How to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane Before the Weather Forecast
Here’s a checklist of things to do before the forecast of a major storm.
Make an evacuation plan. Before you do anything else to prepare, know where you’re going to go in the event of an evacuation, and then notify family of that plan, so they know where to find you if you have to get out quick. In fact, Phillips suggests making two evacuation plans: “Have more than one route to get out because when evacuations happen, things get bottlenecked.”
Make sure you’re covered. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover damage caused by heavy winds, but flood insurance typically has to be purchased separately. “The best thing to do for homeowners in those areas is to contact their insurance company,” Phillips says.
Make shutters ahead of time. If you don’t have functional storm shutters on your house, it’s easy enough to make them from plywood, but you should make them long in advance. “That’s a beautiful Saturday-afternoon, sunny-day project – not two days before the storm and it’s already getting windy,” Rimoldi says. Not to mention, plywood in a hurricane is the same as a shovel in a snowstorm – once the forecast comes, it’s hard to find in any hardware store.
Be ready for damage. No one wants to anticipate damage to their home, but you can prevent further damage if you store useful items ahead of time. “Maybe go buy a tarp now,” Rimoldi says. A tarp, chainsaw and spare plywood could be key to avoiding additional damage in a storm if a branch goes through a window, for example.
Read owner’s manuals. Whether it’s a generator, chainsaw or water pump, you should read the owner’s manual prior to use – and certainly prior to a hurricane – to ensure you’re safely operating the equipment. Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, stresses that generators in particular, when placed improperly near a home, can become a major safety hazard: “You cannot use them near the house, near a window or an open door. You cannot run them in the garage,” he says. “Know your machine, read the owner’s manual. It will spell out in clear terms how and where to run the unit.”
Test your power equipment. Once you know how it works, make sure your tools are actually working. Especially if you haven’t operated your chainsaw since the last time a tree branch fell in your driveway, you want to be confident that it doesn’t need any repairs. “You want to start your generator, start your chainsaw – make sure they fire, make sure they operate,” Kiser says. Once you’ve tested the equipment, keep it in an easily accessible place that won’t be flooded, such as a hall closet or on a shelf in the garage if you can get in without power. And keep in mind that if you have an electric-powered garage door, you won’t be able to get in if the power goes out.
Have fuel on hand. A call for evacuation doesn’t usually come in time to leisurely cruise out of town, so around peak hurricane season, be sure to always have enough gas to get you out of danger should the announcement come. “The lines for gas become incredible,” Phillips says.
Know the kind of fuel you need. In addition to gas for your car, it’s smart to also keep power equipment-specific fuel on hand. Kiser says fuel with ethanol in it, like that used in automobiles, is not recommended for power equipment. “That fuel stales really, really quick,” he says. It will likely be more expensive, but fuel designed for power equipment – often sold at hardware stores – will be less likely to go stale as it sits and will make your generator or chainsaw run better when you need it following a hurricane.
Have a plan for your pets. Emergency shelters are often set up when an evacuation is ordered, but not all shelters will allow the family pet in with you, Phillips says. Should you and your family have to go to a shelter to spend a few nights, find a friend or family member who has the ability to work your pet into his or her evacuation plan.
Have a place for all your outdoor decor. Keep space in your garage or basement to make it easy to get your patio furniture and any lawn ornaments inside quickly when the forecast for high winds comes. Rimoldi says he hears the classic tale of a homeowner getting all but one chair inside. “Sure enough, that’s the one that went through one of my windows,” he recounts being told.
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