You can't completely "tornado-proof" your home. However, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for a twister and its aftermath.

The Insurance Information Institute and the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a Tampa-based insurance industry group, suggest the following strategies.

  • Make an inventory of your possessions. If your belongings are damaged, this list will help your home insurance company facilitate the claim filing process. Make sure you store this list in a safe place away from your home, like a safety deposit box.
  • Meet building codes. Structures built to meet widely accepted building codes have a much better chance of surviving high winds and flying debris. An inexpensive inspection by a qualified expert will tell you if your home is up to code. The inspector should examine the windows and doors, roofing, gables and connections (roof-to-wall and wall-to-foundation). Weaknesses in these areas make your home vulnerable to significant damage.
  • Install good windows. Modern impact-resistant window systems, when properly installed, have a much better chance of surviving a major windstorm. Alternatively, impact-resistant shutters that close over window openings prevent flying debris from breaking windowpanes.
  • Strengthen entry doors. If the door is in good condition, inspect the hinges (three are recommended). Hinges, latches and dead-bolt locks should be strong enough to resist high wind pressures. Double doors need special attention. Install heavy-duty barrel bolt sliding latches at the top and bottom. Door frames must be securely anchored to house frames.
  • Install impact-resistant patio doors. Sliding glass doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. If you are replacing your patio doors or planning new construction, consider installing impact-resistant door systems made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass.
  • Install strong garage doors. Because of their large size, garage doors are highly susceptible to wind damage. A garage-door installer can determine if both the door and the track system will resist high winds.
  • Stiffen double-wide doors. These doors are most vulnerable. Permanent wood stiffeners can be installed or temporary center supports that are easy to attach and remove can be designed by the door manufacturer or a local installer. Local building-code officials can provide more information.
  • Properly repair roofs. Your roof may have sustained enough damage from a storm to require replacement. When replacing a roof, you can take steps to ensure that both the new roof covering and the sheathing to which it attaches will resist high winds more effectively.

Your roofing contractor should:

  1. Remove old coverings down to the bare wood sheathing
  2. Remove sheathing to confirm that rafters and trusses are securely connected to the walls
  3. Replace damaged sheathing
  4. Refasten existing sheathing according to the proper fastening schedule outlined in your local building code
  5. Install a roof covering that is designed to resist high winds.
  • Brace your gables. The end wall of a gable roof must be properly braced to resist high winds. An inspector can help determine if your gable end walls should be strengthened.
  • Strengthen connections. The strength at points where the roof and the foundation meet the walls of your house is extremely important if the house is to resist wind pressures and the loads they place on the structure. To help reinforce these potential weak points, you should consider metal fasteners (most easily added when a roof is being replaced). Also, when winds place stress on walls, it's important that walls be properly anchored to the foundation. An expert can determine if these joints need retrofitting, which can be done by a qualified contractor. For houses with more than one story, the connections between each level must be properly tied together.