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Nearly 95% of U.S. counties have experienced tornado watches within the last five years, according to the National Weather Service. From the months of March to June, the risk of these natural disasters is heightened with an annual average of more than 1,200 events, according to Fred Malik, managing director of FORTIFIED for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

While safe rooms that meet FEMA P-320 or ICC-500 standards are the highest upgrade you can make to residential projects in tornado-prone areas, Malik says building to FORTIFIED Home standards, which is a voluntary beyond-code construction program offering three levels of protection, can minimize damage caused by tornadoes—and give owners a home to return to.

“While some jurisdictions, like Moore, Oklahoma, have adopted codes that strive to reduce the risk of tornado damage, many states in the middle of our country lack a consistently enforced statewide code. In these areas, a voluntary, beyond-code construction program is the best way to ensure a resilient home,” Malik adds.

Both lab and storm tested, proven results include when Hurricane Sally landed in Alabama in 2020 where more than 17,000 FORTIFIED homes were threatened. Malik says that over 95% had no damage or only minor damage because of the systems in place, which can also protect against tornado damage.

For mid-construction to finished homes, here are five tips for minimizing damage from tornadoes.

1. Secure Jobsites
Based out of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, near Kansas City, Pfeifer Homes recommends cleaning up jobsites before higher winds. This includes removing trash and debris, delivered materials, and securing equipment. Justin Pfeifer, who will serve as Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City president in 2025, says, “This way you don’t have trash blowing around the community or construction site and you don’t run the risk of building materials blowing away.” This can also lower damage risks for other nearby projects and structures.

2. Close Doors and Windows
If the risk of severe weather arises, Pfeifer says that ensuring all windows and doors of a home are closed can reduce unwanted water intrusion from rain driven inside by winds. An old misconception recommended cracking windows during a tornado warning. While 6% of respondents in a Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) consumer survey reported interest in opening or cracking windows during warning conditions, FLASH says, “Cracking or opening windows allows wind pressurization inside a home that can lead to building damage and often complete destruction as well as life-safety issues from debris."

3. Ensure a Quality Garage Door
The FLASH report also found that 68% of respondents were unaware of the importance of a properly braced or impact-resistant garage door for ensuring the structural integrity of a home during a tornado. FLASH notes that an intact garage door during 110 mph or lower windspeed tornado can prevent roof and wall damage, with 89% of tornadoes occurring at 110 mph or lower. Malik agrees, “Garage doors are one of the most vulnerable parts of a structure in high winds, which can push a garage door inward, allowing wind forces to enter the building and push up on the roof and outward on the surrounding walls, causing a cascade of damage. An IBHS study of tornado damage found less than 10% of homes had roof structural damage when the garage door remained intact. When selecting a garage door, the key information your garage door contractor needs is the door's design pressure rating.”

4. Install An Above-Code Roof
In addition to a garage door rated for winds up to 130 mph, Malik says a home’s first line of defense is a FORTIFIED Roof. The above-code measures include enhanced roof deck attachments, a sealed roof deck, and locked down edges. Malik says, “When severe weather strikes, a FORTIFIED Roof keeps the wind and rain out, preventing a cascade of damage that can destroy your home and belongings. FORTIFIED Roof was specifically designed to prevent damage that commonly occurs during high winds. No matter what type of roof you have—shingles, metal, or tile— FORTIFIED Roof requirements will make your home stronger.”

5. Confirm Coverage
Prior confirmation that your projects are fully insured can provide a level of peace as tornado watches or warnings are issued. When asked his for his best advice against tornadoes, Pfiefer says, “Builder’s risk insurance that covers the amount for the specific home or all the homes in the area that the builder has under construction.” This includes ensuring that the policy covers a tornado or weather-related event.