Strong winds from tornadoes can rip apart a home in four seconds, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS). With potential wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, the damage can be extensive.

Every year, more than 1,000 tornadoes occur, causing billions of dollars in property damage, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports. In 2014, insurance claims for tornado damage were the fourth highest on record at $12.3 billion, III says.

The United States has more tornadoes than any other country, according to Lloyd’s of London, a syndicate of insurance underwriters. Although they’re most common in the Plains states, tornadoes have occurred in every state, the American Red Cross says.


Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Tornadoes?


If you live in a tornado-prone area, try to minimize tornado damage by taking these steps.


Trim your trees. Remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees, the Red Cross suggests. This will keep them from becoming flying debris during a tornado. You might also want to take a close look at what kinds of trees, if any, are near enough to fall on your house. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises contacting your local agricultural extension office to get suggestions on which varieties of trees will be less susceptible to storm damage.


Put away potential projectiles. Move garbage cans inside and do the same for lawn furniture and anything else that could be picked up by the wind.


Anchor any sheds or outbuildings. FEMA suggests using the straps and ground anchors also used for manufactured homes to tie them down.


Secure attached structures. If you have a carport, lanai or other attached structure, secure them to the ground, the IIBHS says.


Check your furniture. Are there large, unsecured items that might topple over? StormAware, from the state of Missouri, advises securing them with brackets or eyebolts. It also advises making sure chairs and beds are not near windows, mirrors, or large pictures that could fall, and moving heavy items down from shelves that are more than 30 inches high.


Secure large appliances. StormAware recommends securing your water heater in particular with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.


Inspect your roof. Look for any existing damage. An already-damaged roof can lead to even more costly damage later, the IIBHS says.


Secure your chimney. Brick chimneys that extend more than six feet above the roof or are wider than 40 inches should have “continuous vertical reinforcing steel placed in the corners,” according to the Red Cross. Also, have a contractor inspect, repair and reinforce masonry on the outside of your home (if you have a brick house) and on your chimney.


Hire a contractor to shore up connections. If you have a wood-frame house, ask a contractor to look at common connections (such as where your roof meets the walls) and add anchors, clips or straps that will provide more strength, the Red Cross advises. If you have a manufactured home, have a contractor permanently connect your home to its foundation, the IIBHS recommends.


Related: How to Survive a Tornado


This infographic from the IIBHS has more tips on preparing your property for tornadoes.

How to prepare your property for high winds infographic(Photo: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety )

Angela is a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide. Prior to joining SafeBee, she was the features editor for Boston.com at The Boston Globe, overseeing health, travel, entertainment, business and lifestyle coverage. Before moving to features, she was the news and homepage editor, covering stories such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Red Sox World Series victories, presidential elections, a papal inauguration, and more. Her favorite safety tip: Clean your phone! The average cell phone has 18 times more germs than the toilet handle in a men’s restroom.