Protect Your Home from Hurricane Damage
Approximately 58 million Americans live in the 185 coastal counties that border the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This is the most vulnerable area for hurricanes in the United States. When it comes to hurricanes, being prepared and planning ahead is the best way to stay out of harm’s way. Whether you live right on the water or further inland, a major hurricane can leave major destruction in its wake. The following tips represent some of the best ways to keep your home and family safe from even the worst storms.
The 5 best ways to protect your home from hurricane damage
1. Ready your yard
Debris thrown by high winds is one of the biggest causes of damage, injury, and death during a hurricane. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed and remove dead limbs to prevent them from becoming wooden missiles in gale force winds. Make sure you have a plan for storing patio furniture, grills and barbecues, planters, and even boats in the event of a major storm. Think about replacing gravel or rock landscaping with shredded bark or other soft mulches.
2. Prep for flooding
Severe flooding is the greatest cause of property damage associated with hurricanes. If you don’t have one already, consider adding a sump pump to your basement to help drainage. If you do have a sump pump, check to make sure it’s in working condition at least once per year. Be sure to check the power source, and the outlet pipe to ensure water can flow freely.
You should also look at the grading of your property to confirm that water is directed away from the foundation of your home. If it’s not, consider re-grading or changing the landscaping, or adding an in-ground or french drain to your yard.
Finally, keep your gutters clear of leaves and other debris, so that they can function in heavy rains.
3. Seal up your home
Make certain that the walls of your home are properly anchored to the foundation. You may need to hire a licensed design professional to determine if these joints need work.
Identify and seal gaps around the exterior of your home with caulk. Common problem areas include:
- Anywhere pipes enter the walls
- Behind electrical outlets, circuit breakers, and water/power meters
- Under window sills
You should also be sure that your roof deck is sealed with a waterproof membrane.
Consider installing impact-resistant shutters and windows. At the very least you need to prepare temporary plywood window covers. The Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness has some great information about protecting windows, including typical costs.
4. Know your stuff
Become familiar with your community’s emergency procedures, including warning systems and evacuation protocols. Your municipal police or fire department should be able to provide you with your community’s guidelines.
You should also identify elderly or disabled neighbors that may need extra assistance in a disaster scenario.
One additional precaution you can take is to evaluate whether or not your home meets current building standards for high-wind areas. The International Code Council’s 2013 standards can be found here.
5. Make a plan
Stock an emergency kit with at least three days of food and water for every member of your family. Don’t forget your pets! In addition to survival basics, be sure to include extra cash, since ATMS and banks may be offline for an extended period of time. Keep an extra supply of prescription and over the counter medications. MAke sure you have copies of important documents available in waterproof containers (large ziploc baggies work great for this).
Make sure you have an NOAA approved weather radio, or some other way to stay informed if normal lines of communication go down.
Discuss strategies for waiting out a storm or for evacuation with your family. Also, be sure to identify a meeting place if your family should be separated during a disaster. Come up with methods for communicating if phones and the internet stop working.
For more help creating an emergency plan, please check out previous entries in the HeaterMeals blog series.
For additional information:
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has some great resources available:
- Against the Wind: Protecting your home from wind damage is full of diagrams and instructions for readying your home for high winds
- Avoiding Hurricane Damage is a checklist for homeowners to complete before a storm