, since newly developing damp spots or stains may indicate leaks from the roof.
- Inspect the gutters. Check gutters to make sure connections are secure, since faulty gutters can result in water damage in your home.
Take pictures of any damage and contact your insurance company promptly to report a claim. Most insurance companies suggest that, if necessary, you make temporary repairs — tasks like setting a tarp over a damaged roof or boarding up broken windows may prevent any additional damage to your home.
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