Are there any common misconceptions about tornadoes?
Do not open a window to try to “equalize the pressure.” Doing so may actually pressurize the house and can cause the roof to be torn off. Also, underst and that tornadoes are not always visible from a distance; rely on a weather radio as an information resource. Although tornadoes are usually spawned by thunderstorms, they have been known to occur without lightning. They can cross a river or another body of water. Finally, tornadoes are not confined to “tornado alley.” Tornadoes can occur anywhere, at any time.
What if I am in a car and I learn a tornado is approaching?
Immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building. If that isn’t possible, you have two options. Stay in the car with the seat belt on, putting your head down below the windows and covering it with your h ands and a blanket if you have one, Or, if you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your h ands. Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.
What should I do if I learn a tornado is approaching?
If you are in a house, go to the lowest level such as a basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to an interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom. Try to cover your head with a blanket or jacket to guard against flying debris or broken glass. If you are in a mobile home, you should leave immediately and seek shelter elsewhere. If you are outside and cannot get to shelter, crouch beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and try to cover your head and neck. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
What are the signs of a tornado?
There are many signs for tornadoes, some indicators may be:
- A strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base and/or whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base.
- Hail or heavy rain possibly followed by either a dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.
- A loud, continuous roar or rumble that does not fade in a few seconds like thunder
Although many people may think tornadoes typically occur in the spring and most often in the Plains states, they have been reported in every state and can cause massive destruction any time of the year if the conditions are right. Travelers underst ands this danger and offers tips to help you protect yourself and your family. As you would for any natural disaster, have a survival kit ready and prepare an emergency plan in advance. Make sure everyone knows what they must do and where they must go to stay safe; and practice your plan at least once a year.
What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?
A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in the area. You should review your emergency plan, check supplies and be ready to act quickly if a tornado does approach. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted by weather radar and you should act immediately. Be sure to have a weather radio available to monitor potential tornado activity.
Severe weather, flooding, and interior water leaks each pose their own risks. Underst anding the different ways water damage can occur helps you take the right steps to protect your property, which includes purchasing the right insurance coverage.
Underst anding causes of water damage.
While fire may be a common concern among homeowners, Travelers claim data suggests that homes could be as much as 10 times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire.
Water damage to property can come from many sources with weather-related moisture or flooding being one significant source: leaking roofs, blocked gutters and downspouts leading to foundation and siding damage, ice dams; flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, snowmelt and spring thaws, tidal storm surges and mudflows. New construction development of buildings, roads or bridges can often alter the potential and flow of floods. Being located within a flood zone can put individuals at risk, but being outside an established zone does not mean homeowners are safe: flooding is always a possibility due to causes such as heavy rains, snowmelt and spring thaws.
Water damage also can come from non-weather related sources within the home, including leaky baseboard heating, plugged air conditioning unit condensation drains, furnaces/boilers, water heaters, washing machines, and leaky plumbing. Homeowners may also have wet basements resulting from water entering through cracks in foundations, improper l andscape grading, downspouts placed too close to the foundation or from seepage through floor drains and sewer pipes, among other reasons.
In all cases, water can cause major damage to your property, valuables and equipment. In severe damage, such as from flooding, it may mean the need to rebuild or move to another location.
Protect your property through prepare and prevent measures.
In addition to purchasing the right insurance coverage, no matter the source of damage-causing water (weather-related or not) there are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property.
Protect your property with the right flood insurance.
The average cost for homeowner flood loss is $48,000, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While floods can cause major destruction, the damage caused by floods is not covered by st andard homeowners insurance policies. However, flood insurance is offered by the NFIP and available through Travelers.
A flood insurance policy provides specialized coverage to help you protect your home and condo from rising waters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers, and the property’s flood risk. In general, flood policies can provide coverage for your home’s structure, furnace, water heater, furniture, appliances, clothing, rugs (with certain limitations for basement areas) and certain expenses you incur to protect your home from imminent flood damage and clean up costs. Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. That means now is the best time to buy flood insurance.
If you have any questions regarding homeowners insurance or flood insurance, contact your agent or company representative.
Prepare & Prevent: Weather-related sources of floodwater damage
- Know your flood zone risk. Evaluate your flood risk.
- Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.
- Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.
- If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.
- To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.
- Keep s andbags on h and to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.
- In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.
- Learn the flood alert signals of your community.
- Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and s andbags.
- Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.
- Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.
- Plan a kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.
- Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.
- Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
- Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
- Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.
- Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
- Remove st anding water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out the water gradually. Remove about 1/3 per day to avoid structural damage.
- Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.
- Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets, shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.
- Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.
- Promptly report the loss to Travelers using the toll-free claim reporting number.
More on tips for wet basements.
Prepare & Prevent: Weather-related sources of water damage
You can minimize or help prevent water damage from sources from within the home through home maintenance steps, including:
- Keep drains, gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and other debris.
- Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.
- Move downspouts minimally three feet away from the base of your home.
- Inspect and repair foundation wall cracks.
- Grade your l andscape away from your building so water is directed away from the basement.
Prepare & Prevent: Non-weather, interior sources of water damage
You can minimize or help prevent water damage from sources from within the home through home maintenance steps, including:
- Inspect washing machine hoses annually and replace every three–five years–or immediately, if there are any signs of cracking or bulging.
- Inspect plumbing around water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks, and dishwashers annually and repair if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters in an area with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
- Inspect refrigerator icemaker connections, usually located behind the refrigerator, annually and replace hoses if they appear cracked or corroded.
- Check air conditioning drain lines yearly and clean if clogged.
The storm is over –
now what do you do?
After it is confirmed by authorities that the storm has passed and it is safe to go outdoors, you can begin to assess any potential damage. If you have property damage, you should report your claim as soon as possible. The more information you can provide when you report the loss, the better we can begin our response. However, if you have missing information but have sustained damage, please report your claim in any event.
- Stay inside and make sure everyone is safe.
Stay tuned to the radio or television until an official “all clear” is given (if you were evacuated, return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.)
- Avoid downed power lines.
Never touch anything in contact with power lines, including water or water puddles that may be near the downed power lines.
- Protect property from further damage.
Board up broken windows to protect against v andalism or additional weather damage. Arrange for reasonable temporary repairs.
- Keep accurate expense records.
Save bills and materials receipts from your temporary repairs. (Do not make permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.) Also, keep accurate records of other expenses incurred.
- Separate and inventory the damaged property.
Write a list of any damaged contents. Include the item description, name of the manufacturer, the br and name, age, the place and date of purchase, if known. Use any photographs, videotapes or personal property inventories you may already have to help.
Move out of the way of traffic and turn on your hazard warning lights.
Call the police even in a minor accident. If someone is injured, request medical assistance. If fire is involved, request fire department aid.
Do not discuss the accident with anyone other than the police or your Travelers representative.
Exchange necessary information with the other driver(s). Be sure to write down the other driver’s name, address, phone number, license plate number and insurance information. Also write down the contact information of all witnesses.
Report the accident to Travelers as soon as possible. Call 800.CLAIM33 (800.252.4633). The faster you report your claim, the sooner we can get you back on the road.