Is Your House Hurricane Ready?
Don’t wait until a superstorm is imminent to take action
If you live in Hurricane Alley or anywhere else hurricanes tend to strike, you probably know the fear they can instill — and the damage they can inflict.
There’s not much you can do to prevent a hurricane from causing a blackout or major flooding, but you can take steps to protect your home or make it easier to recover if the storm makes it uninhabitable.
Get your insurance in order
Make sure you have flood insurance in the event your home is so damaged you have to move out until it’s fixed. You don’t want to wait until a hurricane is on the way to try adding this policy or additional riders. You can get information about flood insurance and coverage options from the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration at www.floodsmart.gov, or call toll-free at 1-800-427-2419.
Make an inventory of your personal property. This list will come in very handy if you need to file a claim. It’s best if you take photos (then email them to yourself or post them in the cloud, since the storm might damage your camera or iPhone).
Secure your windows and doors
Experts recommend hurricane shutters for the windows, not plywood boards, so try to finish this project well before hurricane season. Be prepared to spend money: The median price of shutters is $30 per square, and the typical coverage area for windows and doors is about 15 percent of a home's total square footage, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) in Tampa, Florida. That means a 3,000-square-foot home would require approximately 450 square feet of protective covering at a cost of about $13,500 for materials. You may want to borrow from your home equity line or take out a small loan from your bank to cover the cost. And of course, choose a licensed contractor to do the job.
If a hurricane is imminent and you have no shutters, you can use ¾-inch marine plywood as a temporary fix, but drill holes in advance so you can install them quickly, and measure carefully, since poorly installed plywood can fly off during a storm and create new hazards.
Consider replacing your windows with hurricane impact-resistant glass. It may also help on energy savings year-round.
To secure your doors, install head and foot bolts to help prevent the doors from being wrenched off their hinges.
To help give your windows (and roof) a fighting chance, trim back the trees in the yard and make sure you cut off diseased and damaged limbs — you don’t want those flying toward the windows. Also, bring in or store everything (like lawn furniture) that could be a flying projectile during the storm.
Related: How to Build a Safe Room
Keeping the roof over your head
Make sure your roof and house don’t part ways. Roof cover damage is the main reason for hurricane insurance claims that are not related to storm surges, according to the IBHS. Have your roof checked and secured by a professional building contractor.
Use properly braced hurricane straps to help secure the roof to the walls, and look into a roof-to-ground tie down system. Some insurers will give you premium credits for this kind of retrofitting.
Standard emergency prep
For a hurricane as for any storm or other emergency, keep an emergency kit on hand. The kit should contain flashlights, a portable radio, extra batteries, bottled water, mosquito repellent and first-aid supplies.
It's also smart to set aside three days’ worth of food and water for every family member and pet, extra sets of clothes, coolers for food and ice, medicines, plastic tarp for quick window repairs, hand sanitizer, personal hygiene products you may need, sleeping bags and a manual can opener. (Have you ever tried getting into a can of tuna without one?)
Keep all your important documents handy in case you need to evacuate. These include your passports, will and insurance documents.
And of course, know the evacuation routes in your area and plan how you’re going to get out if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Hopefully this won’t happen, but if it does, you want to be ready.