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Protecting Your Home Against A Tornado

By Tabitha Naylor

Recent improvements in weather science now make it possible to predict tornadoes and their paths with greater accuracy. Even so, it is important to protect your home against tornadoes as much as possible for your safety, and the safety of your family. There are several things you can do to improve the overall structural strength of your home and we will examine a few of those items in this article.

Most homes have weaknesses in the load path of the home. To resist the high winds of a hurricane or tornado homes must be built with a "continuous load path." A continuous load path is a series of connections that are reinforced that tie every element together beginning with the roof and continuing down to the foundation like a chain. The most important connections include:

  • The rafters to the top plates
  • Top plates to studs
  • Studs to bottom plates
  • Bottom plates to foundation

Other Ways to Improve the Safety of Your Home

  • Install exterior doors that have received the FEMA seal of approval. These are doors that were tested and passed EF5 tornado conditions.
  • Fortify your garage door with a secure door vertical bracing system. It anchors into the wall above the door, into the floor and into each hinge which prevents the door from blowing in or suctioning out.
  • Add strong-tie galvanized-steel hurricane clips to the roof. They connect the top plate to trusses or raftters, increasing the strength of the connections.
  • Shutter all windows. You can use plywood to cover your windows and use window clips to secure them.
  • Add cable ties to tie the house down by connecting the J-bolt of the foundation to the top plate. The cable ties use a cam-locking device at the base which tightens the cables uniformly and exerts a constant downward pressure on the house.

The second best approach is to purchase a home that is built out of cement blocks, stone or insulating concrete forms or ICF's that meet or exceed FEMA building standards. ICF's are solid interlocking bocks made from rigid, resilient foam or expanded polysterene. Concrete is inserted into the space between the foam panels and results in an airtight, insulated fire-resistant structure. Blocks can be stacked to create 24-inch thick walls and solid foundations. These forms pass FEMA's standard impact and wind pressure tests and provide the greatest safety possible in the event of a tornado.

The best solution for safety in a tornado is to build an in-home safe room or underground shelter. Safe rooms are built to resist the highest anticipated winds and they provide life safety in the strongest winds. Protect your family and your home by employing these affordable tips and creating a safe room or an underground shelter if you live in a tornado prone region. It is an investment you will never regret.

It is important to understand that in winds of 100 miles per hour or more the reality is that your home will most likely sustain damage or possibly be destroyed, especially if your home is built to the minimum standards of the International Residential code which is the most common standard used in the US. The best course of action during an extreme weather event is to follow the instructions of law enforcement, which usually calls for evacuation of the area. If this is not possible, find an underground area to take shelter in until the event passes.

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