Florida hurricane season is upon us again. Home hurricane preparedness is essential. Even a normal season (if there is such a thing!) can see several severe storms make landfall and cause extensive damage. What are the common sense things you can do to prepare your home?
A Forecast is Not a Guarantee
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a near normal season. This usually includes 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes, and 2-4 major hurricanes. Yet even a tropical storm that fails to become a hurricane (or breaks up after being one) can stall as it hits land and create massive flooding issues.
Keep in mind that this is a forecast – essentially an educated prediction. It’s not a guarantee. NOAA says that a near-normal season is 40% likely. An above-average season is 30% likely, as is a below-average season. That means there’s a 70% chance of a normal or worse hurricane season.
This is a season-wide forecast. Remember that forecasts for individual storms get more and more accurate as the storm gets closer and closer to land. Heed warnings. These steps will protect both your home and you:
- Home Hurricane Preparedness Is Important, But Protect Yourself First
Protect yourself and other people first. Homes and possessions can be replaced. Lives can’t. If there’s an evacuation order, listen to it and follow its instructions. Too many people try to “tough out” a hurricane. Sustained 150 mph winds don’t care about how tough you are. Those winds will tear roofs off of buildings, and a roof is built tougher against hurricanes than you are.
Don’t drive through a flooded roadway. You’re not playing Oregon Trail trying to ford the river. Trucks often get swept away when owners think they can handle floodwaters. A 6,000 lb. truck can easily be swept away by a few feet of water. If rescuers aren’t nearby, you’ll drown. And if they are, you’ll put their lives at risk too.
- Review Your Insurance
Do this every year. Many people insure their homes simply for what the home is worth. The cost to rebuild may be more than this.
Many insurance policies will cover hurricane damage in some forms, but they don’t include flood insurance. This means that a branch coming through the window or damaging the roof may be covered, but flood damage caused by a hurricane won’t be.
There’s already been extensive flooding this year in states where the majority of homeowners lack flood insurance. Review whether you’re in a flood plain or flood way. If you are, seriously consider getting flood insurance.
- Inventory Everything
Make a list of your possessions. Add whatever’s new each year. There are free apps for this, or you can simply write or print out a list and keep it in a safe. Take images or video of everything that’s expensive so that there’s additional proof these are your possessions if you have to make an insurance claim. This helps you get much fairer compensation from insurance companies in case of disaster.
- Maintain Your Roof
Ever think about how those little flaps on an airplane’s wing can make all the difference in ascending or descending. They take up such a small amount of space compared to the size of the rest of the aircraft, but they completely change how the airplane uses all that air it’s rushing past.
The same holds true for your roof. A small crack or gap can easily allow winds underneath the roof’s structure. Rushing winds will quickly give your roof lift. If the winds are fast enough, goodbye roof.
Now, a Category Five hurricane may lift roofs regardless of how well they’re maintained. This may make you ask what the point is, but chances are better that you’ll face a hurricane a bit lower on the scale. Sealing your roof can make the difference of still having one if a Category Three hits, for instance.
- No, Seriously, Maintain Your Roof – It’s Vital to Home Hurricane Preparedness
That covers wind. Water can cause severe damage inside your home, too. The roof can stay on, and water will still get inside your walls and cause extensive damage if that roof isn’t patched and sealed. You don’t even need a hurricane for that – just a stalled storm can cause this. That will mean extensive damage.
This kind of water damage also fosters the growth of mold and mildew that can seriously impact your health, devalue your home, and even lead to your home’s environment become unlivable.
- Clean Your Gutters
Gutters and downspouts need to be clear to work properly. Any debris left clogging them will result in water backing up. This can damage your roof and will result in excessive water falling nearer your home’s foundation.
Make sure that the area where your downspouts redirect the water is clear and has a drainage path away from the home.
- High Quality Roof Straps
Florida homes are required to have roof straps. These are straps that attach the walls of your home to the roof. They essentially keep the roof from blowing away in strong winds. If your home has an attic, these roof straps can be checked and new roof straps added, if necessary.
- Check Your Seals
Heat and humidity wear down the seals of your windows and doors. This can mean moisture getting in – especially during big storms that are blowing their rain at an angle. Have your seals checked.
Any other holes your home has should also be sealed inside. This usually means areas where plumbing or wiring comes into the home. Remember that water will follow gravity. If that means following a pipe down through an unsealed gap and causing a flood in your home, that’s what it’ll do.
- Anchor Your “Wings”
Some home structures act as wings. A carport, for example, has very little anchoring it to the ground. It can get picked up in hurricane winds and crashed into the rest of your home like a big tree limb. The same goes for many porches.
How do you fix this? Add supports such as pillars that are firmly and deeply anchored to the ground. Basic pillars that simply hold the wing up won’t do it. They just become extra bits to smash into your home. They need to be strong pillars that are properly anchored.
- Nothing on the Lawn
The out-of-doors are often overlooked when it comes to home hurricane preparedness. Do you have a deck chair or umbrella on the lawn? That can come through a window or door. Anything and everything that’s loose will be turned into a projectile. Store everything away when a hurricane is approaching, or it may break a window or be bashed against your home or vehicle.
Anything outside that can’t be removed should be tied down. Even heavy objects like lawn mowers, construction equipment, and even boats can cause damage with strong enough wind gusts. Store it or tie it down if you can’t. It’s even advised you screw down or chain outdoor grills and other objects if they’re too heavy to move.
- Tree Maintenance
Trees have evolved to withstand hurricanes. A healthy tree should be just fine. If it has a branch or something else that comes too close to the home or gives you worry, trust your instincts and have it trimmed off. If it acts like a sail and catches all the wind when it gusts, it could be badly positioned and need a professional’s assessment.
An unhealthy or leaning tree is a different matter entirely. A dead, damaged, or diseased tree should be removed as soon as possible. These are trees that will fall over – it’s only a matter of when.
- Check Your Drainage
Storm drains need to be clear. If they’re not, water can back up and flooding issues will exacerbate. Where there’s a storm drain near you, check it and remove any debris.
Standing water will look for anywhere to go. It’ll flood your home, weaken tree roots, and generally make the entire situation much worse.
- Have a Coconut Party
Palm trees can become pirate ships in a hurricane, hurling coconuts like cannonballs at your home. Remove any coconuts and large palm seeds off the trees before a storm. The added benefit is you also have some coconuts to enjoy.
- Turn Off Sprinklers
You don’t need to water your lawn or irrigate during a hurricane. The hurricane will do that for you. You’ll only further damage your plants, add to your water bill, and add to potential flood and drainage issues.
- Storm Shutters
Storm shutters can be closed from the inside, and protect you against projectiles and flying glass. They’re easy and inexpensive to install, and they are quite attractive.
Final Thoughts on Home Hurricane Preparedness
This covers protecting your home. You also have to protect yourself, your family, and other people first. Have a plan for worst-case scenarios. Make sure your car is fully gassed up if there’s even a chance a hurricane will come your way. You don’t want to get caught in the line at the gas station the day a storm hits, or have your decision to evacuate decided for you because your fuel tank is too low to get out.
Have an emergency kit prepared with a wind-up radio, emergency lighting, blankets, and a first aid kit. Have emergency water and food supplies just in case. If a hurricane might make landfall, make sure your phones are fully charged beforehand. If electricity goes out, you won’t be able to charge anything. Electricity can stay out for days at a time sometimes. You want to be able to call authorities for help if you need it during that time.
Stay safe during the Florida hurricane season!