Assess Your Home's Risk
Residents who live on the islands of the Atlantic Ocean and along the United States' eastern coastlines are at greatest risk of experiencing the damaging effects of a hurricane. Depending on the size and power of a particular weather event, people who live inland can also be at risk, as recent hurricanes have proved. Contact your local emergency management office about the history of hurricanes in your area and how to protect your family and home. For additional information, visit the FEMA Map Service Center.
"Storm shutters, water reservoir tanks and emergency generators have been a part of our lifestyle since 1989, when we were hit by a Category 3 hurricane," says Juan Rodriguez, a civil engineer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "Since then, storm prep has been part of our cultural behavior."
Anchor or Remove Patio Furniture and Other Outdoor ItemsResidents of regions prone to hurricanes or tornadoes know that patio furniture and accessories need to be brought inside or under cover before a weather event occurs. The best place to store barbecues and furniture is in a basement or garage. If it is not possible to move the item to do size or weight, bolt, strap or chain it down or secure it with hurricane or storm straps you would use for your roof, or something equally strong. Not only could you lose your patio furniture, but a windborne object because a potential threat if it is picked up by winds and smashes glass windows and doors.
Let's identify those potentially windborne objects in your yard:
- Patio furniture
- Trash containers
- Holiday decorations (Hurricane Sandy forced the removal of Halloween decorations in Eastern U.S. regions). Even light winds have been known to blow inflatable Santas and snowmen down the street.
- Children's play sets, playhouses and toys and equipment.
- Pool and spa equipment.
- Outdoor structures and accessory buildings, like gazebos, trellises, arbors, overhead roofs and awnings, etc. Secure and/or bring inside, if possible.
Install Hurricane StrapsIn high winds, hurricane straps made of galvanized metal will help keep the roof of your house fastened to the walls. This is not a do-it-yourself project you can do at the last minute. Hurricane straps can be difficult to install, so you may need to enlist the services of a contractor or subcontractor for a project of this scope.
Install a GeneratorIf you live in an area that has lost power for several days during previous weather events, it might be a smart idea to install an emergency power generator on your property or in your dwelling. Power outages are a common occurence during disasters, and several days can go by before power is restored to your region.
"We have a whole-house generator that turns on two seconds after we lose power," says Susan Heathfield, a writer and business consultant in Michigan. "Where I live, our power company is out of Detroit despite the fact that I am 60 miles away, and they do not maintain trees around the electrical lines. So, we lose power a lot. Also, we've had it ever since I started working online and my husband will also occasionally work from home. Life saver. Couldn't recommend it more highly. We also store food, water, medical supplies, etc."
Kerry Michaels, a producer/writer, lives with her husband and two children in a small town outside of Portland, Maine. Buying the right generator has been a lesson for Michaels and her family. "We had a pull-start one for about 10 years that we called 'Lucifer,' and it almost ended my very good marriage," Michaels explains. "We now have an auto start generator--prices dropped way down during the last couple of years--and it has been fantastic. Makes me feel very different about storms. And we get lots of them and lose power all the time."
A back-up generator can provide power to essential home appliances, heating, cooling and emergency lighting. Don't forget to keep an adequate supply of fuel, ask your local utility company about regulations and always use caution when operating a generator inside a building, home or attached garage.
Install Storm ShuttersInstalling storm shutters on windows, sliding glass doors, skylights, and French doors is one of the best ways to protect your home. Storm shutters are available in wood, steel or aluminum. You can also make storm shutters with 5/8-inch-thick exterior-grade or marine-grade plywood. Why exterior- or marine-grade plywood? It is constructed of weather-resistant materials or a weather-proof coating.
Check storm shutters regularly (a couple of times a year; before and after storms), maintain and make repairs as needed.
Secure Garage DoorsHurricane-force winds can damage garage doors or even blow them in, off or away. If wind gets inside a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage. By reinforcing your garage door, you can protect the door and what's inside of it.
How do you know if your garage needs to be reinforced? Schedule an inspection by a trained door systems technician, who will decide whether to add weight to a garage door or to adjust or replace the door's counterbalance system.
Like any other hurricane preparedness effort, don't wait until a hurricane warning before you decide to get your garage ready for a hurricane. The technician won't have the time, may not be licensed or reputable and you could end up paying more than you would under calmer circumstances when you have time to research and comparison shop. Plan ahead.