Tornado funnel and supercell storm cloud during a severe weather outbreak. What to Do Immediately After a Tornado in Kentucky?

Kentucky averages 21 tornados a year. Once a tornado strikes, all you can do is keep yourself and your family safe. But several things can happen before a tornado to help you be prepared. This includes knowing what to do immediately after a tornado and understanding the help you'll get with your Kentucky homeowners insurance.

For disasters like tornadoes, it's best to understand your insurance coverage long before you need it. This way, you can make any necessary adjustments. A Kentucky independent insurance agent can help you secure home and tornado insurance and review any existing policies you have. 

What to Do Immediately after a Tornado

Tornadoes in the US cause around $17 billion in damage every year. What you do immediately after a tornado helps you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. The Number 1 priority is you and your family's safety, and after that, you can begin to rebuild your home and your life with the following steps.

Step 1: Protect Yourself and Your Family

Tornadoes can come in clusters, so just because one has come and gone doesn't mean more aren't coming. Keeping an eye and ear on EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and information from local authorities can help you to stay updated on the storm.

Once you're sure the storm is over, the priority is safety. Ideally, you and your family had a plan in place for where you'd wait out the tornado. You'll immediately want to assess the health of yourself and your family by locating all family members and checking for any injuries. If someone is injured, it's best to call 911 rather than trying to move the person yourself. 

During this time, you'll need to be cautious about your surroundings and any potential damage the storm may have caused. This includes unstable structures, downed wires, broken gas lines, broken windows, and other debris that could be dangerous. It's recommended not to turn on any electronics or switches until the local fire department has cleared the area.

Step 2: Protect Your Property

In an ideal world, you'd have enough warning that a tornado was coming to protect your property before the catastrophe occurred. Sometimes these events sneak up on us, but not all hope is lost. You can take specific steps to help prevent further damage to your home, even after a tornado. If you didn't get a chance to do the following before the tornado struck, you could still do them after if it's safe to do so.

    • Shut off any natural gas or propane at the main valve.
    • Turn off the electricity at the main breaker panel.
    • Cover any damaged windows against rain.
    • Cover your roof against rain. 
    • Cover any valuables such as furniture and electronics that may be exposed.
    • Secure your valuables.

If at any point you're not comfortable making these adjustments on your property, you can call the local authorities to assist.

Step 3: Let others know you are safe

Most tornadoes do not blow through a city or town without getting some attention. Your friends and neighbors are likely to be concerned about your safety, knowing that your home was involved in a tornado. It's also common for phone lines to be down after a tornado. 

Once you've secured your safety, you can reach out to family and friends to let them know you're okay. Most social media sites now offer the ability to mark yourself "safe" after a catastrophic event, which can be an easy way to update many people at one time.

Step 4: Document the Damage

If there is significant damage to your home, you'll probably be filing an insurance claim and need evidence of the damage. Kentucky home insurance covers the structure of your home, garages, detached structures, your personal belongings, and even some of your landscaping against tornado damage. Your car is protected under comprehensive coverage if you have it. You'd file a claim with the appropriate insurance policy, but no matter what, they may ask for any photos or videos of the damage that you have.

You can use your cell phone to document the damage. It's best to do this as soon as possible before things start getting moved around. Being thorough can provide the insurance company with a complete look at the damage. They'll send someone out to assess the situation themselves, but it's always good to have backup proof for your claims.

Step 5: Start the Insurance Claim Process

If there's a particularly destructive tornado, your Kentucky independent insurance agent will probably already be aware of the situation and ready to hear from you. A quick phone call to them can get the claim process going if you know you'll be utilizing your home or auto insurance coverages.

Your agent will either contact the insurance company for you or guide you through the steps to take to initiate the claim process. The insurance company will ask you for a variety of information, and there will be a lot of back and forth. You can assist in the process by always responding in a timely manner and promptly having any paperwork or information they ask for readily available.

Eventually, the insurance company will send a claims adjuster to your property to assess the damage. You'll come to an agreement with the adjuster and the company on the amount of the claim. It's important to keep records of everything that occurs between you, the insurance company, and the contractors hired to fix your home. 

Significant catastrophic events can delay the insurance company's response. Insurance companies are obligated to respond to claims within a specific time period, but if they're dealing with hundreds or even thousands of impacted homes, it will take longer than if there's just a handful. 

Step 6: Start to Rebuild

Your insurance company will give you the green light to begin making repairs to your home. This can include working with contractors and other professionals to start rebuilding. You'll work out with your insurance carrier whether you'll select a contractor and get reimbursed or whether they'll assign you a contractor.

Most contractors will start with emergency repairs and then move on to permanent repairs. It's best to leave the repairs up to the professionals so you can ensure that you get reimbursed for any work that's done. If you begin repairing things yourself, you risk not getting paid back by the insurance company.

If the damage to your home has made it uninhabitable, an agent can help you receive temporary housing. Temporary housing is another covered benefit under homeowners insurance. 

How Does Home Insurance Cover Tornadoes in Kentucky?

There are several ways that your Kentucky homeowners insurance will assist you after you experience tornado damage. 

  • Structural damage: This covers the “dwelling,” or the structure of the home itself. Damage to or destruction of the dwelling by covered perils, such as tornadoes, falls under this category. Coverage will typically extend to "other structures" such as detached garages and sheds. 
  • Personal property damage: This covers your personal belongings like furniture, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc. This includes items stored in the home and in external storage units. Property stored off-premises may have a lower coverage limit.
  • Liability: This covers legal expenses such as attorney and court fees if you are sued for bodily injury or property damage to a third party. This typically doesn't impact tornado damage, but it is still good to know you have it. 
  • Additional living expenses: This covers if you’re forced to live elsewhere while awaiting repairs. Your insurance company provides reimbursements for things like hotel rooms, eating out, extra gas mileage, and more. Additional living expenses cover the difference in spending to maintain your normal lifestyle while living away from the home.
  • Flood insurance: Not part of your homeowners insurance, but if you've purchased a separate flood insurance policy, this will pay for any damage you experienced from natural flood waters. 

What about My Damaged Car?

Even if your vehicle is parked inside your garage, it is not covered under your homeowners insurance. If your car was damaged or destroyed by the tornado, you would file the claim with your car insurance.

To be covered against tornado damage, you need comprehensive coverage, also known as "other than collision." This insurance is not under Kentucky law, but your independent insurance agent can help you secure this policy. 

Comprehensive coverage is valuable to have beyond tornado damage. It will also cover damage from fire, hail, severe storms, fallen objects, theft, vandalism, etc. 

How Can a Kentucky Independent Insurance Agent Help?

Tornadoes are unexpected and catastrophic. Protecting yourself is a priority, but taking these steps immediately after a tornado can help you start to rebuild sooner rather than later. A big part of rebuilding is leaning on your insurance coverage, so it's essential to have the right policies. 

A Kentucky independent insurance agent is there to assist you every step of the way. From making sure you have the proper protection to filing a claim, an agent can help. They'll assist you in navigating the claim process and make sure you get the coverage you're paying for if disaster strikes. 

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

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