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September 2012

How to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Hurricane season in the United States runs from June through November. While the coastlines of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico get the most attention, the Pacific Coast and even the southwestern U.S. can be affected by heavy rain and floods brought about by storms off of the Pacific.

Prepare Your Home

States further inland can also be affected by heavy rainfall and flooding, as a slow-moving hurricane can move inland and dump large amounts of precipitation over an area. Wherever you are located, as a storm is approaching, the following measures should be taken.

Starting outside:

  • Keep trees and plantings around your home well-trimmed. If they are not secured, take plants inside, along with all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else not anchored securely.


  • Check rain gutters and downspouts for clogs or blockages, and clear them if need be.


  • Secure your dwelling. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. If you do not have storm shutters have a supply of plywood cut larger than the size of your windows made out of 5/8" marine plywood. Consider permanent mounts if you live in a hurricane-prone region. The main objective is to protect windows and sliding doors from wind and debris.


It is important to protect areas where wind could enter to limit potential damage to your home and property. Once wind enters the dwelling it can apply upward pressure on the roof, and depending on the strength of the storm, can be enough to lift the roof off the house. Note: simply taping your windows will not provide adequate protection in the event of a storm.


Inside the dwelling

To help prepare for an approaching storm, designate a safe location inside your home; a windowless room on the ground floor usually is best. If your home does not have an area that is safe during a storm, you may want to consider a shelter. A good practice is to know the locations of at least two emergency shelters. An additional way to prepare for a hurricane is to have an emergency or "disaster" kit ready to go. In addition to important paperwork like a copy of your homeowner's policy, the kit should include the following items:

  • Bottled water (best if you can have at least several days-worth ready)


  • Packaged, nonperishable food (again, enough for several days, along with food for pets as well)


  • Supplies of any required medication along with first aid supplies for your family and pets


  • Blankets, pillows, toiletries and extra clothes


  • Flashlight and extra batteries


  • Radio or NOAA weather radio


  • Cash


  • While not required, a backup generator is a smart investment for areas prone to hurricanes


In case of evacuation

Evacuation is sometimes the best (or only) option available in the event of a dangerous storm. To make sure your family is ready, use the following tactics to help everyone stay organized:

  • Make sure you know possible evacuation route(s) should you need to leave your residence.


  • Develop a family communication plan. Decide on a location for your family to meet, and have an emergency contact located outside the storm's projected path. All family members should carry this person's number with them or enter it in their cell phone.


  • Contact the county in advance of the storm for assistance in getting to a shelter if you or someone in your family has special medical needs.


  • Have a plan for family pets, as most shelters will not accept them. If the option is available, evacuate to a friend's home located in an area outside the path of the storm.


  • Have at least a half-tank of gas in your vehicles, and more if possible. Gasoline can quickly become scarce along an evacuation route.


Don't be caught unaware

There is never certainty when it comes to hurricanes: storms that are projected to be devastating can end up having little impact, while others thought to be weaker storms have wreaked havoc on a somewhat unprepared location. When a storm is approaching, listen to the news and protect your home as advised by local authorities. The best idea is to prepare in advance, assume the storm will potentially be dangerous, and take the necessary precautions.

Please note: This information is of a general nature for educational purposes only. It must not be taken as advice and does not signify an endorsement. 21st Century Insurance is not responsible for any injuries or loss incurred.

Sources: www.fema.gov; www.ready.gov/hurricanes; www.kiplinger.com; www.nhc.noaa.gov

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