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The United States experienced 1,376 tornadoes last year, double the previous record as a result of the rapidly changing climate, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With tornadoes increasing in frequency and severity, now is a great time to learn what your homeowners insurance covers if your home is hit.
Here’s what you need to know about homeowners insurance and tornadoes:
- Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?
- How to choose which policy to use for tornado damage
- Does homeowners insurance cover flood damage during a tornado?
- How much does tornado insurance cost?
- How to prepare for possible tornado damage
Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?
Different types of tornado damage may be treated differently and be subject to different limits, depending on your policy. For example, let’s say that a tornado hits your home, and the windows along the back of your home shatter.
In this scenario, your dwelling coverage would pay for the damage to your windows and any other damage to the home itself. This damage may or may not be subject to a wind damage deductible, depending on your policy terms.
How to choose which policy to use for tornado damage
Choosing a homeowners insurance policy for tornado damage and deciding how much coverage you need depends on your personal financial situation and risk tolerance. While lower coverage limits and higher deductibles can save you money on your policy premium, you may end up regretting that decision if you’re hit by a tornado and don’t have enough cash to cover the gap.
Definition: A home insurance deductible is the amount of money you must pay before your insurance company covers a claim.
If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, keep these types of coverage in mind when looking for a policy:
- Windstorm insurance: While homeowners insurance already includes windstorm damage, you may want more coverage than is standard. This can be added on as a rider to an existing policy, or you can purchase a separate policy entirely.
- Loss of use coverage: Tornadoes frequently displace people from their homes for long periods of time. Make sure your loss of use coverage limits are high so that you can receive reimbursement for additional living expenses, like hotel stays and food, while your home is being repaired.
- Other structures coverage: Tornadoes are wind-based disasters and frequently cause damage to smaller structures. To protect your sheds, garages, pool houses, and other detached structures, make sure you have other structures coverage.
- Replacement cost coverage: Most policies consider the actual cash value of your personal belongings, which can make it hard to replace them after a tornado. For example, the actual cash value of your couch when you bought your policy 10 years ago is likely much lower than what it would cost to replace it with a new couch today. As such, consider a policy with replacement cost coverage to receive full reimbursement for any damaged items.
Choosing the best tornado insurance carrier
In addition to making sure you have the right type of coverage, choosing what carrier to get coverage with is just as important. While a small local insurance provider may be an attractive option, consider what happens if every home that carrier serves is hit in the same storm.
Making sure that you don’t have the exact same home insurance carrier as your entire neighborhood can potentially save you some delays in filing a claim, scheduling a meeting with an adjuster, and receiving a settlement check should the worst happen.
If you’re concerned about what your current homeowners policy covers, sit down with a licensed insurance agent or call your insurance carrier directly. Someone can help you understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t. Pay special attention to any home insurance exclusions on your policy as well, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
Does homeowners insurance cover flood damage during a tornado?
Flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, even if the flood damage was caused by a tornado. You’d need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to cover potential floods.
Many parts of Tornado Alley — the central area of the U.S. where a majority of the country’s tornadoes occur — are in areas prone to flooding. You can check the risk for your home specifically with FEMA’s Flood Map.
If you live in a flood-prone area, adding a flood insurance policy is highly recommended, and may even be required.
Check Out: What’s a Flood Insurance Waiting Period?
How much does tornado insurance cost?
The average cost for tornado insurance varies by state. In states with a higher risk of tornadoes, such as those in Tornado Alley, you can expect to pay more for your premium. The average annual premium on a residential policy from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, for instance, is approximately $1,750.
Your individual rate will vary widely depending on the value of your home, your location, your home’s individual risk, your claims history, your coverage limits, and your deductible.
If you add on windstorm coverage, flood insurance, or additional loss of use coverage, your total homeowners insurance costs will be higher.
How to prepare for possible tornado damage
If you grew up in an area with a lot of tornadoes, you’re probably used to tornado warnings and hearing the sirens go off. In many cases, these warnings may not even result in a tornado.
Constant exposure to the same risk without any consequence can create apathy around that risk, but regardless of how many times you’ve heard the sirens, you should still take preparing for a tornado seriously.
To better prepare your home for a tornado, follow these steps:
- Start a home inventory. Catalog your personal items in something easy to access, such as a note or document saved to a cloud drive. When possible, include details about the item, like what year you purchased it, the brand, model, and cost, and any other relevant information that can help your insurance carrier determine its replacement value. Taking pictures can also help.
- Maintain your property. Proper maintenance such as trimming any dead tree limbs and securing any loose items like trampolines can save your property — maybe even your life.
- Know where to shelter. A safe shelter during a tornado is a ground floor or basement room without any windows. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet — ideally one away from heavy objects on the floor above you like a fridge or piano. If your home doesn’t have a suitable room, there may be one nearby that you can use at a neighbor’s or your local school. The best time to figure this out is now, before a tornado hits.
- Create a family emergency plan. Sit down with your family and create a family emergency plan. Be sure to include things like who’s responsible for getting any children, pets, or family members with mobility issues to your designated tornado shelter. Practice a tornado drill with the entire family so that everyone knows how to execute the plan.
- Stock your tornado shelter. If your tornado shelter is in your own home, make sure that it’s stocked with essentials. This should include a first aid kit, a light source, water, snacks, and any necessary medications.
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