Hurricane season starts on June 1st. Are you ready to weather the storm?
Here’s how to prepare your home for a hurricane.
First, a global pandemic; now, hurricane season is upon us.
Hurricanes are arguably one of the worst features the Sunshine State has to offer, with torrential rains and wind speeds of 74 mph or more. If you’ve lived in Florida for any considerable length of time, you probably remember the general sense of panic that often accompanies an impending hurricane (or pandemic, for that matter).
You also know the importance of being prepared ahead of time.
If you wait until there’s a named storm heading for your zip code to start shoring up your home, you’re waiting too long. Here’s how to prepare your home for a hurricane in advance, so you’re not caught off-guard.
1. Build an Emergency Kit
If you’ve lived in Florida long, all those empty grocery store shelves a few months ago probably felt a little too familiar. Whether it’s because of a virus or a storm, people tend to hoard things like bread, batteries, and (for some reason) toilet paper.
Make sure you’re prepared well in advance by building an emergency kit now.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends that you keep the following on-hand in the event of an emergency:
- Water (3 gallons per person—don’t forget your pets!)
- Non-perishable food (3 days’ worth)
- Manual can opener
- Radio (either a hand-crank or battery-operated model)
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Toilet paper (be honest, will you ever be without a good stash again?)
- Basic personal hygiene items
- Hand sanitizer
- Important Documents (insurance paperwork, personal documents, etc.)
- Solar cell phone charger
- Extra cash
To see the full list of recommended supplies, click here.
2. Clear Up Debris
While relatively harmless on a still summer’s day, loose debris can become a dangerous missile in a hurricane.
Spend a weekend clearing your home’s exterior and lawn. Trim any tree branches close to the house and take down any dying, diseased, or weak trees that could fall on your roof.
If you have any loose furniture or equipment in your yard, make a plan for where to put it during a storm.
3. Clean Out Gutters
Your gutters are designed to carry water away from your house. If they are clogged, water can build up around the debris and seep into your home.
You can clean the gutters yourself, or hire a professional company to do it.
4. Seal Up the Cracks
Your house might be fine in a summer thunderstorm, but what about when 80 mph winds are hurling rain against your house for six hours straight?
Luckily, fixing this problem is quick and affordable.
Use a good quality, exterior-grade caulk to seal up windows, doors, and any other openings in your home’s exterior. If there are any visible cracks in the trim, stucco, or foundation make a note to have them professionally repaired. When water seeps into the walls or floor, it can’t simply evaporate away, which can cause a multitude of problems, from mold to structural damage.
5. Install Storm Shutters
I hate to break it to you, but taping your windows provides absolutely NO protection against a storm—not even if you use duct tape! Instead, you want to create a barrier that large pieces of debris can’t break through.
If you’ve had your eye on professional storm shutters, now is the time to get them. If you’re on a budget, you can make your own out of plywood…but not just any plywood. Go with 5/8″ exterior-grade or marine plywood and start as soon as possible. Measuring each one of your windows takes longer than you think and supplies will dwindle quickly once a named storm is barreling down on the coast.
6. Reinforce Your Garage Door
Your garage door is often the first thing to fail during a storm. And once you have a hole that size, the wind (combined with the change in barometric pressure) can tear your home apart from the inside out.
The solution? Garage door storm braces.
Vertical lengths of steel braces help reinforce your garage door to prevent it from bowing or breaking. After the initial installation, set-up and removal are quick and easy.
7. Install Surge Protection
Most Floridians are afraid of power outages (no air conditioning!) but few stop to think about the dangers of power surges.
Your home’s electrical system is designed to deal with a fairly consistent level of voltage. When a part of the electrical grid malfunctions (due to a downed power line or lightning strike), it can cause a surge of voltage into your home, which can render your appliances inoperable.
You can prevent this by installing a whole-house surge protector on your electrical panel. If these devices sense a power surge, they’ll preventatively shut off the power to your home.
8. Make an Evacuation Plan
A direct hit from a Category 5 storm can cause tornadoes and severe flooding, even miles inland.
You don’t know when or if you’ll need to evacuate your home, so make your evacuation plans before the storm hits, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
Plot out multiple routes to your destination and create a list of everything you’ll want to take in an emergency (keep it with your emergency kit, so you don’t misplace it).
If you have pets, make a list of nearby pet shelters. Don’t leave them behind!
9. Verify Insurance Coverage
Here in Florida, hurricane season is part of our yearly cycle (right between 1st Lovebug Season and 2nd Lovebug Season). If you’ve had your homeowners insurance on autopilot, this is your reminder to break that habit!
Contact your insurance agent to verify the level of coverage you have. Ask them what your deductibles are (there’s a good chance you have a separate “hurricane” deductible, so make sure you specify), whether you have (or need) flood insurance, and if there are any additional policies they’d recommend based on your budget and risk profile.
Most importantly: make sure to do this now. If you decide to purchase a new policy or additional coverage, it’ll likely take up to 30 days to go into effect. Calling your agent three days before a storm hits is far too late.
10. Find a Safe Zone
Hurricane paths can change quickly, so if you find yourself riding out the storm at home with no chance to evacuate, you want to make sure you can do so safely.
The safest place to be in a storm is on the ground floor, away from any windows. A bathroom is usually ideal, as it also has a water source, but a hallway can work, too. Make sure there is enough room for you and all members of your family (pets included!) as well as your emergency preparedness kit.
There’s no need to let the prospect of a hurricane frighten you…especially if you’re well-prepared.
Make hurricane preparation a regular part of your yearly home maintenance and you’ll be able to breathe a little easier come June 1st.
At EDC Professional Home Inspections, we put our expertise to work for you, ensuring that you have the most accurate information on the condition of your home (or prospective home). If you’re interested in a wind mitigation or any other type of inspection, call us at 407-417-2999 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.