Tornado watches, warnings and damage: What you need to know

Aug 2, 2016 3 minute read

Tornado watches, warnings and damage: What you nee...

Even though it is the middle of summer and the sun is shining, warmer conditions can sometimes be favourable to cause severe weather such as damaging thunderstorms, hailstorms and even tornadoes. A poll conducted by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, revealed the majority of Canadians do not prepare for the possibility of severe weather despite the increase in its frequency and severity.

According to the Weather Network, 62 verified tornadoes are reported in Canada each year, with an average of 15 tornadoes in Alberta and 13 in Ontario.

Tornadoes can last for a few minutes or up to a few hours and the results can be devastating. The strongest tornadoes are classified as F5 and can reach speeds of over 500 km/h.

How to prepare for a tornado

While there is nothing that can stop a tornado in its path, there are ways you can prepare yourself in the event a funnel cloud touches down near your home or vehicle.

Most of the damage is caused by high winds and flying debris, so it is a good idea to invest in strong doors and storm shutter windows.

Designate a safe area of your home, such as a storm cellar or basement, for you and family members to shelter during severe storms. If you are in an apartment or building that doesn’t have below-grade shelter, you should designate an area on the lowest floor with as many walls between you and the exterior as possible.

It is important to consider your local climate when preparing for severe weather. If you live in an area with frequent tornadoes, consider creating an emergency kit, with a supply of batteries, water, non-perishable food items and a portable radio.

Tornado watch vs Tornado warning: What’s the difference?

Tornado Watch: When conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms with one or more tornadoes. If there is a tornado watch, stay aware of the storm by listening to news reports and watching out the window.

Tornado Warning: When a tornado has been confirmed and reported. If there is a tornado warning, go inside your home and stay inside a room on the lowest level or inside a closet. Stay away from windows, skylights and doors.

If you are outside, seek shelter immediately. Avoid buildings that have large unsupported roofs, such as barns or arenas. If you cannot get to shelter, lie flat in a ditch or other low lying area until the storm passes. Protect your head and neck with your arms.

Severe weather can happen at any time and although we can’t prevent it, we can take precautions that may lessen the damage and protect our families and our property.

Severe weather and your insurance policy

Severe weather continues to be a top cause of property insurance claims. According to Canadian Insurance Top Broker, Alberta alone in 2012 saw an estimated $730 million of property damage from severe weather. Many Canadians are not aware of what damage caused by severe weather is covered by their home insurance.

Here is what to look for when reviewing your home insurance to ensure you’re covered for damage from severe weather:

• Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage – In the event your property is damaged and you have to live away from home for an extended period, ALE will help you pay for expenses such as hotel and food until you are able to return.

• Guaranteed Replacement Cost (GRC) or Additional Rebuilding Cost (ARC) – the GRC or ARC helps provide you with coverage over your standard policy limit to cover the inflation or increase in cost of building materials needed to rebuild your home.

• Comprehensive car insurance coverage – While comprehensive car insurance may take care of damage from tornadoes and other severe weather, if your vehicle is parked in your garage it may or may not be covered by your home insurance. Talk to your BrokerLink broker for more details.

• Business interruption coverage – If you’re a business owner, you could be vulnerable to an interruption during a severe weather event. Speak with your commercial insurance broker to make sure your business is protected.

TIP: Not all severe weather is the same, coverage for damage caused by a tornado may not cover water damage. Speak to your BrokerLink broker to ensure you have the right coverage for all potential weather-related damage in your area.

To make sure handling your claim after severe weather damage is as simple as possible, here is what you need to consider before a severe weather event:

• Familiarize yourself with your home and auto insurance coverage details.

• Maintain an accurate inventory list for the contents of your home using our Home Inventory Checklist.

• Consider appraisals for valuables such as jewellery, artwork and other high-value items.

• Keep contact information for your insurance company and BrokerLink broker in a safe place so that it can be easily accessed.

If you are unsure if and how your home and auto insurance coverage applies to damage caused by tornadoes or other severe weather events, contact your BrokerLink broker for guidance.