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Do you know what to do when severe weather threatens your home?

It’s no secret that natural disasters are becoming more frequent and severe1. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, severe weather caused $3.1 billion in insured damage – making it the third worst year for losses in Canadian history2. Natural disasters can strike anytime and anywhere, and while you can’t prevent one from happening, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risks. Since it’s peak tornado season in Southwestern Ontario,3 we’ve compiled a list of key elements to remember.
Know the signs
Tornado warnings can be broadcast up to an hour before they strike, but sometimes they move quickly and happen without notice4. Know the weather conditions of a potential tornado5:

  • A dark sky with green or yellow clouds.

  • Thunder, lightning, and high winds.

  • A curtain of heavy rain or hail.

  • An approaching funnel cloud with a rumbling or a whistling sound.

Check out the Government of Canada’s Weather Information interactive map, which displays all weather alerts across Canada 24/7, to find out if you live where an alert is active.

Before a tornado or windstorm
Prepare a 72-hour emergency kit that includes water, non-perishable foods, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, copies of important documents, cash, and special needs items like prescription medications1. Ensure each family member knows how to take shelter at home, school, or work.

Secure your home against severe weather by1:

  • Storing any flammable or toxic products away from any heat sources.

  • Anchoring heavy objects that could cause damage or injury.

  • Securing patio furniture and garbage bins.

  • Ensuring your downspouts extend at least 6 feet away from your home.

  • Performing regular maintenance on your roof, chimney, heating system, electrical, plumbing, and landscape grading.

  • Investing in a power generator and extra fuel in the event of a power failure.

  • Installing a backflow valve to prevent sewage from flooding your basement.

  • Installing impact-resistant windows and doors, including garage doors.

During a tornado or windstorm
Stay away from windows and exterior walls and doors5. Get to the lowest, most central room, like a bathroom or closet in your basement5. If you don’t have a basement, take shelter under a sturdy desk or table4. If you’re driving, go to the nearest solid shelter, or if the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low area like a ditch5. Always protect your head from flying debris5.

After a tornado or windstorm
Try to remain calm and prioritize your safety6. Assess your surroundings for structural damage, and if you suspect it’s unsafe, leave and don’t re-enter6. Don’t turn on any light switches or light any matches until you’re confident that your electrical system is intact and there aren’t any gas leaks6. Follow the instructions of local authorities and don’t attempt to enter damaged areas6. Don’t go near loose or dangling power lines as they can cause fires or serious harm – report them and any broken sewer and water mains to the authorities6.

Once you can think about next steps, you should report your claim to our 24-Hour Emergency Service as soon as possible. Detail your claim by listing your belongings that may have been damaged or destroyed, and take photos where possible. Opening a claim will allow your insurer to assign an adjuster and pull in additional resources if necessary.

Know what’s covered
Most home insurance policies cover damage and destruction caused by tornadoes or windstorms. In certain circumstances where homeowners can’t return to their homes because of insured damage, they may be entitled to additional living expenses like hotel accommodations and meals. If insured with OTIP, check with an OTIP broker to see the limit on your policy for those additional living expenses. Vehicles that experienced damage from hail, ice, wind, or water are usually covered under comprehensive or all-perils auto insurance – these are additional optional coverages, so check with an OTIP broker if you would like them added to your policy.

If you're a current OTIP policyholder, contact us at 1-833-494-0089 to review your existing home insurance policy. If you’re not insured with OTIP and are shopping for home insurance, call us at 1-833-615-9326 to get a quote and receive a $20 gift card of your choice!

  1. Insurance Bureau of Canada – Emergency Preparedness

  2. Insurance Bureau of Canada – Severe Weather Safety

  3. Government of Canada – Tornadoes

  4. Insurance Bureau of Canada – Wind and Tornado Protection

  5. Government of Canada – Tornadoes

  6. Government of Canada – After an emergency

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