Category Archives: Tornado

Watching the Weather

We’re here in Minneapolis watching a gorgeous day slowly change into a stormy one.

So how do you know when it’s time to make a severe weather plan or move to a safe room? Here are some tips from meteorologists and storm chasers:

1. Know the official signs:

  • A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are more likely to occur.
  • A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. Also listen for Tornado Watch or Warning and Flash Flood Watch or Warning.
  • Listen for tornado sirens — remember you may not be able to hear them or they might not be sounded in time.
  • Turn on your weather radio or tune into your local TV stations for updates.

2. Watch for changing weather conditions, especially for tornadoes. The sky may turn very dark (like night) or have a dark green tinge. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you; people who have lived through it say that an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train.

3. While a thunderstorm might seem common (especially this time of year), remember that all thunderstorms are dangerous. Head indoors as soon as you see lightning or hear that first clap of thunder.

4. Head to a safe place. If severe weather is imminent or a tornado is on its way, head to an interior room with no windows. Bring flashlights, your weather radio, food and water.

5. Want more? Get ready for emergencies with our get ready month series we published last year here on the blog.

Have a severe weather tip or story? Share in the Comments section below! 

Social Networking Playing a Large Role After Disasters

A recent study published in the New Scientist magazine found that blogs, maps, photo sites and instant messaging systems played a larger and perhaps better role in  providing warnings, help and lists of how individuals were affected than traditional sources.

From The Telegraph in UK:

During the Virginia [Tech] shootings, they found the emergency services were slow to update their reports on the latest situation and the names of those killed.

Within just 90 minutes of the first deaths, however, a web page accurately describing the events appeared on web encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Twenty minutes after that, Facebook users had set up a group called ‘I’m OK at VT’, which allowed students and staff to reassure the wider world that they were safe.

Along with online blogging and social networking sites, another emerging trend is  emergency text messaging, especially at colleges. Other large organizations such as the Red Cross have also set up online sites, like the Safe and Well site, for victims to let their families know they’re safe.

How has social networking played a role in your family’s life after a disaster? Have you been able to learn more about what has happened or to get in touch with others?

Share your story in the Comments section below! 

Tornadoes in Virginia

Virginian residents have started the cleanup process after a huge storm system swept through yesterday.

The tornado season is just getting started. We’ve spoken with meteorologists, tornado victims, emergency management officials and even storm chasers about how to prep for the season ahead.

Top 5 tornado prep tips:

1. Watch for changing weather conditions. The sky may turn very dark (like night) or have a dark green tinge. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you; people who have lived through it say that an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train.

2. Create a “safe room” in your home where family members can gather during a tornado.

  • Pick a room that’s toward the middle of your home. It shouldn’t have any windows. (The basement, the bathroom or a closet can work)

3. Prepare a readily available and fully stocked Home Disaster Preparedness Kit.

4. Stay tuned to your NOAA Weather Radio. At any time if there is a severe warning in your area, an NOAA weather radio automatically turns on and alerts you with beeps and sirens.

5. Remember, tornadoes can happen anywhere, anytime – not just in Tornado Alley. Downtown Atlanta experienced a tornado on Mar. 14, 2008. Tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica.

Want more? Top preparedness articles:

Spring Cleaning Series: Day #3

April showers bring…lots more showers and storms. Spring is certainly severe weather season.

Even if you don’t experience hurricanes or tornadoes where you live on a regular basis, severe weather and emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. In fact, homeowners are 26 times more likely to be affected by a flood than by a fire!

So do what you can to get ready today! Here are some steps to get you started:

1. The essentials: make a “to-go” kit. Even if it’s just a knapsack with important papers, food, water and extra medications, that’s a great start. How to make your to-go kit.

2. Get out now! Time is extremely important in any emergency. Learn how to get out of your home in a hurry. Don’t have a lot of time? Watch this quick two-minute video which offers quick tips and strategies on how to exit your home.

