Preparing your Home and Yourself for a Hurricane

Preparing your Home and Yourself for a Hurricane

There are so many steps to take when you are threatened by a potential hurricane, including how to prepare your home and your self for a storm. Prepping before you a storm is approaching is the best time to start. If you wait until it’s too late, local home supply stores are likely to be out of what you need. During the off-season is the best time to check your home for anything you are missing.

Preparing your home for a storm is much different than preparing your self. But knowing that your home is prepped will help you to personally prepare, because it is one less thing for you to worry about. It’s also important to make sure that you prepare your family as well, especially children.

Prepare Your Home Before a Storm Threat

The first step to preparing your home for a hurricane is to identify any vulnerabilities in your home. Of course, your windows and doors are always going to be a weak point in your home. During the off-season, and not when a storm is threatening, take the time to measure all of your windows and get the plywood necessary to board up your home. When a storm starts to head your way, it is likely that home supply stores will be out of plywood, or running very low. I know it can also be expensive if you have a lot of windows, so you can also slowly get the plywood over time if you start early enough. You want pieces that are slightly larger than each window because you need a way to fasten it to the building. Even better than plywood, have storm shutters installed on your home. Of course, these cost a lot more than plywood, but they usually work a bit better.

Check for other areas that you may need to make some repairs or upgrades before a hurricane, such as loose or clogged gutters. If your gutters are loose, they could detach from your home during the high winds of a hurricane and then become a projectile. Make sure to repair any loose gutters before they become an issue. And if the gutters are clogged, then you want to make sure you clean them out. It’s recommended to do it at least twice per year. We clean ours out before hurricane season, and when we are already up there to put of the Christmas lights. This gives a pretty even spread of making sure that the gutters stay clean. During the heavy rains you want to make sure that they are adequately pulling the water away from your home.

As it gets closer to storm season, make sure to trim back trees that are too close to your home. Large branches often fall during a hurricane, even a category 1 storm, so you want to keep those away from the house. If a large branch falls on the roof, it could do some serious damage and compromise the safety of your home. Also, like the loose gutters, any tree branches that come loose could become wind borne projectiles and damage other property.

Tree branches and debris on the ground after Hurricane Charley passed through.

If you are in an area that you are more likely to stay during a storm, consider investing in a generator. And don’t forget you will also need gas to power the generator. When I was living in Florida, we were just south of where Hurricane Charley hit, and lost power for days from it. Years before, when my parents bought a travel camper, we also got a generator to power it in case we ever needed it. Well, luckily we had all that. The camper was stored in my dad’s shop during the storm so it wasn’t damaged. The day after the storm he went to get that and we set it up in the driveway with the generator. We had full power, and ran a line into the house for the refrigerator. My parents were worried about someone trying to steal the generator, so we chained it to the side of the camper. When we started running out of gas for it, we siphoned some out of our boat! If you are going to use a portable generator, it probably won’t power your entire house, but could at least power essentials, such as the refrigerator and a few small lights. Just please, make sure you practice safety when using a generator! Do not put it in your garage while it’s running. Keep it away from windows. Carbon Monoxide kills an average of 70 people per year because of improper generator use, and it only takes minutes.

Verify the details of your homeowners insurance, renters insurance, content insurance, and/or flood insurance. As a homeowner, usually your home insurance will cover most damages, and also includes the content of your home, meaning all your “stuff” inside. If you are renting a home, then the owner probably has their home insurance on the structure, but this does not include anything of yours inside the home. You want to make sure you also have renters insurance including content insurance. This is what pays you back in the event that everything in your home is damaged. Check through your insurance policy, because more than likely, it does not include floods from heavy rains and/or storm surges. There are some areas, depending on your elevation and proximity to the coast, that require flood insurance on your home. Other’s don’t require it, but it is always optional. Where my parents house is, they are required to have flood insurance. My sister lives 5 minutes up the road and it isn’t required because of her elevation. If you are anywhere near a potential flood zone, you may want to look into flood insurance on your home.

Prepare Your Home When a Storm Threatens

The list of ways to prepare your home when you are threatened by a potential storm changes drastically, and your timeframe for getting things done is limited. Luckily with hurricanes, you usually have a pretty good amount of time to prepare, around 3-7 days. Just beware that the closer it gets to the storm hitting your area, the more likely places are to be out of the supplies that you need. So make sure you start early to get everything done on time.

As mentioned earlier, you should already have the plywood or storm shutters, so get to work on boarding up your home. You want to make sure you cover anything that is glass, including not only your windows, but any sliding glass door or entry doors with decorative glass on them. I’ve heard of people also taping their windows, but we never tried that personally. The idea behind this practice is if the window breaks, hopefully it won’t completely shatter. I’m not sure how effective that is, and also know that it can be really hard to get all the gunk from the tape back off your windows. Your best bet is either storm shutters or plywood.

My parents house boarded up and ready for Hurricane Charley, August 2004.

