With the hurricane season underway, now is the time to prepare yourself and your home for a potentially damaging storm. While you have little control over a storm’s path and timing, you can take steps to minimize damage to your home and ensure the safety of your family. And remember, timing is critical: don’t wait until there’s a storm in the forecast to protect your home.
1. Secure Doors, Windows and Roofing
To minimize the risk of glass breakage, install storm shutters or create your own low-cost version. Measure and cut pieces of plywood (5/8-inch thick) to fit over your windows and sliding glass doors. Your exterior doors should be hurricane-proof, with at least three hinges and a 1-inch or longer deadbolt lock. For extra protection, install deadbolts at both the top and bottom of the door. Also make sure your garage door is approved to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Caulk the areas around windows, doors, vents and any electrical outlets on the outside of your home to keep them watertight. Minimize the risk of roof damage during hurricane season by using hurricane straps or clips to fasten the roof to your house’s frame.
2. Minimize Water Damage
To aid in proper drainage, clean your gutters and downspouts in advance of hurricane season and test your sump pump to make sure it is working. Consider waterproofing your basement and installing check valves in sewer lines to prevent backup into your home.
3. Consider Using a Backup Generator
You may want to purchase a generator in case you lose power; it can power the sump pump and other critical appliances in your home. But be sure your generator is at least 20 feet from your home and your carbon monoxide (CO) detector is in good working order to prevent possible CO poisoning.
4. Prevent Damage to Your Home’s Exterior
Tree branches and even small stones can become dangerous projectiles under hurricane-force winds. Keep your trees and bushes trimmed and remove any trees that appear unstable or diseased. When a storm is approaching, tie down small trees and shrubs. If you have a gravel driveway, consider paving or replacing the gravel with small bark, which is lighter than gravel and less likely to damage your home.
If possible, bring loose outdoor items – such as patio furniture and garbage cans – inside. Leave propane tanks outside but be sure to secure them, along with any other objects that can’t be brought indoors.
If you plan to stay in your home during the storm or are leaving a car behind as you evacuate, move the car to higher ground. Aside from the risk of damage from flying objects or falling trees, your car itself could become a moving object. If you have a boat stored on a trailer, anchor it to the ground or house.
5. Have an Evacuation Plan
Storm conditions can change rapidly, so it’s a good idea to always keep fresh batteries on hand, along with flashlights and a battery-powered radio. Stockpile enough water, food and medical supplies to last for at least three days. Discuss an evacuation plan prior to hurricane season with all family members and make sure everyone has each other’s contact information with them at all times in case of an emergency. Prepare an emergency kit and a plan for your pets if you need to evacuate. If you have livestock, have a plan for moving them to a safer area.
6. Prepare for Possible Damage
Prior to a storm, review your insurance policies so you know what is covered and what isn’t. Store important documents and other valuables in a safe place, preferably a safe deposit box, to ensure they will stay dry and intact during a storm. You may also want to keep copies stored on your phone or a flash drive that you can take with you in an evacuation. Keep records of all expenses incurred during evacuation, as many policies will reimburse you for those costs. If you live in a flood-prone area, consider purchasing flood insurance, if you haven’t already, as most homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. Take pictures of any and all property damage and contact your insurance company as soon as possible for assistance in filing a claim.
For more information on how you and your family can stay safe before, during and after a hurricane, see this guide from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).