Hurricanes, most prevalent from June 1 to Nov. 30, can inflict serious damage to homes and businesses, especially in the form of extreme wind and water damage. Fortunately, careful planning and organization can help you better prepare for and manage the damage and costs associated with the aftermath of dangerous hurricanes.
Here are some helpful tips for preparing for and managing potential loss before, during and after a hurricane.
Before the Hurricane
Before the hurricane, you should:
- Know the difference between a hurricane watch and hurricane warning.
- Hurricane Watch: A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds 74 mph or higher) are expected within a specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph), the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
- Conduct a Household Inventory. It will help you record an accurate assessment of your belongings.
- Prepare a hurricane evacuation kit that can be reached within a moment's notice of evacuation.
Preparing the Outside of Your Home
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Remove diseased or damaged tree limbs before the threat of a storm. Secure any yard objects, and store outdoor furniture.
- Use permanent shutters to best protect windows. You can also use half-inch plywood panels with pre-drilled holes every 18 inches for screws. Watch a one-minute video to see how leaving just one window or door unprotected can lead to catastrophic damage in a hurricane.
- Have a supply of plywood and nails on hand to board up your home. You risk paying high prices and standing in long lines if you wait until the last minute to purchase these storm essentials.
- Make sure you have flood insurance. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local Agent. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowner policies do not cover damage from flooding that accompanies a hurricane.
- Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a hurricane, have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
During a Hurricane Watch
When a hurricane watch is issued, you should:
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
- Check your emergency supplies. Make sure everything is stocked and in working order.
- Gas up your car.
- Bring in garbage cans, lawn furniture, bikes, toys, hanging plants and lawn decorations. If possible, disassemble the swings on your child's swing set to prevent unnecessary damage.
- Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows. Remove outdoor antennas.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
- Store drinking water.
- Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container.
- Review your evacuation plan with your family.
- Move your boat securely or transfer it to a designated safe area. Use rope or chain to secure the boat to a trailer.
- Use tie downs to anchor your trailer to the ground or your house.
During a Hurricane Warning
When a hurricane warning is issued, you should:
- Listen constantly to a battery-operated radio or television for official instructions.
- If you are in a mobile home, make sure it is tied down and evacuate immediately.
- Stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
- Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
- If you lose power, turn off all major appliances. Too many running appliances can create a power surge when the power is turned back on.
If officials issue a mandatory evacuation, you should:
- Leave as soon as possible. Avoid flooded roads, and watch for washed-out bridges.
- Unplug appliances, and turn off the electricity and main water valve.
- Tell someone outside the storm area where you are going.
- If time permits and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture to protect it from flooding. If possible, move it to a higher floor.
- Take pre-assembled emergency supplies, warm protective clothing, blankets and sleeping bags to your designated shelter.
- Lock up your home before you leave.
- If you have time, bring your laptop computer with you. This will provide an invaluable bank of information.
After the Hurricane
After the hurricane, you should:
- Help injured or trapped persons.
- Give first aid where appropriate.
- Do not move anyone seriously injured unless they're in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
- Avoid loose or dangling power lines, and report them immediately to the power company, police or fire department.
- Enter your home with caution. Beware of snakes, insects and animals driven to higher ground by rising floodwater.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
- Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
- Take pictures or video of storm damage, both to the house and its contents, for insurance claims. Make a list of all damaged and destroyed items.
- Assess the damage to your home, and make temporary repairs to prevent further destruction.
- Hold off on permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster approves your reimbursement.
- Cover broken windows and damaged roof coverings immediately.
- Remove standing water from your home.
- Keep all receipts related to repairs and temporary housing.
- Drive only if absolutely necessary, and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- Inspect utilities for gas leaks and damage to electrical work and water and sewer lines.
For more information on steps to take to protect your home or business, go to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety website, disastersafety.org or disastersafety.org/hurricane.