With devastation from Harvey, Irma, and Maria dominating the news in the later part of 2017, it’s no doubt hurricanes are on homeowners’ minds. These three Category 4 hurricanes hit the U.S. within a month of each other and caused billions of dollars in damage — so much so that the hurricane names of Harvey, Irma, and Maria are likely to be retired. If you didn’t experience property damage or loss in one of these hurricane zones, you may have known someone who did.
Learn from Harvey: Risk management experts recommend prepping early
The best way to prepare for a hurricane is to prepare well in advance of hurricane season, Lisa Lindsay of the Private Risk Management Association tells Cornerstone Home Lending, in an interview. Lindsay advises homeowners to keep hurricane prep at the forefront by making it part of the overall family preparedness plan that is reviewed annually. This preparedness plan should consist of an assessment of a property’s hurricane exposure and risks, which could be done with the help of a building expert, and then the implementation of risk mitigation techniques such as storm shutters and impact-resistant glass, Lindsay explains.
“Once you have assessed the exposure and developed your plan, you’ll be ready to install the storm shutters when the hurricane warning is issued versus scrambling to get your plan in place. It’s better to be prepared so you don’t have to get prepared!” Lindsay says.
In the event of a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center recommends only two courses of action: Prepare for risks in advance and act immediately on any warnings issued from emergency officials. Hurricane preparedness is key to prevent serious damage in the path of a storm. Below, we’ll cover 11 of the most important things you can do to protect your house — and maintain this checklist annually — before the next hurricane season.
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11 ways to equip your home to survive a storm
Hurricane Preparedness Week officially falls on May 7 to 13, though we encourage you to put your hurricane prep plan in place any time of year. To maintain your plan, set an annual reminder to review this checklist again before the summer and fall storm seasons:
1. Take before and after pictures of your property for insurance purposes.
Frank Klavon, owner of Glass Doctor, a home and auto glass repair, installation, and maintenance company in South Florida with years of hands-on hurricane experience, recommends this tip as the first and most important step homeowners can take to protect against weather damage in all seasons.
2. Avoid taping glass windows and doors.
“Tape does not prevent windows from breaking,” Klavon says. “Remember, houses do not explode due to air pressure differences. Damage happens when wind gets inside a home through a broken window, door, or damaged roof.”
Instead, protect areas where wind can enter. Windows and doors should be secured with approved storm shutters. Another option is to board up windows with plywood. As demonstrated in the image above, Glass Doctor provides their detailed window-boarding tips for hurricane season here. Klavon also reminds homeowners to bring in lawn furniture, hanging plants, or any other outdoor items not tied down that could become airborne and crash into a house.
3. Keep trees trimmed.
Pruning trees and shrubs before a hurricane approaches can reduce the debris generated during a storm. “Proper tree pruning also increases the chances that a tree can make it through a storm and possibly stay off your house. This needs to be done far in advance. You don’t want that debris adding to what might fly around,” Klavon says.
4. Be sure all outdoor power equipment is in good working order.
“If necessary, take any equipment to an authorized service center for repair or maintenance,” Kris Kiser, President and CEO of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Store, says.
5. Review product/owner’s manuals to be sure equipment is operated safely.
Kiser also suggests storing safety gear – sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing, and work gloves — in an accessible area with the equipment.
6. Have the proper fuel available for the outdoor power equipment.
After a storm, fuel stations may be closed — as seen in many areas of Texas post-Harvey. You can store fuel in an approved container for backup, Kiser says. And only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
“Remember, it’s illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment,” Kiser adds. He recommends that homeowners visit LookBeforeYouPump.com for more information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment.
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7. Find your water shut-off valve.
It’s important to locate your shut-off valve and confirm it’s operating properly before a storm hits, Glenn Gallas, Vice President of Operations of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, explains. “It’s very important to have the ability to turn off your water in an emergency. It can prevent potential leaks and damage caused by a storm.”
8. Clear your gutters and drains.
Though you should regularly clean your gutters and downspouts, make sure to double check them before a storm to ensure there aren’t any items that will block flowing water. If not, Gallas says water could easily overflow into places like your roof or attic. Gallas recommends doing a visual inspection to confirm any water flow will be directed away from your home. Additionally, check that all drains are clear in your house to prevent basement or crawlspace flooding.
9. Insulate your water heater.
If you’re not prepared, hurricanes and storms can cause leaks in your house that will affect the consumption for your heating and air system. This, unfortunately, will result in higher utility bills over time. “By insulating your hot water heater with an insulating blanket or insulation tubes, you can reduce heat lost through the sides of the water heater by 25 to 40 percent,” says Gallas.
10. Invest in HVAC unit covers or rain guards.
Living in areas that endure recurring storms, heavy rains, or intense winds can put your air conditioner at increased risk for flying debris to insert itself in your system, Richard Ciresi, owner of the Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning of Louisville, Kentucky, explains. Protective covers and rain guards are available for sale directly from the manufacturer with the main purpose of protecting your HVAC unit from this very scenario. These expertly designed covers work in conjunction with HVAC systems, allowing them to work at full capacity during use.
“Do It Yourself (DIY) projects are not recommended here. By covering your system with a makeshift guard, this creates an opportunity for moisture and condensation to build up and become trapped inside the system. It can corrode and ultimately damage the system, costing you more in the long run,” Ciresi says.
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11. Finally, digitize your photos.
Keeping your home safe during a natural disaster is critical, as is protecting your memories. “Sadly, we hear from people after a natural disaster asking how to digitally protect their nostalgic photos,” Mitch Goldstone, President and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com tells Cornerstone. “After Hurricane Harvey, 1 billion family photos were destroyed from the floods. These are irreplaceable memories that were lost. The easy way to protect your pictures is to plan ahead and have everything digitized.”
Goldstone says his site digitized 400 million pictures after Harvey and Irma. Nearly 40 percent of all photo scanning orders came from Texas and Florida. Considering that the average household has 5,500 analog photo snapshots, Goldstein says each natural disaster yields similar results. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, The Weather Channel profiled one homeowner who lost everything and prescribed digital photo storage as an easy fix in preparedness.
“We urge people to plan ahead and digitally archive your pictures. Then store digital copies offsite at relatives’ homes, safety deposit boxes, and online with the popular photo-sharing apps like Google Photos,” Goldstone explains. “It’s easy and affordable. One example is a photo scanning service like ScanMyPhotos.com.” Goldstone says the site’s most popular service is online ordering of the fill-the-box scanning for $145, with free shipping, to professionally digitize about 1,800 pictures.
You take care of the hurricane prep, and we’ll take care of the rest. For the good and the bad, and for the mortgage questions in between, we’re always here to help. A friendly loan officer is only ever a call or an email away.
For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.
Furthermore, sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.