Few events bring on more destruction and disruption than a hurricane. As a homeowner, you can't stop the howling winds, but you can prepare.
Federal and state governments provide hurricane readiness tips through a variety of publications and websites. And while working in advance to limit damage is important to homeowners, making sure you have the financial resources and protection you'll need to rebuild can be just as important.
If your home is located in an area vulnerable to hurricanes (hint, every south and eastern coastal state from Brownsville, Texas, to Bangor, Maine), preparation and safety come down to three categories. Remember, hurricanes don't only impact coastal areas, the affects can be felt hundreds of miles inland.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a detailed, downloadable booklet, "How to Prepare for a Hurricane," loaded with tips.
- Protect your home by installing sewer backflow valves and protective shutters. Consider a basement water alarm and a sump pump (with battery backup).
- Trim nearby trees that could fall on your house.
- Review insurance coverage for flood and wind coverage (flood insurance is typically not included, and 90 percent of declared federal natural disasters involve flooding).
- Research evacuation routes, shelter locations, pet policies at shelters, and maintain a "go bag" of essential items and documents you'd need if you had to evacuate in a hurry.
Stay safe during
- During the storm, stay away from windows, seek shelter in an interior room.
- Evacuate if there is a danger of flooding or instructed by authorities.
- Never drive or walk through flood waters, you don't know how deep they are. Just 12 inches of water can float an SUV.
- Avoid floodwaters, lots of nasty things can be just under the surface (sewage, broken glass, downed power lines).
- Get wet mattresses and other wet items out of the house. Open windows and air everything out.
- Use protective gear such as gloves, rubber boots, and air filtration masks when cleaning up.
- Think worst-case scenario: Is the food spoiled? Is the water safe? Are you using electrical equipment that's wet or when you're standing in water?
FEMA's guide includes a storm checklist and a library of emergency readiness and recovery websites, including a site dedicated to protecting pets and a guide specifically for parents. FEMA also offers a site explaining how to file a flood insurance claim after a hurricane. There's also a FEMA mobile app for your smartphone you can customize to your location for weather alerts, safety reminders, and shelter locations.
States with hurricane experience also offer resources. Florida's emergency management division maintains FloridaDisaster.org, and the Texas Hurricane Center provides a wealth of tips and instructions. Industry groups such as the American Insurance Association and The Actuarial Foundation offer disaster insurance information.