We all know how violent and destructive a hurricane can be. However, despite this knowledge and the fact that nearly two-thirds of the United States’ population lives in coastal states susceptible to such storms, people are often caught unprepared when hurricanes do occur.
To avoid being taken by surprise, invest some time in preparation for a storm, so that you and your family are ready if the time comes. Your preparation should include the following:
- Create a plan that you and your family can follow during a hurricane.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit.
- Prepare your home for storms.
- If you have pets, decide what to do with them.
Create a Plan
- Consider the risks that you, your family, and your property could face in a hurricane. For example, how vulnerable is your home to flooding, wind damage, or storm surges? Find out if you live in a flood zone. Consider your home’s building materials. Think about your family’s situation – how easy would it be to evacuate your family?
- Learn multiple escape routes from your home. Decide where your family or friends could meet during an emergency. Choose a few locations, at near, moderate, and far distances from your home. Recognize that roads could be damaged, so come up with alternate routes and consider multiple modes of transport, if possible.
- During a storm, if you are ordered to evacuate, do it immediately. Even a small delay could cause you to wait in traffic for hours as roads become clogged with other evacuees and storm conditions worsen. Be ready for the possibility of evacuation during any serious storm; Get in the habit of filling your gas tank and getting cash from an ATM whenever you hear of a storm approaching.
- Know where your community’s nearest emergency shelters are located. Know the fastest route to them, as well as alternate paths.
- Keep in mind that hotels and other shelter areas will fill up very quickly during an emergency. Make your reservations as early as possible. If you can stay with family or friends in a safe location, that may be preferable to an expensive hotel or uncomfortable shelter.
- In case you end up stuck at home, know which areas on your property would be the safest for each of the risks you identified in the first bullet point above (wind, flooding, storm surges, etc).
- Keep several laminated printouts of important phone numbers, so that you can get in touch with local authorities and loved ones. Designate a contact person who lives outside your state, so that your family members can relay information to each other through that person, in case your family gets separated during the storm.
- Make sure that your children know how to call 911 and when it is appropriate to do so.
- Learn CPR, as well as first aid techniques.
- Find out what your insurance covers and get additional insurance if necessary. Keep in mind that homeowners insurance typically does not cover flood damage.
- Have a NOAA weather radio handy, with fresh batteries (change them every 6 months). In the event of an emergency, follow local authorities’ instructions.
- Once your emergency plan is set, go over it with your family so each member knows what to do.
Prepare an Emergency Supply Kit
Be prepared for a hurricane or other emergency by having the necessary supplies ready ahead of time. Read how to create a home emergency kit.
Prepare Your Home
Houses take a beating during any storm, but hurricanes bring an entirely new level of abuse to your home’s building materials. Take the time to learn your house’s strengths and weaknesses from a structural standpoint. It is a good idea to consult your local authorities, as well as local construction professionals for their recommendations, since every region and type of home will carry specific risks that you will want to address. Here are some areas to keep in mind as you assess your home’s vulnerability to a hurricane:
- Roof shingles are generally not designed to withstand a hurricane’s extreme wind speeds. However, there are ways to improve shingles’ wind resistance, by bonding them together appropriately. Have a roofing professional look at your shingles and advise you on the best way to secure them.
- A hurricane’s high winds will try to pull your roof deck upward, off your house. Again, have a roofer advise you on securing your roof deck, as well as how to best strengthen the connection between your roof and the top of your walls.
- Roof gables can be particularly vulnerable to hurricane winds. If your roof is gabled, strengthen the walls of the gables as best you can.
- Protect your windows and doors. If necessary, install strong impact-resistant shutters over windows and glass doors. Again, have a construction expert evaluate the strength of your current windows and shutters and advise you on how to augment them.
- Secure your doors with head and foot bolts, as well as deadbolts; make sure they have the appropriate number of hinges (i.e. not just hanging on 2 flimsy hinges).
- Brace your garage door, as these doors are often vulnerable to hurricane winds due to their width. Find out your town’s garage door code requirements. You may be able to purchase a retrofit kit compatible with your specific garage door.
- Defend your home against water damage. If necessary, have sandbags or other water barriers available (learn how to build sandbag dam). Install a high quality sump pump in your basement, along with a backup system (like a battery backup sump pump or water powered sump pump). Use leak detection alarms to notify you of water leaks or flooding in your home.
- Move outdoor objects to a safe place, where they will no longer pose a threat of becoming wind or water-borne missiles that could damage your home or injure people.
- Walk through your house with a local construction expert and look for other vulnerabilities, besides those mentioned above, that you should address ahead of a storm.
- If your family has pets, plan what you would do with them in the event of a hurricane.
- Find out where you could take your pet. These locations might include specific pet shelters, animal control locations, veterinary offices, or friends’ and family’s houses. Plan for the supplies you would need to bring for your pet. Make reservations as early as possible, as shelters will fill up quickly once a disaster is on the way.
- Bear in mind that emergency shelters will likely require pets to be current on vaccinations, so keep them up to date.
- Have the following with you: a photograph of your pet, their leash, immunization records, food and water for them, their carrier, any necessary medication, and make sure they are wearing their I.D. collar.
- If your pet is with you during the storm, keep them indoors and do what you can to reassure and calm them.
- Once the storm passes, keep your pet on a leash as you return home, since there could be new safety hazards around your house, like exposed power lines. Also, keep in mind that your pet could be disoriented, since your property’s appearance and scents could have changed; the leash will help prevent them from getting lost. Watch for unusual or aggressive behavior as your pet makes the adjustment back to normal life after the storm.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. Before beginning any construction project at your home or taking steps to prepare for an emergency, please ensure that you take necessary safety precautions; consult construction professionals, your local authorities, and disaster safety experts whenever necessary. Water Damage Defense accepts no responsibility for the actions you take during an emergency or as you prepare for one.