Top Ten Tips to Protect Your Home During Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma

As Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s impact, residents throughout the state’s coastal regions and flood zones are stocking up on supplies to prepare for the storm.

As of Wednesday morning, most flights of out Florida had been booked, hotels reservations for the coming weekend were at full capacity, gas stations were packed full of drivers traveling north to ride out the storm, grocery store shelves were emptied of water, and key roads heading north already had bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Still, several Florida residents have decided to hunker down and ride out the storm, unless evacuation is required.

Hurricane Irma
The GOES-16 satellite’s view on Tuesday of Hurricane Irma as a Category 5 storm. CIRA/RAMMB; NOAA

If you are still at home and/or plan to ride out the storm, there are 10 things you can do to protect your home from hurricane-force winds. We’ve gathered tips from a variety of sources, including CBS Money Watch’s Illyce Glink, Professional Realtor Kurt Hoenig, and Accuweather.

1. Review your insurance policies

Check to see if your insurance policy covers the cost of rebuilding a home and not just the value of the home. More often than not, people insure their property for its appraised value, but not the cost of rebuilding.

Additionally, some insurance companies cover hurricane damage, but not flood damage, which often occurs after a hurricane. Consider adding a flood insurance policy to your plan.

2. Take an inventory of your property

Make a list and take photos of your possessions. Document the appraised values of each item, and if available, store their receipts in a plastic bag, along with other important documents. This will expedite the insurance claim process following the storm.

3. Secure and seal your roof

Wind and water can cause terrible damage to roofs. If time allows for it, Glink suggests that you “inspect your roof covering to make sure all the shingles or tiles are secured and that none are cracked or missing.” Waterproof tape can be placed on roof seams as necessary. Please seek professional guidance before taking on projects like these yourself.

4. Secure Porches and Carports

Glink advises to “make sure the posts supporting your porch, carport or other structures attached to your home are firmly anchored to the ground.” If porches and carports are not secured tightly, they can acts as wings on your house and tear a hole right through your wall.

5. Seal windows, doors, and holes

Check your windows and doors for sealing cracks and openings. Also check the exterior of your home for holes in walls and siding, especially in areas where outside cables enter your home. Use waterproof caulk to reseal these areas to prevent wind and rain from entering your home.

6. Clear your lawn, deck, and front porch

Lawn furniture, potted plants, and grills can become airborne during a storm. Make sure these items are stored inside of the home, or secured to the ground. If limited on space, toss your waterproof pool furniture into the pool. This will prevent them from taking flight, although it could cause the metal patio furniture to rust at an accelerated rate following the storm.

7. Reinforce your garage door

Garage doors have a tendency to cave in during storms, leading to additional house damage, especially to homes that have above garage attics and roofs. Glink recommends homeowners strengthen their “existing garage door by installing a vertical garage door brace and reinforcing it with horizontal wooden beams.”

8. Back up electronic devices

Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurrican Center says, “data should be stored at an off-site location so that data can be recovered if something were to happen to the physical computer or device during a hurricane.”

An offsite external hard drive or cloud system should suffice.

9. Shutter Up

Hoenig suggests that homeowners “shutter up” in preparation for the storm. Whether you have hurricane shutters already installed on your home, or you need to board up your home with metal and plywood supplies, make sure you do.  Shutters prevent windows from being broken by flying objects during a storm. For more information on installing shutters, click here.

10. Empty the ice maker and bag up ice

In the event of a power outage, melting ice from an in-door ice maker can wreak havoc on hardwood or laminate flooring. Empty ice into gallon- or quart-size freezer bags and sandwich them between perishables in the freezer. This will eliminate ice maker melting, prolong food freshness, and provide an additional source of water should plumbing be shut off during or following the storm.

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Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She is the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization, and CEO of OUTCOAST, an online marketing and concierge platform marketing the Gulf Coast as an LGBTQ-inclusive place to VISIT, CELEBRATE, and LIVE.

Rachel is also an avid event photographer and has captured photos for LGBT organizations around the world, including the IGLTA, NGLCC, NLGJA, and Out & Equal.

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