Weather Safety: Preparing Your Home For Future Hurricanes

The most important way to approach hurricane safety and survival is to plan for the storm in advance.

Before you consider hurricane preparedness, there is one thing you must know: hurricanes are unpredictable and always dangerous, regardless of the category force winds assigned to individual storms. The true key to hurricane preparedness is appreciating the lethal force of high winds and storm surge, and knowing that regardless of how many precautions and reinforcements you make within the home, when an evacuation is recommended, it is time to go.

Whether you evacuate your home or ride out the storm, there are a number of steps you can take long before a hurricane approaches to minimize damage and protect your financial interest in your home.

The most important step is to have homeowner's insurance with a replacement clause in your policy. A replacement clause guarantees that your house will be rebuilt to match its original state. Since homeowner's insurance does not cover flood damage, purchase appropriate flood insurance. Actively research different policy options and confer with your insurance agent. You must do this well before hurricane season begins as many insurers will not update your policy once the season starts.

The surest way to physically prepare your home in advance of a hurricane is to make sure your home is reinforced for high winds. Roofs, windows, and doors need to be secured properly. To brace your roof, invest in hurricane straps. They are highly effective and can be fitted to any kind of roof. Since bracing a roof can be complicated and detailed work, it is best left to a professional contractor. Glass windows and doors are optimally protected by professionally manufactured and installed hurricane shutters. These are a proven investment, especially if you live in an area vulnerable to hurricane threat. If this is not an option, however, you will have to use plywood over your windows and doors. Most home improvement retailers offer how-to guides on board installation, including required tools and hardware. Purchase your plywood, tools, and hardware early. Have your wood predrilled and ready to be installed. Along with plywood, purchase masking tape. Once windows have been boarded on the outside, taping the glass on the inside, in an "X" configuration for each square foot of glass, ensures that shattering will be minimized. Entry doors can be reinforced with stronger bolts and hinges. Garage doors can be secured with the use of retrofitting kits, which brace the doors horizontally.

Another step in hurricane preparedness is outfitting your home for survival in the storm's aftermath. It is always wise to purchase a generator as power outage is sure to be a problem, with several days, even weeks passing before energy can be restored. You should prepare a hurricane survival kit for your family at the start of hurricane season. Purchase disposable cleansing cloths for sponge bathing and set aside a two weeks supply of underwear, clothes, and towels. It is also wise to have industrial strength cleaning materials, paper towels, and mops ready, in case you need to clean flood water. Purchase nonperishable food items, particularly dried fruit, snacks, and canned foods, a can opener, several flashlights with replacement batteries, a first aid kit, and a radio with replacement batteries. You will need to have adequate drinking water. Have a two weeks supply of bottled drinking water stored away for every family member, including pets.

Once a hurricane warning has been issued, fill up your tub, sinks, and all containers with water for bathing. Be sure that prescription drugs are refilled and securely stored, and have a good amount of cash set aside as well. If possible, get valuable furniture, blankets and clothing to higher ground. Set your refrigerator to the coldest setting to preserve food. If your house floods, you should turn off all electric current immediately. All adult family members should know how to work the breakers and turn off gas.

Perhaps the most critical step is to have an evacuation plan or a plan to move to a shelter. First, contact FEMA and find out the criteria for Federal assistance in disaster sites. Gather all your significant papers, including inventory photos of your furniture and valuables for claim purposes, sentimental items, important phone numbers and keep them in one place. Make sure you have phone numbers for your insurer and for FEMA, as well as for the Red Cross and any local relief organizations. Have a road map with all possible routes highlighted by light colored marker in case you encounter traffic and need alternate routes. Keep your car gassed and ready and notify friends and relatives whether you decide to stay or evacuate.

The key to getting through a hurricane is to make your decisions early and implement them. A hurricane is a terrifying experience, but all the more so for the family caught unprepared.

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