June to November each year marks hurricane season for those of us on the American continents. Generally speaking, hurricanes only present a threat to Central and North America, and even then generally only the Gulf and east coasts. While much of those coastal areas don’t experience large threats from hurricanes, some do and it behooves all readers to pay attention, plan and prepare. The good news about hurricanes is that we have a week or close to it for preparation time. We know they’re coming and about when they’ll arrive. If you get caught unaware, it’s because you just aren’t paying attention or you simply don’t care enough to prepare. In case you DO like to be prepared (as any sensible person would), here’s a list of things you should be thinking about / taking care of now that hurricane season is here.
Insurance coverage for home
First and foremost, know what your home owner’s insurance will and won’t cover. Know what you need to have documented to file a claim and take pictures of your property – all sides of it and all structures – well before any hurricane ever arrives. One home inspector recommends you take pictures of every side of your house and other structures on your property each May. Keep both digital (on your cell phone) and printed copies of the pictures (in your document safe – see farther down) for future reference and use.
Prepare the outside of your home
If you are aware that a hurricane is coming and predicted to impact your area, there’s an obvious need to protect the outside of your house. Whether or not exterior shutters need to be mounted and secured depends on your area and your home construction. If they are required or beneficial, don’t wait until the last minute to mount and test them. Additionally, make sure you either bring in or tie down all exterior / deck / yard furniture and fixtures. In an emergency, if it’s your only option, patio furniture can be thrown in a pool and taken back out once the hurricane has passed (if the pool has water in it obviously).
Make sure tools you might need for recovery are protected
Repairs are commonly needed after a damaging storm has passed and more than one person has gone to their shed looking for tools… only to find the shed’s no longer there. Make sure you bring your tools inside a secure structure so you have access to them when you need them – after the storm.
Generator if available – tested and with fuel on hand
If you have a generator, make sure you know how to hook it up for proper and safe use. Also make sure that it works. Test it at least twice a year and make sure the fuel is either drained or treated so it doesn’t gel up or frack in the tank and carburetor. Know what kind of fuel it takes, how long it will run per gallon of fuel, and that you have an acceptable supply of the requisite fuel stored. See the comment about storing things in your shed above. If the hurricane takes the fuel with it, the stored fuel does you know good after the storm.
Lanterns and lights – with backup batteries.
Candles or electric lanterns are necessary in the event of a power outage caused by the storm. Make sure you have a proper supply of batteries for your variety of lanterns and flashlights and remember that a rechargeable flashlight plugged into a dead outlet isn’t doing you any good in getting recharged. One source of potential emergency lighting many people forget or don’t think about is solar lights used for landscaping. If they are left outside in the sun to charge all day, and then brought inside (often you can screw the top off and invert it to have the light exposed), they can be used as table lighting that will last for hours.
Create your emergency kit inside
Make sure you have the necessary supplies for your emergency kit properly procured, stored and easily accessed. That emergency kit should include a supply of fresh water, first-aid supplies, prescription medications and some food rations that won’t go bad if not refrigerated. Prior to a hurricane arriving, it’s a good idea to fill your tubs with fresh water and (if your toilet tanks are clean), to NOT flush your toilets unless you have to. Remember that your hot water heater usually has 30+ gallons of fresh water in it as well and a drain you can open and close at the bottom; you just need to connect a hose. Make sure you have secured any important documents, or a digital copy of all of them on a hard drive, in a water proof and fire proof safe. When you think about it, that collection of paperwork is generally proof of your financial standing and ownership of various assets.
Know evacuation routes & insure you get alerts
If an evacuation is ordered, that’s not the time to learn where you’re going and what your evacuation route is. You should know this beforehand. Make sure you know yours and have at least three optional routes to get to the main evacuation line. Downed trees generally block roads during high-wind storms, so having an axe, a chainsaw and/or a tow strap to move downed trees out of the roadway may be required. In today’s world of cell phones and emergency alert systems, make sure you have your phone set up to receive the requisite notifications so you’re not caught by surprise or miss an alert.
Communications with people out of immediate area
If you’ve done all of the above then the last thing to do is communicate with those you are related to or care about out of your immediate area. After all, if you’re ordered to evacuate, you’re going somewhere, right? The evacuation is part of a plan that ends up with you having a secure roof over your head and beds for you and your family to sleep in. Make sure you’ve communicated with those you may be depending on outside your area AND those who will be curious as to your safe status.
With proper planning and preparation, the impact of hurricanes can generally be minimized to a quite manageable level.