Tornado and Storm Safety

Last night’s tragic tornadoes in Texas serve as a reminder that deadly storms can form and escalate with little warning.

The best time to prepare for a Tornado or severe storm is before it hits. 

So prepare today.

Here are some helpful hints for how to prepare:

  1. Build an emergency kit. Tips for building the kit can be found here.
  2. Develop a family communication plan. Here are some suggestions.
  3. Be alert. Pay attention to the weather outside (until you need to take cover- then stay away from the windows!). These are danger signs:
    1. Dark, greenish sky
    2. Large hail
    3. Large, dark, low-lying clouds (especially if they are rotating)
    4. Loud roar similar to a train
    5. If you see any of these signs- take shelter immediately. 
  4. Pay attention to the news. Know the guidelines of when you should take cover.
  5. Locate and mark where utility switches and valves are in your home so they can be turned off in an emergency if time allows
  6. Charge your mobile phone, laptop and other mobile device batteries
  7. Brush up on your watches and warning terms. That way, you’ll understand the risk and can better make safety and evacuation decisions
    1. Severe thunderstorm watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. These storms produce hail of ¾ inch in diameter and/or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.
    2. Severe thunderstorm warning: Issued when a severe thunderstorm has been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. These warnings usually last for a period of 30 to 60 minutes.
    3. Tornado watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. People in the affected areas are encouraged to be vigilant in preparation for severe weather.
    4. Tornado warning: Spotters have sighted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. When a tornado warning has been issued, people in the affected area are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately.
  8. Review what to do DURING a tornado. Have a plan for different locations: at home, in the car, at an outdoor event, etc. Here is a great guide
  9. If you evacuate and safely have time, notify friends and/or family members who are unaffected by the storm of where you’re going and why.
  10. Photograph your valuables and store them in a fire and waterproof safe. Also use the safe to store important documents such as birth certificates, ownership documentation for cars and boats, Social Security cards, insurance policies and wills.
  11. Check your homeowner’s insurance to confirm your coverage in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Tornadoes can be accompanied by heavy rains and flooding, which most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover. Here’s some information on California Casualty’s coverage.

 For more tips check out these sources:

  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  2. The Weather Channel
  3. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 

Joplin, MO Tornado Information

Last evening, a massive tornado struck Joplin, MO – leaving at least 89 dead and many residents homeless.  Between 25-30% of the city suffered significant damage, including a local hospital and school.

Officials are urging residents to stay at home if possible, and extensive search and rescue efforts are underway. Joplin officials ask that any first responders or medical professionals who are available join in their efforts.

Here is the info we’ve gathered so far – feel free to add in the comments or on our Facebook Page. We found quite a bit of this info here.

Joplin, MO Facebook Page for up to the minute conversations.

CNN Live Blog of the disaster

Red Cross Safe and Well page:  Check to see if friends and family are safe and well.  If you are a Joplin resident you can list yourself as safe and well on this site.

National Americorp Volunteers are setting up a national hotline for residents to call to check on loved ones. The number is             (417) 659-5464      .

Online map with specific site related information for Joplin, MO tornado.

Other numbers to call — triage centers:

417-623-3254       (joplin memorial hall)

417-624-9320       (mcauley school)

417-347-6656       (freeman hospital)

Integris Baptist Health Center in Miami -             918-542-6611

McCune Brooks Hospital in Carthage             417-358-8121

St. John’s Hospital in Springfield             417-820-2000

Via Christi in Pittsburg             620-231-6100

Barton County hospital in Lamar             417-681-5700

Alabama Tornado Response

On Wednesday evening, a series of storms swept throughout the southern states, hitting Alabama especially hard. Authorities estimate that as many as 231 people have been killed in 6 states, making this one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in the country’s history.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all who are affected by this devastation, as well as the first responders who are working around the clock to help victims and start the cleanup.

Here is some video from the local Tuscaloosa ABC Affiliate:

If you want to learn how to help or how to get prepared – here are some links we just received from FEMA:

Disaster Assistance.gov – http://www.disasterassistance.gov/

Help Others Impacted by disasters – http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/howtohelp.shtm (FEMA Donations page)

Ready Tornado Preparedness – http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/tornadoes.html

What to do to before, during and after a tornado – http://www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm

Ready Evacuation Plan – http://www.ready.gov/business/plan/evacplan.html


Recent Tornado and Severe Storm Disasters:

Oklahoma Severe Storms, Tornadoes, And Straight-Line Winds – http://www.fema.gov/news/event.fema?id=14132

North Carolina Severe Storms, Tornadoes, And Floodinghttp://www.fema.gov/news/event.fema?id=14092

Tennessee Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding – http://www.fema.gov/news/event.fema?id=13872

If you’re in the area, please join us on Facebook to share your story, check in and let us know you’re ok, or find out more about how you can help.

Tornado Safety and Planning

As weather forecasters are predicting an active few weeks for tornado activity, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) encourages homeowners and renters  to take appropriate steps to be prepared, which includes a review of their insurance policies and discussion of coverage options with their insurance agent or company.

“With wind speeds that can reach nearly 300 miles per hour, tornadoes can be deadly and cause severe property damage,” said Donald Griffin, vice president personal lines for PCI. “Because tornadoes can occur rapidly and with little warning, advanced preparation is very important. We encourage consumers to know the warning signals used in their community and be prepared to take cover when alerted. Maintaining an emergency storm kit with a radio, flashlight, batteries and first-aid items is the first step in preparation. Other steps include conducting tornado drills with your family and ensuring that your property is adequately insured.”

The peak of tornado season in the U.S. varies by geographic region beginning in southern states during the months of March and April. Peak tornado season for the southern plains occurs during May and June and typically takes place during June and July in the Midwest and northern plains. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center there were over 1,400 tornadoes in 2010. The highest concentrations of tornado reports were clustered in the Front Range of the Rockies, the Southeast, the Central and Northern Plains, and the Great Lakes. The largest outbreak of tornadoes for 2010 occurred on June 17th, there were at least 74 confirmed tornadoes reported across the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains.

Most tornado, windstorm, hail and similar severe weather-related losses are covered by either homeowners or renters insurance policies. Tornado losses to a home are covered by the “windstorm” peril under the homeowners insurance policy. Renters insurance also provides coverage to policyholder possessions under this peril.  Protection from windstorm or hail damage for cars is covered under the “comprehensive” portion of the automobile insurance policy.

PCI pre-storm tips:
- Conduct a detailed inventory of your possessions including receipts, descriptions and photos of your home’s contents.
- Keep your insurance policy and CalCas Claims information along with other important information with you or in a secure place.
- Keep a cell phone charged and with you for emergencies.
- If you have one, keep a laptop computer close by. Most insurance companies allow claims reports to be submitted via the Internet.

If you experienced a loss from the storms:
- Immediately contact your insurance agent or company representative
- Inspect property and cars for damage
- Inventory losses and photograph damage, and save related receipts to assist with claims handling
- Secure property from further damage or theft
- Check the background and legitimacy of repair contractors. Ask your insurance company for assistance in locating a reputable contractor.

As always, we hope you never have to call to report a tornado related claim, but it pays to be prepared!