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An astounding 553 Americans were killed by tornadoes in 2011 alone, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To put that number in perspective, there were 538 total tornado-related fatalities from 2000 to 2008.
The 2011 numbers were heavily skewed by 245 fatalities in Alabama, a state which had zero deaths by tornadoes in 2010, and three fatalities in 2012. The tornado alley states, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Northern Texas are certainly at higher risk. Dr. Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel says measuring tornadoes per 10,000 square miles of land is a better indicator. That would make Florida the most dangerous state, with Maryland and South Carolina also in the top five.
There’s no such thing as a tornado-proof home, short of ponying up $500,000 for one of those houses that retract into the ground when a storm strikes. But these three tips will make your home as tornado-resistant as possible.
1. Garage Doors
Garage doors are particularly important to mitigate damage during a twister. Ernst Kiesling, director of the National Storm Shelter Association, called garage doors the weakest link in a home during a tornado. The internal pressure created by a blown-off door will ultimately blow out walls and even the roof, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Windowless garage doors are best. Secure Enterprises offers their Secure Door braces, made of airplane-grade aluminum. The beams anchor into the floor, the hinges of the door, and the upper wall of the garage. The sturdy braces act as reinforcements to keep the door in place when high winds strike. Once assembled, the beams can be removed and put back in place within minutes whenever a tornado warning is issued.
The first thing to go when a tornado approaches a house is the windows. Once a projectile crashes through the glass, it’s only a matter of seconds before damage begins to multiply exponentially.
Incredibly, no fatalities occurred as a result of the 2011 tornado that struck St. Louis, the most powerful storm to hit the area in 44 years. But damage estimates were in the hundreds of millions, with Lambert International Airport suffering $30 million in damage alone. Though Missouri isn’t necessarily a tornado alley state, residents and municipalities learned from previous construction mistakes and took the errors into consideration when rebuilding their homes. Many homeowners invested in custom home design options such as double-pane windows and steel patio doors this time around in hopes of minimizing damages when the next big one hits.
3. Build a Safe Room
The cost to replace windows, doors, and fortify your roof will cost a couple thousand dollars, depending on the size of your home. The alternative is to spend a few hundred dollars and build a safe room within the house. FEMA first published comprehensive instructions on how to construct a safe room in 1998. It has since been updated with all the latest technological advances to keep your family as safe as possible. The basic idea of a safe room is to fortify a small space within a house in accordance with International Code Council (ICC-500) standards. The entry door is replaced with an exterior-grade door with a deadbolt. The ceiling is reinforced with fencing to prevent it from collapsing. Take the next step and reinforce walls with steel or bullet-proof glass.
A tornado-resistant home requires an investment of both time and money. But the finished product may ultimately save your family’s life.