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When storms strike - are you protected?

Tornados can erupt without warning. Gerri Willis looks at how homeowners can protect their property and themselves.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The tornados that devastated parts of Kansas and Oklahoma could happen anywhere. And while there is generally little to no warning at all when these storms strike, there are some things you can do to protect your family and your home from disaster.

1: Get a safe room

Homeowners living in a region plagued by tornados may want to consider creating a safe room, which has been reinforced to withstand wind speeds of over 250 miles per hour, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Typically, a safe room should be located in a central, interior, ground-floor area of the home for additional protection as well as accessibility.

Homeowners can use a closet or a bathroom as a safe room or even the basement of a home. Safe rooms can also be built in a garage or away from the house. To find out more about safe room plans, check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency at fema.gov.

2: Secure the garage

Eighty percent of residential tornado damage starts with wind entering through the garage, so make sure your garage doors are reinforced.

A qualified inspector can determine if both the door and connecting parts can resist high-speed winds and, if necessary, replace them with a stronger system. Garage doors more than eight feet wide are most vulnerable. If you have these types of doors, you may want to consider installing permanent wood or metal stiffeners.

3: Think impact resistant

Sliding glass doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. If you are replacing your patio doors or building a new home, consider installing impact-resistant door systems made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass.

And if you're thinking of replacing your windows, install impact-resistant windows. If you can't find them in your area, you can usually order them from manufacturers or home improvement stores in coastal areas that routinely face heavy storms.

4: Declutter the yard

Keeping your yard free of debris will also help to minimize storm damage. Make sure you keep your shrubbery trimmed. Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house. If you have gravel or rock landscaping material, replace it with shredded bark. Top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.