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Tornado Awareness

Tornado taking out barn

For Immediate Release:

Take Cover Immediately When Tornado Warning Sounds: Residents May Lose Precise Seconds Confirming Info

MADISON, WI (April 1, 2014) – Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually and past storms have taken lives, caused severe injuries and cost millions of dollars in damage.

“Despite the danger, a National Weather Service study conducted after the deadly Joplin, Missouri tornado showed many people do not immediately seek shelter when tornado warnings are issued,” says Ron Von Haden, CIC, Executive Vice President of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIAW).

The study showed people needed between two and nine risk signals to take action and seek cover. For example, if they heard the sirens going off they would look in the sky, then check TV/radio stations or social media. “The time it takes between the warning and the search for confirmation can cost lives. Select a single source of information and once the warning sounds, take cover with no delays,” advises Von Haden.

It is also important to know where to take shelter during tornados and severe storms. “Move to an underground basement or safe room”, says Von Haden. “If that is not possible, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.” Note: mobile homes are not safe and it is advisable to drive to the nearest shelter before the storm hits.

If caught outdoors, look for a sturdy building. If you cannot quickly find shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle the seatbelt and crouch or lay with your head below the windows.

Parents should make sure their children’s school practices storm safety drills, so students know what to do in an emergency.

Another good piece of advice is to conduct a home inventory before storms strike.

“Use your camera phone or video recorder to document the items in your house,” says Von Haden. “Store the video off-site so you have it ready if your home be damaged or destroyed by a tornado.” Should tragedy strike, take the following steps:

  • Family Protection – Once you are assured that all family members are unharmed or have been taken to the appropriate care giver; contact your local insurance agent and give them an idea of the damage. Standard homeowners and auto policies cover storm and wind damage.
  • Documentation – Take detailed photos of the damage to your home, contents and vehicles, and give copies to your insurance agent.
  • Don’t Conduct Cleanup Before the Adjuster Arrives – Insurance companies will send an adjuster to survey the damage to your home and vehicles. Don’t do any cleanup until after the adjuster has seen the damage. You can, however, make repairs to prevent further damage to the property such as covering a hole in the roof. Most insurance companies will have emergency response teams or local adjusters on-site to quickly survey damage after a storm.
  • Additional Costs – If you have to stay in a hotel or eat at restaurants while your house is under repair, keep those receipts as the insurance company will typically reimburse you.
  • Quotes: If your home will need extensive repairs, work only with legitimate contractors and obtain quotes. After a storm, hustlers frequently canvass damaged areas promising speedy repair work…but they often take your deposit and are never seen again.
  • Timeliness: If your claim seems to be taking a long time, contact your local, professional insurance agent and have him/her contact the insurance company. They can find out what is causing the delay and escalate your claim as needed. “This is one of the times when having a local, professional independent agent is crucial,” said Von Haden.

For more information or to locate a PIAW member near you look for the PIAW logo or go to

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