While you are outside boarding up the house, also look around and note where you need to secure loose items or move inside. If you have any patio furniture, hoses, toy bins, flags, wind chimes, potted plants, bird feeders, security signs, those can all become projectiles in the high winds of a hurricane. You will want to move those items either inside the garage or in the home if you don’t have room in the garage. Secure anything that you can’t move inside. If you have a shed, make sure it is closed tight and secured. You can even use a zip tie to help secure a shed. I remember taking all the plastic chairs on the back porch at my parents house and tossing them in the deep end of the pool just so they wouldn’t fly around.

When you are working on getting everything moved, make sure you do not barricade exits. It’s so easy to move things just right inside the doors to the home, or at the end of the garage, but this can cause a major problem if you should need to evacuate your home quickly. Make sure that you are leaving one vehicle with a clear path out of the garage, whichever one you would take if you need to leave, which would probably be your largest-profile vehicle or your most reliable vehicle. The same goes with your doors. Don’t block your way out of the house. You never know when you may need to get out or someone may need to get in!

If you have a propane grill, make sure to fill your propane tanks. If you lose power, after the storm you can still use a propane grill to cook meals for you and your family. This is also a great way to cook some of the food that would otherwise spoil because your refrigerator/freezer aren’t going to keep your food for long without a way to keep it cool. Even if you have a gas-powered stovetop, you may not want to use that until you know that there aren’t any problems with your gas lines. Also, side note, most gas stoves use an electric igniter, but I’ve lit it manually before when we lost power. I used a long spaghetti noodle and lit the end of it, then set the stovetop to the lowest setting to get it started. Once the gas is flowing and it gets lit, it will stay lit until you turn off the gas again.

As the storm approaches, you will want to unplug as much as possible and elevate everything you can. Even if you know you are planning to evacuate, you still should go through and unplug as many of your electronics and appliances as possible to help prevent any power surges or moisture from destroying them. And speaking of that moisture, anything that you can pick up should be elevated in case of any flood waters entering your home. If you have a 2 story home, move as much as you can to that second story. I remember working at a doctor’s office in Florida and we were threatened by a tropical storm coming through. We unplugged all of the medical equipment, and moved all of the computers up onto everyone’s desk in case of rising water.

The canal at the end of our street overflowed all of the docks and breached the seawall in many places during Hurricane Charley.

Prepare Your Vehicle

While you are in the process of preparing your home for a storm, you also need to do a few things to make sure that your vehicle is prepared. Whether you are planning to evacuate, or planning to ride out the storm at home, you want to make sure your vehicle is ready. Even if you are planning to stay home, you never know if you may need to leave the home quickly in an emergency. You may also want to pre-pack a few essentials that you may need in the event of an evacuation. You will need some food, water, and basic supplies in your vehicle, such as flashlights, clothes, cash, maps, etc.

Before there is a shortage, make sure to fill your gas tank. As storms approach, everyone will be out filling their vehicles, so do this early, or expect that you may have to wait in line to get to the pumps. While you are at it, also fill any other portable gas tanks that you may have. If you are on an evacuation route, it is possible that some of the gas stations along that route may be out of gas. It would help to have some extra gas with you in this instance. And if you have to use any of it, make sure to refill that when you find another gas station.

I know many people don’t, but when a storm is approaching, try to find a way to keep your vehicle in the garage. At least the one that you would use in the event of an evacuation or emergency. Not only does this protect your vehicle from any flying debris or potential hail, it will protect you and your family if you need to get into the vehicle. Again, make sure that your way to the vehicle and the vehicle’s path is as clear as possible. If your vehicle is in the garage, you don’t have to go out in any potential hazardous weather to get in.

Prepare Yourself

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you are taking care of yourself while you are also taking care of preparing your home, vehicle, and family for a potential hurricane. The best way to take care of yourself is to make sure you stay hydrated while you are working, and wear good shoes to protect your feet. Make sure you don’t under pack, because you will probably need more supplies than you are originally planning.

Prepare yourself and your family by making sure that everyone knows your plans for before, during, and after the storm. If you have children, talking about what to expect will help alleviate any fears that they may have. It also helps them to know that plans may change, and they need to be good listeners. Children seem to know when something is going on and adapt well. I know from personal experience that a storm can be scary, but if you have entertainment for everyone, it helps pass the time and take your mind off what is going on.

As the storm is getting close and approaching, you may want to take a shower just a few hours before. If you are losing power, potentially get a boil-water notice, have home damage, etc. you may not get a chance to take a shower for a few days. In addition to taking a shower, also get some rest. Our worst storm, Charley, came through during the day, so we didn’t really lose much sleep. When Hurricane Wilma came through, it hit earlier in the morning so we were all woken up really early and exhausted by the time the storm came through. Sometimes a storm will stall and stay over you for hours upon hours resulting in little sleep. And the once the storm passes, you will have cleanup and repairs to worry about. Trust me on this, get some rest before the storm hits your area.

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