In the United States, hurricane season officially kicked off on June 1 and runs through November 30. Already this year, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is expressing concern in an inability to find staffing for recovery efforts expecting in 2019. Despite news that this year’s hurricane season will be milder than in previous season, it is still expected that there will be rescue and other recovery efforts needed. While it is always important to properly prepare in advance of a hurricane, with staffing concerns running rampant for external support, homeowners need to ensure that they are doing whatever they can to take care of their home and property this season.
Act upon strategies now to make hurricane season as easy and safe for you and your family as possible, and to ensure you are ready to go when storms are working their way towards land.
Things you need to do to make sure your home and property are prepared for oncoming hurricanes
- Stock up on plywood and nails or install storm shutters. If you haven’t done so already, or if you don’t have plywood supply on hand from past hurricane seasons, head to your home improvement store now to stock up. Ensure that you have a hammer, nails, and plenty of plywood to cover all of the windows (and doors if necessary and you may need to evacuate) in your home. Take count of windows and doors in advance and accurate measurements. If you don’t know how to measure your windows, check out this video which provides easy to follow instructions. Note that you will also need a circular saw if you need to cut plywood to size. And, if you prefer to screw on the plywood instead of using a hammer and nails, ensure that you have corrosion-resistant screws, properly sized drill-bits, and a screwdriver. Use plywood that is 5/8-inch in thickness for the best protection.
Storm shutters are a great alternative to plywood and offer a more permanent solution that does not need to be reinstalled every year. Some homeowners choose to leave storm shutters on the home year-round, particularly the hinged-style that can be rolled up and self-stored in a permanent container that is mounted above the window. For these shutters, they can be pulled down and anchored shut before a storm’s arrival. There are a variety of storm shutters available on the market, and the right shutter for your home is likely a matter of personal preference.
- Seal your windows and doors. If you have gaps between your doors and windows and the door jamb or window frame, either caulk or apply a weather-resistant weather-stripping. This will help to avoid or lessen leaks when the storm hits. Moisture and standing water can be very damaging to your home, so efforts taken now to seal up those leaks will be rewarded later.
for cracks in your foundation. Even
worse than a gap around windows and doors is a crack in your foundation. These
cracks are a perfect invitation for floodwater to make their way into your
home. So, be sure to check along the perimeter of your home for any signs of
stress. Most small cracks can be fixed by a do-it-yourselfer, by picking up
some concrete patch at your local home improvement store, following these
- Clean the area and remove any loose chips from the cement of the foundation.
- Mix the concrete patch per the instructions on the container.
- Using a trowel, apply the patch into the crack. You may wish to add water to the patch in advance of this step as the water will create a stronger bond.
- Scrape away excess patch.
- Install surge protectors. Hurricane-force winds can knock down power lines, which can cause surge damage to your electronics at home. Sometimes, the surge can take place at the time that power is restored after the outage, which will likely be caused by a tree falling on the line, which can then cause the poles to fall. Consumer electronics such as your television gaming systems, and computers, are susceptible to surge damage. Electronics use many integrated circuits and any voltage surge can put excessive stress on these components.
In the event of a hurricane, a power surge can happen instantly. You can add a power surge protector directly to your electrical panel, and then use power strips with surge protectors already built in to protect other items such as your heating and air conditioning system. In the event of an extreme surge, a fire can break out in your home as well, creating irreparable damage, if not destroying your house completely. Be sure to invest in high-quality surge protectors and install them according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Storm surge protectors can be used year-round, so there is no need to disconnect and put them away at the end of each hurricane season.
- Cover your air conditioner. Air conditioning replacement and repair can get expensive. By covering the unit, you will better protect it from airborne debris that will make its way through the air, propelled by the strong winds. Invest in a manufacturer-approved cover instead of strapping a tarp over the unit. Do-it-yourself covers will not fit as well and are more likely to fly off from the strong winds, and potentially create more damage in the process. Make sure that whatever cover you use is adequately secured.
- Remove loose debris around your home and property. Rather than waiting until a storm is approaching (when you should be focused on battening down the hatches and possibly evacuating), conduct regular inspections of the exterior of your home and yard. Properly dispose of loose materials such as branches, and ensure any excess items are properly stored for the season. This does not mean that you have to put away the kiddie pool or take down the toddler climbing station. Instead, do what you can to ensure anything that does not need to be there, isn’t. Then, ensure you have a plan for larger items such as that pool or toddler station, patio chairs and tables, etc., so that they can be quickly moved indoors, or secured to the ground, in the event a storm is on its way.
