On the Atlantic coastline, we are smack dab in the path of potential hurricanes for half of the year. Massive and destructive, recent hurricanes have proven that we better be prepared for possible disastrous results to property and life. When it comes to hurricane preparedness, protecting yourself and loved ones comes first. Then, protecting your assets such as the home, personal property, valuables, and documents are essential as well.
First of all, early preparation is the best course of action. Next, if told by authorities to evacuate, make sure you do so immediately and safely. Use this blog post as a guide for protection whether you are in a hurry trying to beat the storm or preparing early.
Hurricane-Proof Your Home
For many, the home is the most significant single asset. It is so important that it alone may carry several insurances such as homeowners insurance, flood insurance, or wind & hail insurance. Additionally, there are other ways to protect a home in the case of catastrophic events such as a hurricane.
Protecting Your Home Against Hurricane Damage
- Trim trees near your home
- Secure all loose items
- Secure trash can
- Hurricane shutters or board up windows
- Identify your safe room
- Stock your safe room (see lists below)
- Prepare, secure, gas up the generator
- Unplug outdoor electrical items
- Protect plants or bring inside
- Unhook gas grills/propane tanks
- Clean out gutters & downspouts
- Install hurricane straps on the roof
- Install head and foot bolts on entry doors
- Caulk around doors and windows
- Test sump pumps and drains
- Sandbags for properties next to the water
- If the power goes out or you leave your home:
- Unplug household electronics & appliances
- Turn off circuit panel box (ask an electrician) to prevent surge
- Install surge protectors on important items
Nothing guarantees that you will make it through a hurricane without damage, but preparing the property may prevent extensive damage, but don’t stop at home. There is a lot more to protect!
Protecting Cars From Hurricane Damage
Vehicles are very susceptible to storm damage, especially if parked outside. Cars and trucks, unless garaged, have paint and glass that are easily damaged. Sometimes, there’s not much that can be done, but here are some tips that could protect a vehicle from flooding, hail, wind, or projectiles.
- Park on higher ground to avoid flooding
- Park away from trees
- Fully gas up
- Park in a garage if possible
- Don’t forget to tie down a boat!
- Make it accessible in case of emergency
If it is a necessity to drive in your car to safety, there are key points to remember.
Know Evacuation Routes & Driving Safety
First of all, understand your evacuation routes as well as potential hazards in your vicinity. For instance, washed out roads, rushing water, other careless drivers, roadblocks, and more could make driving very risky. Furthermore, if you must leave your car, be wary of other potential hazards. Even shallow waters are dangerous or could be deeper than appears.
Safety Tips for Driving or Leaving the Car
- Beware of bridges
- Watch for downed power lines
- Flooded roads
- Scared animals
- Flying debris
- Stepping on nails
- Carry your “go bag” (see below)
If you feel you are in danger, call 911!
Hurricane Preparedness: Prepare a “Go Bag”
In case of voluntary or required evacuation, make sure you have an emergency “go bag.” Technically, this would probably be several bags. Most importantly, have them ready! Items you use every day can then be added very quickly before leaving.
Have a Hurricane Readiness list ready of your specific items to pack! Some examples include:
- Medicines: prescription & non-prescription
- Nonperishable food
- Electronics & chargers
- Phones & back up battery if possible
- Passwords list
- Important documents
- Small toolkit
- Clothes for several days
- Toiletry items
- Contact solution
- Entertainment – prepare for doing a lot of downtimes
- Emergency contacts list
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Manual can opener
- Local maps (in case phones don’t work)
- Cash or traveler’s checks
Do not say you have left your home! A downside of the hurricane aftermath is looters stealing items from homes. Without power, security systems do not work. If you tell everyone on social media that you have vacated your home, this could be an invitation to thieves.
Charge Up and Gas Up
You can’t go too far, call anyone, or listen for emergency updates if you don’t have gas, batteries, chargers, and other items. So, it is important to remember to charge up and gas up!