3. Dig deep. Last year, we dedicated a month-long series to help you get ready for anything and everything. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do every task all at once! Just pick and choose what works for you and your family. Get ready for emergencies…

4. Disaster ready. Is your area typically prone to certain disasters? Brush up on your preparedness skills and knowledge with these helpful guides:

That’s all for Day#3! Tomorrow we’ll suggest quick tips and tasks you can easily tackle over the weekend.

Spring Cleaning Series: Day #2

Welcome back! It’s Day 2 of our week-long spring cleaning series. (Read Day #1 here!)

Spring cleaning can be a lot more than just cleaning out closets and putting winter items away: how about “cleaning” and organizing your financial house as well!

Pick a topic below and get started!


Having adequate coverage is key, just in case the unexpected occurs. You never know when Mother Nature might cause a slight disruption in your life, so get ready!

1. How much is your home worth? Do you have enough insurance on your home to rebuild it if it is destroyed? Do you even know how to calculate the amount of insurance you need? Learn how to estimate your home’s value.

2. Am I covered? The more you know and understand about home insurance, the better you can insure yourself and your family in case of loss. Top questions to ask your agent…

3. Get extra coverage. Did you know that most home owner’s insurance policies only cover about $1000 worth of electronics and only $1500 worth of jewelry? Look into extra riders to make sure your possessions are protected…

4. Review your policy. There are about five key events that should trigger a review. The first one is…


1. Start an emergency fund. Unexpected medical bills, disasters, even car accidents – you should have a pool of money set aside for these little speed bumps of life. Learn how to get started…

2. Do a home inventory. It’s like “found money” – it can help you make your case to the insurance companies when filing a claim after a loss, theft or natural disasters. Learn more…

3. Write a will and name beneficiaries for major policies. Take care of your finances for your loved ones before it’s too late. Start today.

That’s Day 2! Check back tomorrow for tips on how to prep your home for the spring severe weather season ahead. Have a tip? Post it in the Comments section below!

Spring Has Sprung!


Have a little extra bounce in your step thanks to the warmer weather? Me too! That extra hour of sunlight in the evening sure does the trick.

In honor of Mr. Sun, here are a few preparedness tasks you can do outside while you enjoy the warmer weather this weekend:

1. Prep for severe weather:

2. Know your numbers:

3. Weekend warrior:

Have a great weekend!!

Top Ten Phone Numbers to Have…Just In Case!

Bloggers Marc and Angel have a list of the top ten phone numbers you should have in your cell phone just in case. You just never know when you might need them!

Also, this brings to mind another blog post from a while back:

Still in need of additional contact lists to have just in case? Print out these handy emergency contact lists to keep a hard copy of your contact numbers – store them near your landlines at home or at work.

What to Do If You Lose Your Job

Hopefully this will never happen to any of you…but it might happen (or has already happened) to someone you know.

Layoffs are a common cause of job loss but natural disasters can also cause someone to lose their job. Just one month after Hurricane Katrina, over 217,000 of the 800,000 evacuees were unemployed (that’s more people than the population of Salt Lake City!!), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To help you combat the financial crisis that may come with any job loss or to prepare just in case this might happen to you, the University of Florida Extension service has put together an article with 9 guidelines to “help you hold onto what resources you have and survive this financial crisis.”

Part Three – Insurance Riders: Do I Need One?

This is the last part of the article “Insurance Riders: Do I Need One?” written by our guest insurance blogger, Stephen Hadhazi.

How much coverage is enough? Do I need to buy extra riders to cover the contents in my home? Stephen Hadhazi, a certified public insurance adjuster, tackles the answers to these very questions:

Policy Limits

In addition, certain items such as jewelry, firearms, coin collections, furs, fine art, computers, and electronics are subject to policy limits. To make sure you’re adequately covered, inventory your possessions and compare the value against your personal property coverage and any related limits.

