Updated Oct. 16, 2018.
Hurricane season arrived this year in June and culminated when Hurricane Florence swept North Carolina in September 2018. Atlantic hurricane season in the U.S. is expected to last from June 1 to November 30. Areas surrounding the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico could be all affected.
Just how much devastation can we expect this season? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a near- or above-average hurricane season in May 2018.
Super Storms were forecasted early, while most recently, Hurricanes Florence and Michael left tragedy in their wake:
- At least 42 people died as casualties of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia in September 2018. Hurricane Florence was also South Carolina’s second 1,000-year flooding event, with a 1-in-100 chance of such a massive amount of annual rainfall occurring, in just three years. Gov. Harry McMaster of South Carolina confirmed that local homeowners who experienced Florence’s “historic” destruction may see more than $1.2 billion in property damage.
- Soon after, Hurricane Michael reached Florida in October 2018, with a total death toll estimated at 27 people. Michael broke records as one of the most powerful storms to hit the continental U.S. — a nearly category five storm with casualties found in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle.
“Although we can flee, our homes can’t,” Daniel Sasson, a South Florida realtor at Florida Cash for Home, says. “But there are some easy and effective ways to protect your home.” Sasson uses seasonal hurricane preparation guidelines to protect every one of the houses he purchases and flips.
You can stay safe in states prone to hurricanes, storms, and flooding by tracking the National Hurricane Center’s storm progress updates here. Then, stay proactive and protect your property with our most helpful hurricane preparedness tips.
12 quick-and-easy ways to prep your home for hurricane season
You can guard your home against Super Storms, high winds, and flooding by taking action early. Home renovators and hurricane survivors share simple and cost-effective ways to keep your house safe:
1. Make a plan first.
A great starting point in preparing for any disaster is to have a plan, Peter Duncanson, ServiceMaster Restore disaster restoration expert, says.
To make sure everyone in your home is familiar with what to do in the event of an emergency, Duncanson advises:
- Assign roles to get organized. Let someone be responsible for calling the right contacts. Ask someone else to gather medication, pets, and other family members or important documents.
- Learn what areas of your home are the most secure. These areas are where everyone will know to go for shelter.
- Update your contact lists. Don’t limit your contacts just to your family and friends but also be sure to have names and numbers for resources, such as your insurance provider, a qualified disaster restoration company, and your water, gas, and electric utility companies, in case you need to shut them off or need services restored.
- Make your contact lists accessible both on and offline. Printing a copy of your contacts will ensure you still have access to them if power is limited or your phone’s battery runs out.
- Once you have a plan in place, practice. It’s helpful to know what to do, but going through the motions will make it intuitive when it’s time to act.
2. Think through worst-case scenarios.
As the old saying goes, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. A simple way to do this, Duncanson says, is by talking yourself or your family through several possible disaster scenarios. The outcomes of these scenarios can be included in your action plan above. For example, Duncanson suggests discussing what to do in the event your phone loses power or service is disrupted. “Where’s the next phone available for you to use? Do you know when to turn off your water and gas lines? If asked to evacuate or flooding is imminent, you should know to instantly call your utility providers as leaving your gas, electric, and water lines unattended could open your home up to serious damage,” he says.
3. Put together an emergency kit now.
Dr. Kathryn Bingham of Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, who experienced her first hurricane season when Irma hit South Carolina last year, says she keeps her hurricane prep affordable by stocking up on emergency supplies over time. “Don’t wait for the storm. People go nuts and clear out the shelves. There was no water at Costco, Walmart, and the local grocery store. Go now and get a stash for your emergency shelf!”
4. Scan family photos.
Scan now, thank yourself later. After seeing her brother-in-law’s house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Laurie Endicott Thomas, author of Not Trivial: How Studying the Traditional Liberal Arts Can Set You Free, says the most important thing homeowners in hurricane-prone areas can do is to set aside time to scan all family photos. “Store copies in a safe location, out of the hurricane zone. Likewise, store your precious memorabilia (your college diploma, your grandmother’s diary, etc.) in a safe place.” You can read more about how homeowners’ mementos were affected by Hurricane Harvey — and what else can be done to protect family photos — here.
