Resources for Tornado Survivors

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Thank you so much for sharing your story! Our research will make a difference in helping to make homes safer and improving safety advice about where to shelter during tornadoes. Here are links to the approved consent forms (information sheets) about our study:

Resources

Engineers, researchers, and meteorologists have been working hard over the last two decades, studying the damage caused by tornadoes and other types of windstorms (like hurricanes). They’ve been figuring out how to build homes that better withstand strong wind events — with minimal added cost. Congress has now created the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act (e.g., see NIST’s National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program Office or FEMA’s description of the Congressional program), aimed at continuing this research and seeing the payoff of these developments. This is good news because insurance costs have been rising fast in the U.S.

One exciting effort is by the independent, nonprofit group that is funded solely by property and casualty insurers and reinsurers that conduct business in the U.S. called IBHS: the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety. They built a facility with a giant wall of fans that allows them to test new construction ideas on one- and two-story homes and other structures. Other groups like FLASH: the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (with fantastic educational materials like this Resilient Design Guide) and and companies like Simpson Strong-Tie ( which has educational information for homeowners) are also involved.

Part of our goal with our research is to help, in our own small way, to get the word out on these exciting developments. IBHS’s FORTIFIED program is quickly growing and consumer demand can help move these advances forward. Insurance incentives can, too, and Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma all offer incentives for at least installing a FORTIFIED Roof, if not more. The FORTIFIED Home movement started in coastal Alabama and is now spreading. Read more about the Top 20 FORTIFIED Cities in 2020 from Smart Home America.

How can homes better withstand strong winds? Most homes are built to take advantage of gravity, but strong winds exert forces that are sideways and upward. When built with a continuous load path, your home will resist those sideways and upward forces and hold itself together. It will stay down on the ground longer during strong winds, which do not last long in a tornado and many other types of windstorms including downbursts. Seconds count. And consider this: your home may still be “totaled” if the winds are particularly strong (tornadoes of EF2+) but provide protection for you, your loved ones, and your belongings. Imagine what it would be like to not only be displaced, but lose everything, including heirlooms, family photographs, and so on. Survivors tell us that even the rest of the “it’s just stuff” is an incredible hassle to replace. It can take years before you feel fully back to normal life. We encourage you to take five minutes to watch this video on the research: https://vimeo.com/237087513

If your home must be rebuilt, look at the resources above and build back stronger.

If your home can be repaired, consider making any part of the framing that you can access stronger and adding a safe room. Learn more:

At the very minimum, consider installing a FORTIFIED roof. The most common thing to happen to homes is water damage inside after losing some roof shingles!

Did you know that IBHS has ratings of roof shingles? They have carefully studied the real properties of hailstones and can mimic them in their test facility. They are also studying other aspects of weathering.

Calm yourself and your family after the storm

Experiencing a tornado or other severe storm is traumatic. You may find that it’s hard to stop reliving the events in your mind, or you may find yourself cringing at noises that remind you of the event. There are many others who have gone before you, be it with storms or other traumas, and there are lots of resources to help:

Did you know there are counselors specifically trained in trauma? Here’s how to find one: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd

Do you need immediate help? The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Here is a web site for children who have been through a tornado: https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/disasters/tornado-resources

And here is a handout for parents to help their children after a tornado:

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