Homes in Tornado Alley

One very stormy night as I was going to bed, the wind became so loud that I couldn’t think. It was an all-consuming roar. After what seemed minutes, but was in reality probably only seconds, tornado registered in my mind and I ran to gather my children and get to the inside bathroom aka safe room. The tense moments lasted only minutes, but it was an experience not to be forgotten. As an event that might or might not happen, how do we protect ourselves and loved ones in the event it might happen? What are the characteristics of a home that would provide the most protection in the event it might happen? How can we make our homes safer?

Amanda Dematto in an article from Popular Mechanics named 8 things we can do to protect our homes and ourselves in the event of a tornado. There is not much you can do to protect you and your home if an F5 tornado comes barreling through. In that case, an underground shelter is the only protection for you and your family. Of course that does nothing for the home unless it’s a “hobbit” home. Seriously though, your life and your family’s lives are most important. During a tornado, people are most likely injured by flying debris. Focusing on preventing or minimizing flying debris will increase safety. Let’s look at the 8 things to do list:

  1. Doors that can take some punishment. The engineering research center (WISE) at Texas Tech has tested and listed a variety of doors that meet the standards set by FEMA. They simulated the strength of an EF5 tornado to see which ones passed.
  2. Fortify your garage door. It is probably the weakest link in your home. The winds can rip it out and enter the home causing pressure to build, and then your walls and roof are history. Kiesling of the National Storm Shelter Association suggests having a garage door that is less than 9 feet wide and rated to withstand 5 or more pounds of pressure per square foot. You can reinforce the door you already have by putting in vertical bracing with aircraft grade aluminum that is attached to the floor, wall and each brace of the door, thus strengthening it from being blown out.
  3. Keep your lid on. Hurricane clips connecting the top plate to the rafters greatly increases the ability to keep the walls and roof connected which protects you and your home by keeping it together.
  4. Shutter those windows. It is not true that opening the windows will allow the air pressure to equalize. Again, by opening a window air pressure builds inside the home and works kind of like a pressure cooker.
  5. Pin down your home. Your home needs to be kept on the ground. The walls should be bolted to the foundation.
  6. Walls of concrete. ICF’s are a relatively new replacement for traditional timber frames. To put it simple, you would have concrete walls reinforced with rebar. ICF’s are great insulation and are fireproof.
  7. Concrete cloth for the windows. This is a canvas that when hydrated, expands and hardens.
  8. Taking shelter from the storm. The best way to protect yourself is underground, but an above ground safe room is also an option. You can strengthen the walls of an existing inner closet, pantry or bathroom with ICF’s or steel wall sheathing. Also, there are many new products such as DuPont StormShelter, that can be used. There is nothing like peace of mind knowing you have somewhere to run if you need to.


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