When Spring is in the air, Canadians tend to be more cheerful, but they should note that with high spirits comes a high risk of severe weather and natural disasters. While tornadoes are not as common as other extreme weather events, they are a recurring threat that can disrupt business operations. They can cause power outages, supply chain delays, and property and infrastructure damage.

Though it is difficult to determine the exact number of tornadoes in Canada, an estimated 86 touched down in 2023, fewer than the 117 recorded in 2022. On average, there are 80 confirmed and unconfirmed tornadoes that hit Canada each year. 

Most tornadoes occur in June and July; although their season extends from April to September, they can happen anytime. Southwestern Ontario, southern Quebec, and parts of the Prairies are the regions most often struck.

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According to Public Safety Canada, tornadoes are graded for intensity on the “Fujita scale” (named after tornado research scientist Ted Fujita), from F-0 (light damage potential) to F-5 (massive destruction). Canada has never had an F-5 tornado. Of Canadian tornadoes, 45% are F-0, 29% are F-1 (moderate damage), 21% are F-2 (considerable damage), 4% are F-3 (severe damage) and 1% are F-4 (devastating).

Regardless, small business owners should be prepared for the possibility of a tornado or any severe weather emergency to try to minimize damage to their properties.

What’s the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

It might not be something we commonly consider, but knowing the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning is critical to understand to be ready to act if you must:

  • Tornado Watch: A watch means that the weather conditions in your area are favourable for the occurrence of tornadoes. It is vital to stay alert and keep yourself updated with the latest weather forecasts. 
  • Tornado Warning: A warning will be issued if a confirmed tornado has been spotted or is likely to occur in your area. It means there is imminent danger. In such a situation, it is imperative to seek shelter immediately and follow the instructions provided by local authorities.

5 Ways Business Property Owners Can Try to Minimize Tornado Damage

Tornado preparedness requires protecting your employees, customers, and property and having a business continuity plan to deal with and recover from a severe storm.

Here are five ways business property owners can try to minimize damage to their properties from a tornado:

1. Do a Property Risk Assessment

In advance of the possibility of a tornado, do a risk assessment of your property. Identify and remove loose tree branches near your building, inspect the roof, windows, and doors and install impact-resistant doors if possible. Consider purchasing a backup power generator. Lock down items outdoors to prevent them from becoming projectiles in high winds. Also, ensure proper water drainage around your building, and if necessary, get a sump pump installed in your basement to help prevent flooding.

Regularly inspecting and maintaining your property is necessary regardless of the weather, but doing so before any severe weather system can help significantly minimize damage.

2. Monitor Weather Conditions

Be aware of weather forecasts, alerts, and tornado notifications during severe thunderstorms. Environment and Climate Change Canada provides a 24/7 alert map that tracks various weather conditions. Also, tune in to or follow your local media broadcasts for current conditions in your area.

3. Assemble an Emergency Kit

Buy a first-aid kit and assemble emergency supplies that will last for up to 72 hours in case it’s advised you shelter in place. 

Your kit should include drinking water, non-perishable food, a manual can opener, candles and matches, a battery-powered flashlight, extra batteries, a portable cellphone charger, battery-powered or wind-up radio, and cash. You can also purchase a 72-hour emergency kit from some retailers or the Canadian Red Cross.

4. Have a Business Continuity Plan

Recovering from any natural disaster or extreme weather requires a business continuity plan. It can help your small business endure and survive an unexpected crisis or weather event that temporarily closes your business.

That plan should include assigning roles and actions for employees to take, maintaining an up-to-date contact list, backing up data to cloud storage, and designating a safe room or place, such as a hallway or basement, for employees and customers to hunker down during a tornado.

Even if your business property is spared severe damage following a tornado or other significant storm that hits your community, damage to local infrastructure, such as a widespread power outage, could put you out of business for an extended period. A business continuity plan that includes a designated alternative workplace or telecommuting strategy is critical.

5. Maintain a Business Contents List

Documenting your business’s contents and inventory is vital information if you file a property damage insurance claim.  

Take detailed notes, photos and videos. Include descriptions of each item and the value of contents and inventory. Make multiple hard and digital copies of your contents and inventory list and store them in different locations.

What to Do After a Tornado or Windstorm

Always think about safety first! If your business or community is affected by a tornado, prioritize sheltering in place until instructed otherwise by local authorities. Listen to local radio broadcasts for information and instructions. Only attempt to assess the damage to your property once the storm has passed and it’s safe to do so.

Among the steps to take:

Be Cautious and Protect Yourself

When cleaning up, wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, gloves, and sturdy shoes to reduce the risk of injuries. Stay away from severely damaged areas and downed power lines. If you suspect your building is unsafe, don’t enter it.

Document Injuries

Attend to injured individuals immediately and call 9-1-1 if necessary. Maintain a detailed record of injuries to employees and customers.

Document Property Damage

This step is crucial when filing an insurance claim. Take detailed notes, photographs and videos of the damage, ensuring nothing is missed. Immediately contact Zensurance if you need to file a claim. Our dedicated claims team will guide you through the claim process.

What Type of Insurance Covers Damage Caused By a Tornado?

Damage caused to a business’s property by a tornado or any natural disaster is covered by commercial property insurance. It covers damages and losses to your business property caused by natural disasters, fire, water, theft, and vandalism.

Carefully review your policy details to understand the coverage limits and exclusions. It’s also important to know whether a commercial property insurance policy is based on actual cash value or replacement value coverage.

If you are concerned your coverage is insufficient, talk to a Zensurance broker who can help ensure your business is fully protected. For example, business interruption insurance can help cover lost income and business expenses if your business is forced to temporarily close for repairs following an insurable loss, like a tornado.

How to Get Low-Cost Business Property Insurance

Proactive measures and a solid plan can boost your small business’s readiness for tornado season. It’s essential to be informed, take necessary precautions, and know what steps to take in the aftermath of a storm to minimize damage and quickly get your business up and running again.

Fill out our online application for a free quote to ensure your business is covered for all kinds of weather.

With over 50 insurance providers in our partner network, Zensurance can get low-cost, customized business insurance coverage to protect your finances and support your business’s growth and longevity.

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About the Author: Brandon Bowie

Brandon Bowie is a Team Lead, Professional Lines at Zensurance.