5. Buy a box of bungees.
Before moving east, Bingham purchased bungees to help organize the garage — and was glad she did. Bingham says she found bungee cords and zip ties to be “absolutely invaluable” for attaching belongings to anchored posts or holding a collection of items together.
6. Screw or chain outdoor grills.
For major outdoor appliances that can’t be bungee-ed, Timothy Wiedman, a certified financial planner, retired Personal Finance instructor, and coastal homeowner who survived 15 hurricane seasons near Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, suggests permanently securing them year-round. “If you have a large gas grill on your raised outdoor deck — especially if it’s too big or heavy to move into the garage before each storm — use one (or more) large ‘eye-screws’ as anchor points. Securely chain the grill to the deck so that it can’t move or tip over.” Large “eye-screws” can be screwed into pressure-treated decking material fairly easily, Wiedman says.
Homeowners, we’re committed to always being here to lend an ear or a hand. Click here to find a Cornerstone loan officer in your state.
7. Trim and haul debris.
Trimming is especially important if a branch appears to be damaged, dying, or dead, as well as in areas where branches reach your house or overhang your roof. Like many household projects, protecting your home for hurricane season can be affordable when you take a DIY approach. Particularly when it comes to hauling debris. If you don’t own a truck or have one to borrow, truck-sharing services, like Truxx (a.k.a. the Uber of moving and hauling) are becoming available in most areas. Using a free app, you can hire a pick-up or van driver to transport your debris and help you move large-haul items with services starting at $39.
8. Invest in sandbags.
Water doesn’t just seep in through cracks. Water is heavy, can move fast, and can break in through windows and doors, Kurt Heckman, President of vCalc LLC and creator of the Sandbag Wall Calculator, says. “For this reason, the strength of a well-placed sandbag barrier in window wells and low-lying doorways can keep water out or reduce the amount that comes in. Building a sandbag barrier can be inexpensive and effective if done right,” he explains. Inputting your numbers into the Sandbag Wall Calculator will tell you how many sandbags you need, how much sand you’ll need to fill them, and how much time it will take to fill the sandbags along with the number of people needed to help.
9. Cover windows with plywood.
The purpose of installing plyboards on windows before a hurricane is simple, Sasson says. It can prevent outside objects from entering a house. Larry Patterson of Glass Doctor also recommends plywood as an affordable and protective solution for anyone who doesn’t have shutters.
- Purchase 1/2-inch thick plywood for each window.
- Always make sure the plywood you purchase complies with any state inspection standards.
- Once you have the plywood in hand, start boarding up your windows on the exterior side of your house.
- Place the plywood over your window; it should cover your window adequately. Protect areas where wind can enter.
- During hurricane season, plywood supplies go fast, so be sure not to wait.
10. Manage your water and drainage.
Far before a Super Storm hits, you’ll need to know where the main shut-off valve is in your home — and that it operates properly. “Being able to turn off your water in an emergency is critical as it will help prevent potential leaks and damage,” Don Glovan of Mr. Rooter Plumbing says. It’s also important to make sure nothing blocks flowing water during a storm. The water will want to go somewhere. Glovan says that if it’s not down and away, it’ll be in your roof and attic. He suggests conducting a visual inspection of all gutters and downspouts to be sure nothing stops the flow of water from your roof and away from your house. Likewise, all drains in your house should be kept clear to prevent basement or crawl space flooding.
11. Protect appliances with surge protectors.
Home appliances, including your heating and air conditioning systems, are at risk from a power surge during a storm. Richard Ciresi of Aire Serv always tells his customers to install surge protectors before a storm comes. This step, says Ciresi, can divert incoming current to the ground when there’s a power increase that’s unsafe for the system. A redistribution of energy can help an appliance or HVAC unit avoid immediate destruction. And it can prevent the unnecessary and unfortunate expenses that come along with repair or replacement.
12. Take free CERT training.
The only thing required is an investment of your time, but Bingham considers her hours in CERT training well-spent. FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is free. Courses generally take about six weeks (one evening a week, plus one simulation event, in Bingham’s experience). Training times can be found through your municipal or county emergency management organization, providing you with the skills you need to protect yourself and your family in an emergency situation. As an added bonus, Bingham says that if you have a CERT badge, you can return to your home before the rest of the public in the event of an evacuation.
We hope disaster never strikes, but if it does, we are here to help you rebuild — as quickly as possible.
For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.