Tornadoes are one of the most devastating weather events in terms of property damage and potential for injury and loss of life. While tornadoes can occur anywhere, the United States experiences the highest number of any country, averaging 1,200 events each year. In the Midwest, peak tornado season occurs during the spring months and can be extremely costly. Insurance claims for tornado losses in 2013 exceeded ten billion dollars.
The self-storage industry has been significantly impacted by tornado activity including severe property damage and business interruption resulting in costly insurance claims. Because it is impossible to prevent a tornado, every self-storage operator should take some basic steps to prepare for a tornado-related emergency.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
It is critical that you assemble emergency supplies and equipment so they are on hand and available in the event of a tornado. In addition to a first aid kit, basic emergency supplies may include water and non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, whistles, battery- or crank-powered radios, blankets, extra clothing, hand and power tools and plastic tarps. You may wish to have a supply of cash on hand for food, supplies and paying employees or contractors. It is also an excellent idea to store a copy of important documents in an off-site location such as insurance policy numbers and contact information for employees, customers and vendors.
Plan to Shelter in Place
If a tornado strikes during business hours, your employees and customers may be forced to shelter in place. Create a written plan and communicate its contents to your staff so they are ready to act if necessary.
Know the Warning Signs
The warning signs of a tornado include an unusual greenish or black color in the sky, heavy rain or hail followed by either dead calm or an intense wind shift, a visible funnel cloud, a loud continuous rumble that does not fade away quickly, and an intense ongoing sound that some describe as sounding like a waterfall, freight train or jet. Pay close attention to news reports about tornado warnings and sightings and take immediate action when needed to ensure the safety of employees and customers that may be on site.
These suggestions are just a few basic concepts to incorporate into your facility’s tornado preparedness plan. One of MiniCo’s carriers, Liberty Mutual Insurance, has prepared a detailed tornado action plan that you may download by visiting minico.com/tornadoplan. Additional resources are available at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website ready.gov. Your insurance agent is another excellent resource for risk management information and advice on insurance coverages and limits.
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