How to make your home safer in tornadoes, hurricanes

Severe weather season is here and hurricane season is fast approaching.

There are steps you can take now to make your home safer when a storm hits.


First, check that doors have two-inch deadbolts, as well as three hinges with screws long enough to secure the door, and the door frame to the wall frame.

Having a ‘safe room’ that can protect you and your family in a tornado or hurricane is not out of reach.  

You can build one to meet safety specifications.

"The key is it needs to meet a standard, the FEMA P-320 standard, or ICC 500. It doesn't matter what type you have, as long as it meets the national standard," explained Leslie Chapman-Henderson, CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.


Or you can find some safe rooms at hardware stores for about $3,000 or less.

Next, check how well your roof is nailed to the frame of the house, and look for metal connectors in the attic.

"Do they seem equally spaced?  If they are, you have a nice way to hold that roof down when the winds try to lift it up and lift it off. That roof itself is critical," said Chapman-Henderson.  

You can add caulking to hold the roof down.

"If you can apply premium flooring adhesive, if it’s cool enough in the attic when you do it, along the seams between the rafter and the underside of the deck, you can increase the wind uplift strength of your roof by three times," said Chapman-Henderson.


You can install impact-resistant windows or hurricane shutters. And get a wind-rated garage door, or reinforce the existing one with horizontal rods and tight mounting brackets.

"90% of the time, you have a breach from high wind. It starts with the garage door because it’s your largest and weakest opening on your home," she explained.

When buying a home, find out whether it's already been through a tornado, hurricane, or flood.

"If you go to, you can do a look-up and put in address of a home, or even a zip code, and it’s going to give you all the declared disasters of that area," said Chapman-Henderson.  

Here are some safety features to look for when buying a home from FLASH's Buyer's Guide to Resilient Homes:

"Include resilience factors in your home search from the beginning and be sure to research the disaster history. Realtors and sellers may not know or be required to disclose information about hazard risk voluntarily. 

Professional home inspectors often don’t address hazard vulnerability unless it relates to required construction regulations or building codes.

Know the resilience questions to ask your realtor, home inspector, mortgage broker, and insurance agent.

The first step to finding and purchasing a resilient home is understanding what risks you may face where you are buying.

You can start your search at to identify the building codes used in the community, including whether it has adopted the International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) models. You can also review the disaster history of the community, as well as historical code information and retrofit recommendations specific to the home’s current building code status. Try searching online for the address of the home and do the same search for all the perils, including earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, or wildfire. is funded by DHS Science & Technology Directorate, Systems Engineering and Standards Division, as well as FEMA.

You may also want to contact your local building or planning department to learn about the code enforcement requirements as they may be voluntary, mandatory, or nonexistent.

Consider also the disaster history for the broader area beyond your community. Just because a community hasn’t experienced disaster already doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.

Various tools show areas of past and expected weather or other disaster events, including these maps and resources:

Earthquake: seismic design category (earthquake design in the International Residential Code), seismic-hazard maps (USGS – earthquake potential shaking), fault
map (USGS – interactive quaternary faults database), and landslide map (USGS – landslide inventory)

Flood: FEMA Flood Map Service Center (flood maps and other products)
Hurricane: hurricane-prone regions (hurricane design in the International Residential Code), select wind borne debris region (hurricane and high-wind design in the International Residential Code), wind borne debris region (hurricane and high-wind design in the International Residential Code), U.S. Hurricane Return Periods (NHC NOAA – frequency of return hurricanes), and CONUS Hurricane Strike Density Maps (NHC NOAA – history of hurricane strikes)

Tornado: U.S. Tornado Climatology (NOAA – various tornado resources)
Wildfire: Wildfire Hazard Potential map (USDA Forest Service, Fire Modeling Institute) and Wildfire Risk to Communities map

You also can review the state or territory’s hazard mitigation plan. Local jurisdictions may have a hazard mitigation plan, as well.

Once you’ve completed your research, ask your realtor, mortgage broker, insurance company, or agent (and home inspector) what disasters have occurred or are typical for the community or neighborhood you are considering.

Professionals may not be required to disclose disaster history unless you ask. Write down your questions and their answers. Use your list to evaluate each professional you need to assist you in your home search and purchase.

Finally, your home inspector may not address your prospective home’s ability to withstand any disaster unless specifically related to the building code or home construction methods. However, you can ask the inspector to use the disaster-specific checklists (Appendix II) to help you learn more about the presence or absence of disaster-resistant home features and overall risk profile. You can also use those checklists to identify retrofits and upgrades that will make your prospective home stronger and more disaster-resistant."