Fuel & Charging Tips
- Keep mobile phones, laptops, and tablets charged up
- Have an alternative source to charge electronics – car, converter, generator
- Carry a multi-outlet power strip
- Car charger
- Use battery saver modes whenever possible
- Fill the car with gas
- Keep your car full of gas! Every chance you can because pumps run out
- Fill up lots of gas cans for generators
As a safety note, watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning or exposed flames near flammable liquids as well.
Hurricane Preparedness for Pets
Of course, do not forget your pet. In the rush of leaving home, it is important to remember your pet. Additionally, it is critical to pack items to protect, nourish, and keep your pet happy.
Pet Disaster Checklist
- Pet-friendly hotel list
- Bedding and carrier
- Food & dishes
- Collar, leash, harness
- ID tags
- Vaccination and medical records
- Photos of pet and you together
- Toys to keep your pet entertained
- Clean up items: plastic bags, paper towels, newspaper
Protecting Personal Property During a Hurricane
In a perfect world, everyone would make a written and video inventory of all property at the beginning of hurricane season. OK, we’re human, and we wait until the last second. If a hurricane is on its way, take a walk around your home and make a video log. If there is a total loss from a storm, it is a challenging situation to remember all assets to replace. Not only video but also verbally describe the property. Taking pictures is a great idea as well. For valuable items, even take photos of the serial and model numbers. This can save a lot of money and headaches when dealing with the insurance company.
Video or Take Pictures of Personal Items
- Clothing – fan out the clothes to show them all
- Recent improvements
- Jewelry and collections
- TVs, stereo, game systems
- The condition of the property: ceilings, floors
- Lawn equipment
Video or Take Pictures of Home Exterior
Another critical hurricane preparedness tip does not forget about the home’s exterior. A video tour around the outside of the home is important to show the insurance companies too. Make sure to include the following:
Hurricane Preparedness: Protect Electronics & Data
Luckily, technology offers many options to protect data, pictures, and important documents. Hurricanes have bad clouds but when it comes to preserving these items, the cloud works. Cloud-based storage is safe from storm damage.
Ideas to Protect Electronics & Documents
- Make a back up of your data! The cloud!
- Waterproof items – zipper seal bags or waterproof storage containers
- Move items to a safe room or off-site
- Elevate from the floor and away from windows
- Shut down computers
- Unplug machines and surge protectors
- Unplug ethernet cables
Documents to Protect
Many of the following items can be duplicated. Doing such could take time in some cases. So, in the case of an emergency, it is helpful to have quick access to these as listed by a USA Today article, “Hurricane prep: How to keep your documents safe from a natural disaster.”
- Vital records: driver’s licenses, birth certificates, medical records, adoption papers, social security cards, passports, child custody papers, military ID’s, pet records & chips
- Insurance policies: policy and agent contact information for homeowner’s, flood, auto, life, disability, health, renters, and others
- Medical information: prescription medicines, healthcare power of attorney, living will, doctor contact information
- Property records: mortgage paperwork, title to cars or boats, video (mentioned above)
- Financial records: Most items should be available online, so have contact information for all accounts as well as websites, account numbers, passwords for all asset and liability accounts
Some type of external backup is key as well. In case any of the items mentioned in this hurricane preparedness article are damaged by wind, water, or theft, having a duplicate and external backup away from these threats could help recover quicker from a catastrophe.
Review and Update Insurance Policies
The best time to review and update insurance policies is well before an event. Once a storm is within a certain range or box, insurance companies will not make changes or bind coverage. Although, your insurance agent is available to answer your questions before, during, or after a storm. Make sure to have an annual review of all policies with your insurance agent.
If You Have an Emergency, Call 911!
At OVM Financial, we love helping homeowners or buyers become homeowners. Our priority is your safety. We hope this provides you with necessary hurricane preparedness to protect yourself, family, and your assets.