The following list represents common policy limits:

  • Business personal property – $2500
  • Computer equipment and electronics – $1000
  • Firearms – $2000
  • Jewelry, furs, fine arts – $1000-$1500
  • Money (including coin collections) – $250
  • Silverware – $2500
  • Structures other than dwelling such as sidewalks, driveways, fences, permanent yard structures, and swimming pools – 10% of the dwelling limit
  • Trees and landscaping – 5% of the dwelling limit

Endorsements(riders) to consider:

  • Individual floaters for valuable items
  • Replacement Cost Value coverage (not available for personal property on flood policies)

Personal Liability Limits

Most policies offer liability limits of $100,000 to $300,000. While this sounds like a lot of money, it might not be enough especially if you have a high net worth or own expensive assets, a dog, a swimming pool, or your own business.

Most policies offer liability limits of $100,000 to $300,000. While this sounds like a lot of money, it might not be enough especially if you have a high net worth or own expensive assets, a dog, a swimming pool, or your own business.

If you have a home-based business, your liability is limited. For example, if a customer or business contact is injured in your home, your homeowners insurance won’t necessarily cover injuries, medical costs, or lawsuits.

Endorsements(riders) to consider:

  • Home business endorsement
  • Increase liability limits to match or exceed your net worth
  • Umbrella policy

Because all situations are different it’s important to understand your policy and address any shortcomings before disaster strikes. Review your policy annually and add or remove endorsements as needed to reflect any changes in your situation.

In addition, you may want to call a Public Insurance Adjusting company in your area and ask them what insurance company is writing the best policies and is which company would be easiest to deal with if you were ever faced with a claim. Then, keep that company’s number handy just in case you ever need them.

Part Two – Insurance Riders: Do I Need One?

This is the second half of the article “Insurance Riders: Do I Need One” written by our guest insurance blogger, Stephen Hadhazi. Missed the first part? Read it here!

What’s the difference between replacement cost value and actual cash value? Does it really matter what coverage I have on my home owner’s policy? Stephen Hadhazi, a certified public insurance adjuster, tackles the answers to these very questions:

Personal Property Limits

The contents of your home are generally insured for 50% to 75% of the total dwelling limits. If you carry $100,000 of insurance on your home, you may have personal property coverage of $50,000 to $75,000 depending on your policy’s provisions. Is it enough?

Further, depending on the type of replacement coverage you carry, the contents of your home could be dramatically underinsured. There is a huge difference between Replacement Cost Value endorsement which will replace your possessions with brand new, like-kind items and Actual Cash Value, which depreciates the possessions and pays only a fraction of their original cost.

In many cases, however, the term Replacement Cost Value reimbursement can be a slight misnomer both on personal property and structural claims. Nationally, many Replacement Cost Policies state that they will pay only the Actual Cash Value until such time replacement has been completed and you send them proof of the replacement.

Under such circumstances, you should also be aware that reimbursement of the full depreciated amount is also contingent on you spending at least the amount of the replacement cost amount allowed by your insurance company.

For example, you filed a claim for damage to a five year old sofa and your insurance company allowed a Replacement Cost Value (RCV) of $2000. You agree that the average useful life expectancy of the sofa would be ten years. The adjuster then depreciates the sofa at the rate of 50% leaving you an Actual Cash Value (ACV) of $1000.

The adjuster then writes you a check for $1000 and then tells you that you have a certain amount of time, usually 6-12 months, to replace the sofa and file for reimbursement of the $1000 they held back in depreciation under the Replacement Cost benefits of your policy. You then find a suitable replacement couch on sale for $1,500.

You eagerly send in your receipt to your insurance company expecting to receive the $1000 they held back in depreciation. However, you’re also limited by what you actually spent for replacement so instead you get a check from your insurance company for an additional $500 with a thank you note for saving them $500.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of Stephen’s article, complete with a list of personal property limits for most policies.