Every year between June 1 and November 30, parts of the United States are exposed to heavy rains, flooding, strong winds, and coastal surges as a consequence of tropical storms and hurricanes. Areas that are affected the most include the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastal areas — mostly affecting Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest United States, and Pacific Ocean U.S. territories.
Prepping your home and your family before and during a hurricane is the best way to protect yourself and your property from damage. By knowing what to watch out for in weather patterns, staying informed via radio and the news, and preparing beforehand, you can help keep you and your home safe during this hurricane season.
Prep Your Home for a Hurricane
It should come as no surprise that hurricanes are hard on buildings. Typical hurricane winds reach 75+ mph winds with gusts that can exceed over 250 mph. Swirling winds can pull roofs off homes and buildings. Most of the time, builders in hurricane risk areas construct homes that can withstand the sheer force they bring.
If you have a pre-existing steel building (think a garage or a shed), there are kits available to convert them into a hurricane-ready structure. A hurricane reinforcement kit can be purchased and usually installed fairly easily with the containing anchors and building straps. This product allows you to secure the studs, trusses and rafters, adding extra internal strength to the structure without rebuilding from the ground up.
Prepping your home for a hurricane is your best defense against the elements. Begin prepping your home with the basics: reinforce your roof, cementing down any shingles that have wiggled free. Secure loose rain gutters and clear clogged areas. This will guide rainwaters away from your home, preventing further damage to it. All of your windows should be covered. Install storm shutters in your home if you don’t have them already, and be sure to close them prior to the hurricane hitting.
Check your electrical panels in advanced. Either check them yourself if you have extensive knowledge, or hire an electrician before hurricane season hits to check on any flaws with your system. Double tapped circuits are a common but serious defect with a home’s electrical panel that can easily leave you powerless in the middle of a natural disaster.
Properly Insure Yourself
No matter how much work you put in prior to a hurricane, you are bound to end up with some damage to either your home or your property. Once a hurricane hits, you will be left to pick up the pieces on your own unless you have insurance. Property insurance can provide coverage for you in the case that your home or possessions are damaged during a hurricane.
Thoroughly review your insurance policy prior to hurricane season to make sure that you have adequate coverage of your property. Flood loss insurance is typically an additional plan that is not covered under a homeowners insurance plan or a renter insurance plan, so make sure that you are covered for flood insurance whether you are in a designated flood-prone area or not. If you have made any structural additions to your home whether it is a patio or new appliances, make sure you let your insurance company know to cover them in your policy.
Keep in mind that there is often a 30-day waiting period before this type of insurance plan can go into effect, so make sure to plan accordingly. To take full advantage of your insurance policy, make sure to have an inventoried list of your possessions. Some find that videotaping or taking photos of each of the rooms in their house is the easiest and most effective way to take inventory.
Ride Out the Storm
If you are planning for a hurricane, be sure to build up an emergency kit. It should include a way to communicate with people — this can either be a cell phone, land line, or radio device. Since you don’t know if you will have power, it is good to be prepared for a way to let people know you are OK. Keep a copy of all your medical documents in a waterproof container. These can be helpful in the event of a hospital visit.
It should include enough food and water for everyone in your household for at the least three days. Include flashlights, batteries, and first-aid supplies to make sure everyone stays safe. Pack more than enough medications if you or a family member relies on them daily. Have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone is aware of it in case you have to leave quickly.
Make sure to have a portable generator available during potential blackouts or power outages during a storm. All generators or alternative power sources should be kept outside, away from windows and doors, and they should be protected from water. Prepare for a power outage by ensuring that the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are not only working but also have new working batteries in them.
If you are asked to leave your home for the safety of yourself and first responders, do so. You will not be asked to evacuate your home unless there is an imminent threat to both you and your home. Follow guidelines from your local government for information specific to your hurricane zone, and stay safe!
By: Brooke Faulkner