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Tornadoes happen all over the globe, but no country experiences more of them than the United States. Each year, roughly 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S., many of which occur in “tornado alley,” which is the broad swath of the Midwest that sees frequent tornadic activity. Tornado alley isn’t the only place tornadoes can occur, however. While some states, like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Florida, are typically more vulnerable to tornadic activity than others, tornadoes have touched down in all 50 states, causing damage wherever they go.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), more than 100 people died in tornadoes in 2021. Plus, tornadic activity can cause a devastating amount of damage to homes, and a single, wide-spread outbreak can cost nearly $10 billion in damages, according to III. Without the proper insurance coverage, you may have to shoulder the entire cost to repair or rebuild your home. Armed with this information, you may be wondering whether tornado damage is covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Here’s what you should know.
When homeowners insurance covers tornado damage
Fortunately, tornado coverage is usually included in most homeowners insurance policies and does not need to be added separately the way that flood or earthquake insurance does. However, there may still be situations when homeowners need to add separate coverage for tornado damage. Reviewing your policy with your agent is a good way to understand the coverages on your policy and how they financially protect you.
There are three primary coverages on your home policy that respond to tornado damage:
- Dwelling coverage provides coverage for the structure of your home and any attached structures, such as decks or attached garages.
- Personal property coverage covers your personal belongings should they be damaged or destroyed. Some policies will provide for the replacement cost of personal belongings that are lost due to a tornado, while others will only provide the actual cost of personal belongings, with depreciation factored in.
- Loss of use coverage provides payment for temporary housing and other expenses, like laundromats and food costs, if you cannot live in your home after a loss.
Tornado coverage is usually a part of a standard homeowners insurance policy. However, homeowners living in areas where tornadoes are more common may pay more for their homeowners insurance, since the risk of damage is higher. There are also no specific exclusions for tornado occurrences in the vast majority of home insurance policies, and most renters policies also include tornado coverage for personal property. However, every policy and every company is different, so reviewing your policy and talking to your agent could be an important step in your tornado preparedness plan.
How to choose the right policy to cover for tornado damage
Given the high number of tornadoes that occur in the U.S. every year, obtaining coverage for tornado damage is an important step for most homeowners. The damage from a tornado can be severe in some cases, and a powerful tornado can even level a house.
Most homeowners insurance policies include damage from the wind — which is the primary cause of tornado damage — as part of the basic coverage. Homeowners can take the following steps to check that they are covered for tornado damage:
- Read your policy: Rather than simply filing your insurance policy when you receive it each year, you may want to take the time to read your policy in full. You may be enlightened regarding the details of your coverage.
- Talk to your agent: If you are unable to confirm that your policy covers tornado damage by reading, you may want to call your agent or a representative from your insurance company. They should be able to advise how your policy would react to damage caused by a tornado.
- Add additional coverage: Although homeowners insurance policies generally cover wind damage, there may be situations where you have to add the coverage separately as an endorsement or even by purchasing a separate policy. If you find that your policy does not include wind coverage automatically, you may want to consider adding it.
If you do need to add coverage for wind damage, it should be a relatively simple process. Your agent should be able to guide you through the process to obtain coverage for tornado damage.
If you are not satisfied with your policy, it might be a good time to look around at other insurers to see who is writing the best policies in your region. It’s usually easy to receive a quote either online or with a quick call to a local agent. It can be worth the effort to ask for quotes from several companies so you can compare them and determine who is the best fit for your needs.
The cost of tornado insurance
The average cost of homeowners insurance in the U.S. is $1,383 per year for a policy with $250,000 in dwelling coverage. Your own rate is likely to differ, however, as the cost of your homeowners insurance is typically calculated using numerous factors, including the amount of coverage you need, where your home is located and whether you have filed claims in the past. The prevalence of tornadoes in your region may also play a role in determining that rate.
If you need to add separate tornado coverage, you will likely need to pay extra for the endorsement or policy. Some insurers may require a separate windstorm deductible as well, which can be higher than the deductible on your standard policy.
How to prepare for tornado damage
Before a tornado strikes, there are a few things you can do to help lessen the risk of damage to your home and property.
Itemize your possessions
Before a tornado hits, you may want to go through your home and create an inventory of your belongings. Record a description of your belongings and the cost of each item and store this list in a safe place (such as your bank safety deposit box) so that you will have it handy in case you need to provide it to your insurance agent or carrier. If you are able to, it may also be helpful to get video footage of the inside of your home to document your belongings.
Prepare your home
Reinforcing windows and doors, making sure your roof is in good shape and locating your utility lines and shut-offs could help you respond more quickly if a tornado is coming. Although it is not likely that there will be a way to prevent all damage from tornadoes, there may be ways you can lessen the risk of severe damage.
Create a plan
Creating an emergency plan and making sure that everyone in your household understands the steps can help you to feel more prepared. Tornadoes can happen quickly, so knowing where your emergency supplies are, where to shelter and how to get information could help to keep you and your family safe. Designate a location where your family can meet in the event that you’re separated during the tornado. It may be helpful to choose a place away from your home.
Create an emergency kit
It may also benefit you to create an emergency kit, which should include first aid supplies and medications, shelf-stable food and enough water for at least three days. If you have pets, you may also want to include all veterinary records, medications, a leash or carrier and pet food. Keep these supplies in your safe place — like a basement or room with no windows — until needed.
What to do after a tornado hits
There can be a lot of issues to deal with after a tornado hits, and you’ll need to address them during the recovery process. It may be helpful to start by reviewing what needs to be done and then tackling each item as quickly and thoroughly as you can, provided it is safe to do so. It may be helpful to start by:
Itemize your damages and losses
If a tornado hits your home, you may have damage ranging from a few missing shingles to a completely destroyed house. Once it is safe to go outside, you can assess the damages by taking pictures and making a list of the items that were lost or destroyed. Having this information could help you to keep track of the damages as they are repaired and may be helpful if you file an insurance claim.
File a claim
If you have damage after a tornado, you may want to file a claim with your insurance carrier. You can usually do this by calling your agency or calling the company’s 800 number, but many companies also offer the ability to file a claim online or through an app. You will need to let the company know what kind of damage your home or belongings have sustained. An adjuster will be assigned to your loss and may come out to your home to review the damages before releasing payment.
Stay in touch
You will need to stay in regular communication with your claims adjuster to know what steps they need you to take in order to settle your claim. You may need to submit an estimate for the repairs, for example, or send in your home inventory for the items that are damaged. If you are not communicating clearly with your adjuster, the claims process could be slowed down.