Hurricanes pose a major threat to millions of Americans each year. Last year, the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, had its third most active hurricane season on record, including seven major hurricanes that incurred billions of dollars in property damage.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and forecasters predict another above-average season. If you live in a hurricane-prone region, don’t wait until a hurricane warning is issued to take action – plan ahead. Here are some important things to consider as part of your preparedness plan.
Prepare Your Home
Hurricanes are known for producing high winds, but they can also create heavy rainfall. There are several ways to prep your home to mitigate wind and water damage, some of which include:
• Clear out your yard and anchor large structures. Bring outdoor items inside. Patio furniture, trash cans, plants, grills, dog houses and toys all have the potential to become projectiles during a storm. Have a list of items in mind that need to be removed and a location where they can safely be stored. Secure large items like trampolines or storage sheds to the ground with hurricane tie straps. Mobile homes and manufactured homes should also be anchored, if possible.
• Secure your windows and doors. Protect your windows by installing plywood over exterior window frames. Measure your windows first to determine the size of plywood needed, which can be secured with damage-resistant hurricane clips. For long-term benefits that provide increased protection, consider investing in storm shutters or hurricane-resistant windows and doors. The price for hurricane shutters can range between $2,500 and $8K. The price for hurricane-resistant windows can range from $50 to over $300 per square foot, and hurricane doors start around $1,900.
• Examine trees and shrubs. Pay close attention to tree branches, trunks and exposed roots. Any rotted or weak structures should be removed prior to a hurricane to prevent them from breaking or falling due to strong winds. It’s also a good idea to remove large, heavy branches that extend over your roofline.
• Inspect your roof, gutters and downspouts. Perform a visual inspection of your roof to ensure there are no missing or broken shingles. Also, make sure your gutters and downspouts are free of clutter. Doing so will help to avoid roof leaks that could result in severe water damage to your home.
• Reinforce your garage door. Strengthen your garage door by installing storm door braces to the interior or installing hurricane panels to the exterior. If the garage is not properly secured, pressure from extreme winds can cause it to buckle, detach from the tracks or even collapse.
• Electrical safety. Understanding how to properly handle electrical equipment is necessary to ensure safety during a hurricane. Be sure to charge all cell phones and portable power banks before unplugging all electronics. Move computers, electrical devices and other valuable items off floors to tables in the center of the home to avoid water damage. Standby generators are often used as a secondary source of power in the event of an electrical failure. If you intend to use one, be sure it is in proper working order and you understand how to use it to avoid hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electrocution. For a list of generator safety tips, click here. Also, turn off the home’s main gas valve as a precaution against leaks.
Ahead of hurricane season, review your homeowner’s insurance policy or check in with your insurance agent to ensure you have accurate coverage. Property owners in hurricane-prone areas are often required to pay a deductible before the insurance company will pay a claim. Check to see if your policy requires a deductible. If so, confirm the type (a lump sum or a percentage of the property) and the out-of-pocket amount you’ll be required to pay, should you need to file a claim.
If your home is damaged by hurricane winds, homeowner’s insurance generally covers the cost of repairs. However, water damage caused by flooding or storm surge is typically not covered and requires a separate flood insurance policy. Well before a hurricane watch is issued, create a home inventory list with descriptions, serial numbers and pictures of your insurable assets. This record may help expedite the claim process.
Evacuation or Stay-at-Home Plan
One of the most important ways to prepare for a hurricane is to have an evacuation plan for all the occupants of your home, including your pets. If you live in an evacuation zone, you will more than likely be ordered to evacuate. It’s imperative to know where you will go and the safest routes to travel. Your destination could be the home of a relative or friend, a hotel or an emergency shelter in your area. It’s best to have multiple options, fill up your vehicle’s gas tank early and have an overnight bag packed and ready to go, if you need to leave on short notice.
If you stay in your home during a hurricane, stick to rooms that are considered safe zones. The safest rooms are generally interior rooms with no exterior walls or windows. Bathrooms, closets and underneath the stairwell are good options. Some people opt for building a safe room with reinforced walls designed to withstand strong winds.
Whether you’re evacuating or sheltering in place, you should have an emergency kit readily available with items such as:
- First-aid kit
- Electronic devices and chargers
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Utility knife
- Bottled water
- Face masks
- Nonperishable food for you, your family and your pet(s)
- Travel-size personal hygiene products
- Clothing, shoes and blankets
- Local map
Create a checklist of essential items, sentimental objects and important documents and note their whereabouts. Items to list may include keys, wallets, family photographs and keepsakes, insurance policy, social security cards and financial information. If you need to evacuate and want to take items with you, having a checklist can save you time and reduce stress and anxiety. For more information about how to develop an evacuation plan, click here.
After a hurricane, there may be debris, flooding, downed electrical wires and power outages, all of which can be hazardous to the health and safety of you, your family and your home. Make sure you take all safety precautions. If you were evacuated, do not return home until you have been given orders it is safe to do so. Tread cautiously as you walk the interior and exterior of your home to survey the damage. Keep in mind the following:
• Avoid floodwater. Do not walk or drive through standing water. You never know what lurks under the water, from bacteria and pests to electrical powerlines and sink holes.
• Check for carbon monoxide and gas poisoning. Carbon monoxide poising is one of the leading causes of death after a hurricane. Most deaths are connected to portable generators used inside the home, so be sure to only use one outside of the home. Also, if you smell gas, call your local gas company. If the odor is strong, leave your home immediately.
• Do not use tap water. It is generally not safe to drink, clean or cook with faucet water immediately after a hurricane, as the loss of power more than likely will have affected the filtration system and the water could be contaminated.
For more information to help guide your post-hurricane plan, click here.
The best way to combat the stress of a hurricane is to prepare as much as you can. Before hurricane season begins each year, take the time to prepare your home, revisit your evacuation plan and restock your emergency kit. Feel free to reference our handy Hurricane Preparedness checklist to get started. For more detailed resources, take a look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Homeland Security’s hurricane preparedness guide.
*Carrying both homeowners insurance and title insurance play an important role in keeping your investment protected. Old Republic Title does not sell homeowner’s insurance. However, if you would like to purchase title insurance when you buy your home or learn more about title insurance, contact your local Old Republic Title representative today.