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Tornado Preparation for Your Home or Business

As Middle Tennesseans know all too well, there is no 100 percent, guaranteed way to avoid tornado damage, whether it’s to a home, a business, a church, or any other structure that falls in the path of a storm cell that turns ferocious.

But as the spring-weather season approaches, it’s wise to take steps to make dwellings and their inhabitants as safe as possible when the winds turn deadly.

According to at least one source, we have reason to be increasingly concerned. The Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF) noted that areas including our own have become more prevalent targets for strong storms.

“Tornadoes occur in many areas of the world, but in the United States, they are particularly common in what has become known as Tornado Alley,” the EAF writes in this post. “This area is loosely defined, but generally includes areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“However, some research suggests that Tornado Alley is shifting east and south due to changing weather patterns. This new area with increased frequency and severity of tornadoes includes Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee and has become known to some as Dixie Alley.”

As residents of Dixie Alley, what can we do to improve our preparation in the face of potential tornadic weather events?

Making Homes More Resilient

From a bigger-picture perspective, in recent years many developers and builders have been challenged to improve the quality and strength of construction, and significant strides have been made. For example, numerous sources within the homebuilding industry share insights, courses, and checklists aimed at creating stronger, more resilient houses—and they are targeting more of this guidance toward the South, including Tennessee.

For example, a website called Tornado Talk, whose “writers and researchers dive deep into the details about each tornado event describing what happened through damage analysis and storytelling,” published an article titled, “Construction Tips for Creating a Tornado-Proof Home.” (Keep in mind what we noted at the top of this blog: that there is no fully perfect solution.) The story focused on several methods of shelter creation, including the importance of insulated concrete forms (ICF), as well as the ins and outs of tornado-safe rooms.

According to some news outlets, efforts such as those remain a work in progress with much room left for improvement.

Last month, in a special report about tornado preparation in and around Nashville, the Tennessean wrote, “Middle Tennessee tornadoes in recent years have exposed problems in old and newer homes, where houses are not properly attached to the foundations. The poor construction could lead to deadly outcomes.” The same story reported, “After the Clarksville tornado [December 9, 2023], the National Weather Service reported that some homes couldn’t handle the strength of the winds in part because of how they were attached to the foundations.”

Personal Protection Tips

While homes can and should continue to be made stronger to endure higher winds and fiercer storm surges, there are also steps residents can take to improve their home’s resilience and bolster the chances of surviving a tornado.

Among many resources, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) operates a website called Tornado Strong, which is devoted to helping those who live in tornado-prone areas to be as prepared as possible. The tools, tips, and guidance it offers include:

Buyer’s Guide to Resilient Homes
The home-selection process, how to maintain your home for maximum safety, a basic resilience checklist, recommend retrofits, and more.

Homeowner’s Guide to Insurance (PDF file)
If disaster strikes, will you be covered? Sources and types of insurance, how to reduce potential damages, premiums, how to file a disaster claim, and more.

Inspect to Protect
How strong is my building code (search by zip code); renovations, retrofits, and upgrades to make your home safer and stronger; your community’s disaster history; and more . . .

. . . and FEMA’s Ready Business (for nonresidential structures)
“The goal of the FEMA Ready Business Program is to assist businesses in developing a preparedness program by providing tools to create a business continuity and preparedness and mitigation plan that addresses the impact of many hazards.”

In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides a list of tornado-preparation tips, as well as links to many other storm-prep sources, on its website here.

And the My Home website run by FeddieMac offers helpful ideas in a post titled “How to Prepare Your Home for a Tornado,” available at this link.

Of course, these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tools and resources for homeowners, buyers, sellers, and business owners to explore as tornadoes become a more pervasive threat to our communities.

As in all other matters related to real estate, perhaps the best tool is awareness. Learning more about what to expect from storms, how to prepare a home to be as resilient as possible, and staying up-to-speed on the many resources available to help will all go a long way toward providing safety, security, and peace of mind.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

home safety, tornado preparation