Preparing for a Hurricane
Every year between June 1st and November 30th, coastal residents wait in anticipation to see what hurricane season has in store for them. The temperamental storms can either grace cities with a tranquil shower or whip shore lines with mass destruction. But we never know which group we’ll be in until it is usually late in the game. They really enjoy keeping us on our toes.
If you happen to be a Florida native, you are probably well versed in the necessary preparations for hurricane weather. They wind up in the cone of uncertainty almost every Atlantic storm. However, those of us located just a little more north, who don’t always lie in the path of a hurricane, may not be as aware of what to do.
Protect your home with this general compilation of hurricane preparation tips.
1. Secure loose outdoor items or bring them indoors
Bring as much as you can inside. Your patio furniture, decor, grills, etc. Even the light items that you don’t think can cause damage. Don’t underestimate the power of hurricane winds. Even a plastic straw can pierce a concrete pole with enough velocity. For items that cannot fit or be brought in, like boats, kayaks, etc. Be sure to tightly secure and fasten them to sturdy structures or store them at a local unit.
2. Clear loose limbs and debris
Trees are pretty durable and sturdy when thriving but they are still no match for a hurricane. Mitigate damage by cutting limbs that hang too close to your home, removing any fallen limbs, and maybe even clearing dying or diseased trees from your property. Understand that you may not touch any tree that is not on your property line without a license or permit. If you believe an overhanging tree could damage your property but it resides outside your property line you can negotiate with the resident on whose property it is on or contact your city government for those on public property lines.
*Check your city’s Tree Ordinance to ensure lawful actions are being done
3. Check seals on windows and doors
While an average rainy day may not give you any trouble with poor stripped windows and doors, a few days of non stop rain and lots of it could leave serious damage. Protect your home from water damage by caulking your windows and weather stripping your doors (this could also help keep your energy bill lower). If you do not have hurricane shutters or storm windows be sure to board up windows and glass doors with plywood. You can fasten them with screws or tension clips on the outside of your home. For all other entry doors, place sandbags against the base of the door in a line from one side of the door frame to the other. Stacking rows will provide further protection. Three rows of sandbags will protect you from about a foot of water.
4. Reinforce garage door
This is one of the most important steps to protect your home according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Once a garage door is blown out it creates a vacuum and the full power of the hurricane pushes at your home. This is the most common cause of a roof being suctioned off of a house in a hurricane.
If your garage door is on its last leg, replace it. You can even purchase a hurricane resistant garage door. If it is still in decent shape, be sure to secure it against positive and negative pressure. You can either purchase a metal reinforcement kit or place wood 2x4s horizontally and/or vertically along interior of your garage door.
5. Ensure roof is sealed and up-to-date
Inspect your roof for vulnerable spots. Get on the roof and check for missing, curled or loose shingles. Then go into your attic and inspect for any light coming through from the roof. Be sure to nail shingles that need addressed and apply construction or roofing cement to places that had holes or seemed to show light. It is also a good idea to apply construction cement to each side of rafters/trusses where they connect to roof deck. For extra security you can call your local roofing company to inspect and take care of necessary repairs. They can even fasten your roof to the walls of your home with metal straps. In fact, some builders are required to do this in locations prone to storm damage. Check and see if your home has this feature.
6. Stock up on emergency supplies
Do not wait until the last minute to run to the store! It isn’t unusual for local businesses to run out of your basic emergency supplies by the time you are in the path of a hurricane. Plan to stock up enough supplies for a minimum of 3 days.
Water - Lots and lots of water is essential. This isn’t only for drinking, but also to flush your toilets and shower if the water happens to be shut off.
Alternate lighting sources - candles, lighters and flashlights will be wanted in stock in case the power is knocked out. In severe weather circumstances, it could be a while before Georgia Power is able to get your power back up and running.
Batteries - these will not only fuel your flashlights but other gadgets too. For example, portable phone charger batteries are a very useful tool to have. Being able to communicate distress or marking yourself safe to your loved ones will be a luxury you will want. Grab spares for you smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well.
First aid kit - If you happened to be trapped due to flooding or debris and emergency vehicles cannot get to you, you will want your basic aid items. A first aid kit should cover a lot. You may also want to pick up basic medicines as well, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. It is also imperative you make sure needed prescriptions are filled.
Non perishables - When stocking up on food for you family be sure to keep their tastes in mind. In tragedy it helps to eat things you are familiar with to boost morale. Try to stick to items with long shelf lives that you won’t have to cook. You won’t want to forget bulk paper goods as well.
Gas - Fill all of your vehicle gas tanks and check the fluids. If you need to evacuate, you will want to be prepared as quickly as possible.
Generator - While not necessary, it is a nice luxury to have a generator to pump power through your home until the power company is able to get you back up and running.
7. Have an evacuation plan
Keep a close eye on hurricane predictions. If you see that your area will likely be affected or your government declares a state of emergency be on call for a mandatory evacuation. Get a plan together and make sure your household is prepared and aware of the plan.
8. Secure important documents
Ensure all important documents are safely secured either in a safe or some makeshift, waterproofing mechanism. These may be necessary later. All birth certificates, social security cards, house deeds, etc. should be organized and properly stored.
9. Inventory valuables
This can be a time consuming task but one that is well worth it. Photograph your possessions and record as much item information as you can gather - serial number, model, year purchased, etc. Make sure this list is either in a digital location where it can easily be retrieved or added into your secured important documents list (Ready.gov offers a free inventory software to use). If damage to your items does happen, this list will be a crucial part in making sure you are covered for the full value of the items that you lost.
10. Have updated Homeowner’s, Flood, and Windstorm insurance plans
Insurance is not a maybe purchase. You should absolutely get insurance, especially when you live in a coastal area. Many mortgage companies will require homeowner’s insurance to receive a home loan for purchase. Flood insurance cost and requirements are set by FEMA and can be mandatory in certain flood plains. However, windstorm insurance is usually an add on. All three are necessary for full hurricane protection.
Make sure you know your deductible for each insurance plan. Homeowner’s is usually a flat rate while windstorm is usually a percentage of your home’s value. Make sure your plan is updated with enough coverage to rebuild your home, not just replace it. Building cost fluctuate and you want to make sure you account for that. Lastly, make sure to either get a plan or update your plan no less than 30 days before you would need it. Otherwise, you may not be covered. Some insurance companies will also not issue updates after a serious storm has been forecast. This should be a top priority and is the most important step in home protection against a hurricane.
Renters, check your insurance policies and lease agreement to know what damages will or will not be covered.
In emergency situations it is important to understand the power in community. Help each other be prepared. Maybe you house family and friends who cannot prepare adequately. Maybe you grab supplies and prep your elderly neighbors home for them. However you can contribute, do it. Step up and step in.