- Check your sump pump for proper operation. If you have a plumbing maintenance contract, now is a good time to have the plumber come out to do a home inspection. If not, conduct your own inspection by removing any debris from the intake and suction area of the pump. This will help prevent clogs so that your pump can work properly when put to the test.
- Clean your gutters and drains. Gutters are designed to funnel water off of your roof, and away from your home. If you have high concentrations of water too close to your home, it can cause your soil to erode, which can then compromise your foundation (remember our comments on foundation cracks from step three above). And, if your roof does not have enough clearance, the rainwater can drip right onto your roof, and then find its way in through gaps in your windows and doors (reference step two). If you live in a heavily wooded area, it is possible that branches and leaves can get stuck in your gutters. While cleaning gutters can be a pain, it is important to ensure they are clean before a storm approaches. And, if you don’t want to take the time, or don’t have the time to do the gutter cleaning yourself, there are a variety of lawn and landscaping contractors that will take on these types of projects.
- Review your insurance coverage. As we indicated in our blog titled “Hurricane Season 101: Preparing in 2019,” it is critical that you take the time to review your insurance coverage now, to avoid an unexpected and costly situation after the storm. Take the time now to make a call to your agent to review your coverage, and make sure that you are prepared in the event of catastrophic damage to your home. Ensure also that you have coverage for living expenses if you are unable to return to your home for some time due to repairs, extended evacuations, etc.
When reviewing your insurance coverage, be sure to ask your agent both about what is covered as well as what your insurance deductible is. You will want to precisely understand what happens with damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain, and water entering by way of the windows, the roof, or doors, as well as holes and crevices in the walls. While in most cases these items are covered, it is essential to double-check on that information now. You will also want to understand coverage for floodwater that seeps up from the ground, as this can disturb your foundation, and unless called out specifically in the policy, is not likely covered. Finally, check on covered for fallen trees, flooding, and living expenses while you’re away from your home.
Hurricane Season Costs the United States Billions Each Year
For 2019, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is predicting that we will see four to eight hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. Of those, between two and four will become category three storms or higher, and the warmer ocean temperatures are likely being caused by El Nino, and global warming.
7.3 million homes (at an expected reconstruction cost of $1.8 trillion USD) are at risk of a storm surge, which happens when the seawater levels experience an abnormal rise. The rise is measured by the height of the water above the predicted and usual astronomical tide. To put it more simply, a surge happens when the water level is high enough that the wind can push that water onto the shore, and in some cases, further inland. The magnitude of a surge is dependent on the intensity, size, and speed of the storm, as well as the location of where it is expected to hit land.
The western Atlantic cities at greatest risk of storm surges in 2019 are currently believed to be New York City and Miami. For these two cities alone, expected reconstruction costs are estimated at $496 billion USD.
For the eastern and central Pacific in 2019, an above-average storm season is expected, with eight to 13 hurricanes. Of these, four to eight are expected to be major storms with high hurricane classification ratings.
Ensure Adequate Copies (or Digital Access) of Homeowners Insurance Documents and Flood Coverage Related Items
Make sure that you are safeguarding your relevant documents, by making copies of critical documents that you may need to access in the event of damage to your home and property. Keep those copies with your other necessary documentation, and make sure you have multiple copies. In some cases, and if you don’t leverage an online file sharing or digital storage system for documents, keep copies in a flood-proof safe, or ensure a trusted friend or relative that does not live in the hurricane zone, has copies that they can access for you if needed. Store any documents that you will be keeping with you in water-proof, resealable packaging.
You may wish to reach out to your financial institution as well, as they may have guidelines and recommendations for how to best store important documents during the storm season. Of course, if you are digitally savvy and know how to access an online file sharing system, taking this approach is highly recommended as you will be able to access important information, and transmit copies of those items electronically, to anyone who needs them. There are a variety of items on the market today that are trustworthy and reliable to keep your sensitive information safe and secure.
Above all else, make sure that you are taking care of your own health and needs so that you can provide support to your family, friends, and other loved ones. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying fit will help you to stay strong and will offer higher chances of successful perseverance this storm season.
Make sure that Bulldog Adjusters is a core part of your Hurricane Season emergency kit. If your property is damaged as a result of a storm, let us help! We’ll get you the largest possible settlement from your insurance company. Contact us today to learn more!