Hurricanes can destroy property and upend lives. But there are many things you can do before a storm hits to minimize the potential impact on your home and family.
When a powerful storm is bearing down, it may be too late to protect your property. Making a plan is critical.
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Threats include:
Coastal and inland flooding
Hurricane winds can damage or destroy homes, buildings and roads, and cause utility outages. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale estimates potential property damage on a scale of 1 to 5. The effects are frightening and showcase why it’s essential to have a plan.
Coastal flooding triggered by hurricanes is as destructive as wind and can be even more deadly. Hurricanes produce widespread torrential rains that can trigger landslides and debris flow. Flash flooding (a rapid rise in water levels) can occur due to intense rainfall over a short time.
Here’s an overview of steps you can take to prepare for hurricane season.
Prepare a survival kit
You can build your supplies over time by adding items gradually; it doesn’t need to happen all at once. You’ll want to stock the things you need both during the storm itself and in the immediate aftermath.
Keep track of your inventory (including the expiration dates on batteries, medications, nonperishable food) and refresh supplies as needed.
The Red Cross recommends that your emergency kit include:
Water: 1 gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation; 2-week supply for home)
Food: Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation; 2-week supply for home)
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
Family-size first-aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items: Hearing aids, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of essential documents: Seal them in a watertight container to keep them safe. Keep the originals and other records elsewhere, like a trusted person who lives in a different area, in a bank safe deposit box or on a secure cloud server.
Cellphone and (crank or solar) charger
Family and emergency contact information
Emergency blanket: Choose one that’s waterproof, windproof, easily packable and won’t shred.
Map(s) of the area
Extra set of car keys and house keys
Manual can opener
Plan for evacuation
Be prepared to evacuate and do so immediately when the order is issued. Know your route and destination, and make sure you have a full tank of fuel. Get the information on official area shelter locations from your local government or the Red Cross. They can also tell you what you are and are not allowed to bring (including pets).
If you plan to leave the area, check the news for information on road closings and traffic bottlenecks. Keep a detailed old-school map in your car if you’re not able to access GPS or route guidance online. Don't drive through flooded areas or streets. Two feet of water can carry away most vehicles.
Protect your property
It’s a good idea to make a detailed inventory of your belongings and update it annually. Supplement it with photos and videos, and keep copies in a safe place away from your home; cloud storage is ideal. Putting this list together may seem tedious, but it will significantly simplify any post-hurricane insurance claims you need to make.
Here are some tips on how to prepare your home before the hurricane arrives:
Shutters: Install shutters on all windows, as the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends. Use plywood only as a last resort.
Gutters: Clean debris from gutters and extend the downspouts to divert as much water away from your home as possible.
Doors: Closing interior doors reduces pressure on the roof during a storm, giving it a better chance of staying intact, according to IBHS. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends closing interior doors (in addition to all windows and exterior doors) to reduce damage risks.
Surroundings: Bring in loose items (such as garbage cans and lawn furniture), reinforce weak fencing, and pick up any debris in the yard that could act as a projectile during high winds.
Trees: Cut weak or damaged tree branches as well as branches that could snap in high winds and damage property below them.
Seals: Seal off small openings and gaps with silicone caulk to protect your home from water damage.
As the storm moves closer, follow this last-minute hurricane preparedness checklist:
Place all appliances located on the ground floor (including stove, washer and dryer) on masonry blocks or concrete.
Elevate furniture and electronic devices off the floor — this is particularly crucial for items in basements and on the first floor.
Remove area rugs from floors to avoid getting wet and growing mold or mildew.
Put fresh batteries in sump pumps.
Fuel your emergency generator and keep spare fuel on hand in a safe location.
Shut off electrical service at the main breaker (the electrical system and outlets might be submerged from flooding).
Follow local authority's instructions about evacuation and powering down utilities.
Park your car in the garage.
Ask about flood, wind and other types of insurance
Additional policies may be warranted if you live very close to the coast because of the increased risk for multiple events. Think of them as a layering of protection.
Ask your agent about insurance and policy add-ons like:
Building ordinance or law
For example, renters and homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage. You’ll need to get additional flood insurance — the federal government administers most policies. Homeowners and renters can purchase flood policies from an insurance agency under contract with FEMA or through private insurance. There’s generally a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase it.
Give our agents a call
Our insurance agents are happy to help, and they're a terrific resource for hurricane preparation tips and advice about your home insurance coverage needs! Contact us today at (203) 481-2684.