Past lessons are helping people protect homes from future tornadoes

In the more than 12 years since an EF5 tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, there’s been an education in how to rebuild and how to prepare for future catastrophic events. 

The city made several changes to homebuilding codes, like requiring metal connecting straps, known typically, as hurricane straps. These straps help secure roofs, often the first part of a house to fly off in a tornado. They’re part of FEMA’s official recommendations against tornadoes up to EF2. The city stopped short of requiring safe rooms or shelters, but some people have built them anyway. 

“We’re very resilient,” said Stephanie Brady, who helped oversee long-term recovery in Joplin.

The Carders didn’t have a basement in their old home. When they rebuilt, they installed one as a safe room. Chris Eller has a concrete outdoor shelter, which she uses out of fear of another EF5 tornado.

“We’ve had tornado warnings before, watches or whatever, and I never thought one would destroy the house and the neighborhood and a big part of the city,” Eller said.

Tornadoes touch down in the U.S. more than 1,200 times a year. 

Keeping people safe means building secure structures, supporting shelters in houses and buildings and ensuring people know when to use them.

“It gives me comfort as much as anything, other than prayers and hoping that nothing happens,” Cyndy Carder. “But I want that safety and that security.”