How to Survive a Windstorm
Take these steps to protect yourself and your property
The windstorm that swept across Washington in late 2015 killed three people and brought down electrical lines throughout the western region of the state. Wind gusts reached up to 119 mph and falling trees were blamed for the deaths. More than half a million residents were without power and the storm also caused millions of dollars in property damage.
Safety experts say the severity of this storm underscores the importance of being ready to protect yourself, your family and your home before a windstorm hits. If you live in an area where hurricanes and windstorms often occur, here are important ways to be prepared.
The one thing you should never do...
Do not — repeat, do not — tape your windows, experts stress. This won't protect you or your home.
"Our goal is to break this myth,” Bill Read, former director of the National Hurricane Center, told a recent conference of meteorologists. “It does not protect your windows. At best, it's an inconvenience. At worst, some people have the illusion that they're safe, and people can get severely hurt."
Taping windows can create potentially deadly glass shards if high winds blow out your windows, adds Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH).
"The shards can be large because they're being held together with tape," she explains. Chapman-Henderson adds that a FLASH survey found almost 70 percent of homeowners believe windows and glass doors should be taped before a major windstorm or hurricane. "You're wasting your time. You're wasting your money and you're potentially increasing the danger to your home." Instead, install shutters or impact-resistant windows.
Related: Is Your House Hurricane Ready?
...and the smart things you should do
Here are other steps to take in case of a windstorm, courtesy of the FLASH and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Before storm season
- Remove dead trees and cut overhanging branches close to your house.
- Remove loose roofing materials.
- Move unsecured objects from your patio, porch, balcony or deck. Tie down lawn furniture and garbage cans or put them in the garage.
- Create an escape plan, as well as an emergency contact list and an emergency kit containing water, food, first aid supplies and medications.
- If you have a garage, park cars inside. Move vehicles parked outside a safe distance away from trees that might fall on them.
When a high-wind warning is issued
- Stay inside and tune in to local weather forecasts on TV or the radio. “Indoors is the safest place to be during a wind storm,” Read says.
- Close windows and brace doors that lead outside.
- If you’re caught outside during a storm or blizzard, get as far away from balconies as you can so you don't get hit by falling objects.
- If you’re on foot, look for shelter but stay clear of roadways and train tracks. A gust may blow you into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
- Avoid anything that might be touching downed power lines, including cars and tree branches. Puddles and wet or snow-covered ground can conduct electricity.
- If you’re driving, keep both hands on the wheel and slow down. Watch for objects blowing across the road.
- Keep a safe distance from cars in adjacent lanes as strong gusts could push a vehicle into your lane.
- Stay as far away as you can from trucks, vans, SUVs and vehicles towing trailers, which are susceptible to flipping over in high winds.
- If winds become too severe to drive in, pull over to the shoulder away from trees or other objects that could fall on your car.
- If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay inside. Don't touch any metal. If your car catches fire, open the door and jump out without touching an exterior part of the car.
After the storm, watch out for downed power lines and use battery-powered lanterns rather than candles for light. Never use a grill, generator or unvented gas or kerosene heater indoors or turn on the oven for heat: You'll create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.