Hurricanes are severe tropical storms characterized by high winds, heavy rain, and rotating clouds. These storms are especially prevalent in coastal areas where the rotating clouds move across the ocean, picking up water, speed, and strength. They often originate in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane season, which spans from June to the end of November, is especially nerve-wracking for folks living in coastal regions. These storms sustain winds of over 74 miles per hour and cause ocean waters to surge onto land. Even the lowest category hurricane can damage your home and endanger your family.
If you’re concerned about your home’s safety during hurricane season, know there are proactive steps you can take to prevent peril. This article will provide tips to help keep you, your home, and your loved ones safe when a natural disaster strikes.
Tips for Hurricane-proofing Your Home’s Exterior
Hurricanes can produce floods and tornadoes, which bring their own dangers. For this reason, you must prepare your home for severe weather on all fronts when facing these monstrous storms.
The best way to prepare your home for trouble is to retrofit – or make changes to – its existing structure before disaster strikes. Retrofittings are home improvements designed for hazard management.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management suggests retrofitting your home for hurricane season by reinforcing areas where wind can enter. The following sections will discuss how to do this for each exterior area of your home.
Over 90% of homes harmed during hurricanes sustain roof damage. You can prepare your home for this huge threat by retrofitting the roof for wind and water resistance. The first and easiest way to start prepping is to have your roof routinely inspected for structural issues or worn-out materials. Most roofs have an outer layer of asphalt shingles, which can rip away from the surface during violent gusts.
Though small, shingles can turn into dangerous projectiles and open your home to the threat of water damage. Repair or replace loose roofing materials before hurricane season to prevent this from happening to your home.
Installing hurricane straps is another way to prepare your roof for potential wind damage. Hurricane straps are steel brackets that secure the roof to a home’s frame. As outlandish as it may sound, these tools can keep your roof from literally flying off your house.
Hurricanes produce heavy winds that can cause debris to go airborne. This threat is especially hazardous around windows that could shatter into a million glass shards. Worse yet, a broken window opens the home to more serious internal damage from flooding and pressure buildup.
Retrofit your home against wind hazards by installing impact-resistant windows. These windows contain insulated tempered glass and warp-resistant frames, perfect for withstanding high winds and airborne debris.
Reinforce the line of defense by installing storm shutters. These metal sheets attach to exterior windows to shield them from danger. We suggest accordion-style hurricane shutters, which attach permanently to exterior windows but fold out of view when not in use.
Doors, like windows, are susceptible to damage from gusts and flying debris. Double-entry doors are especially vulnerable to wind damage. Fortify these doors by installing a heavy-duty deadbolt lock to reinforce their weak points.
Retrofit any other vulnerable entryways with hurricane impact glass and storm shutters. Check doors and frames for broken seals, replacing the caulk on areas where water could enter.
Sandbags are another popular hurricane damage prevention tool for doors. You can stack the bags into a wall-like structure that diverts storm surge waters from sweeping through your home. If you opt for multiple layers of sandbags outside your entryway, use the following placement techniques:
- Stagger the joint connections so that the middle of one beg overlaps the meeting point of the ones below.
- Close sandbags by folding the open ends underneath and facing them against the oncoming water flow.
- Stomp on the bags after laying each row to seal the spaces between them.
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, your local government likely provides sandbags for upcoming storms. Check with your municipality ahead of time to find out where and how to collect bags.
Like other entry points, garage doors are at high risk of damage from strong wind, rushing water, and flying debris. Prepare your garage doors for these threats to lessen the risk of serious damage.
First, organize the garage and get rid of any unnecessary items. This step is important because it frees up the space you might need for storing outdoor furniture or appliances during the storm. Decluttering also gives you a clearer idea of items you may need to bring inside or store in watertight containers.
Once you’ve cleaned your garage for potential storage, assess the wind resistance of the doors. Install garage door locks if you don’t already have them and place weatherstrips at the base. Consider installing hurricane panels or large retractable storm shutters for added protection. If a storm is on the way, mitigate flood damage by stacking sandbags outside the entryway.
Gutters redirect water from your home’s roof and foundation – so preparing them for heavy rains is a must. Use a leaf blower to blast dry debris from your gutters. Then, throw on some work gloves and scoop the remaining leaves, sticks, and dirt from the chutes.
Next, inspect the gutters and downspouts for damage or potential weak points. Repair sagging sections and wobbly connections to secure the system during high winds and heavy rains. If you’re especially concerned about your gutters’ ability to withstand a storm, reinforce them with heavy-duty hangers.
Outdoor Systems and Appliances
Hurricane-force winds can send your outdoor HVAC system hurling through the air. Prevent this peril by outfitting the system with metal tie-down straps. These tools secure the system to the ground, making it harder for strong winds or water to lift it.
Invest in a surge protector to save your systems and appliances from power surges. Power surges occur when an abnormal amount of voltage rushes through an electrical system. They commonly happen from lightning strikes and widespread power outages that cause dozens of appliances to switch on and off simultaneously.
Despite lasting only a second, power surges can fry your systems and appliances, rendering them useless even after a power outage ends. A surge protector will help prevent excess voltage from reaching your appliances when the power kicks back on.
How to Protect Your Family and Finances from Hurricane Damage
The best way to ensure your home’s safety is to prepare it for all the dangers a hurricane can bring. Along with preparing your home for disaster, you must ensure your loved ones and wallet have solid protection for storm season.
Develop a Hurricane Preparedness Checklist
Make a hurricane preparedness checklist like the one below to amp up your emergency-response readiness.
- Develop an evacuation plan.
- Keep an emergency contact list on your fridge and in your hurricane prep kit.
- Secure lawn furniture or move it indoors.
- Use softer landscaping materials instead of large boulders and bricks that could become projectiles in heavy wind conditions.
- Make arrangements in advance for outdoor pets and livestock.
- Prepare a hurricane preparedness kit that includes:
- Nonperishable food items
- Water bottles
- Phone charger
- First aid materials
- Important documents
- Pet care supplies
- Rain gear
- Find more kit ideas in this extensive checklist.
Invest in a Flood Insurance Policy
According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), just 1 inch of water can cause over $25,000 in damages to your home. Heavy rain and storm surges during a hurricane largely increase your risk of flood damage. You may think you already have the coverage you need for a flood emergency, but you might be wrong. Traditional homeowners insurance policies don’t typically cover flood damage, so you’ll be on the hook for massive repair costs if a flood devastates your home’s structure or contents.
Consider purchasing a flood insurance policy for peace of mind during storm season. These supplemental insurance policies cover physical losses to your home and belongings in the event of a flood.
Start by asking your insurance company agent if flood insurance is right for you. If the company doesn’t offer flood coverage, use the NFIP’s find-a-provider tool to find coverage in your area. The NFIP is a federally-backed cohort of certified flood insurance providers, so you’re sure to find a trustworthy option with optimal protection.
Additional Hurricane Preparedness Resources
Explore the resources below for more tips, tools, and support for hurricane preparedness.
|National Hurricane Center Storm Tracker||This tool from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration provides live updates on active hurricanes.|
|American Red Cross Disaster Relief||The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Program offers aid to hurricane victims. Explore the site for information on storm preparation, safety tips, and emergency support.|
|Federal Emergency Management Agency||FEMA offers a wide range of disaster support programs and safety guides. Download the agency’s app for communication tools, real-time storm alerts, and help to find emergency shelters near you. Check FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants for financial help preparing your home for natural disasters.|
|Ready.gov||Ready.gov is a public service campaign that helps Americans prepare for disasters before they strike.Explore Ready’s Build a Kit page for guidance on developing a functional disaster supply kit.|