How to prepare your home for hurricane season

May 10, 2021

Batten down the hatches and prepare your home for hurricane season before it begins

Sandbags in front of a home prepared for hurricane season.

Whether you live inland or on the coast, a powerful hurricane can be a devastating force of nature. That's why it's important to take steps to prepare your home for hurricane season before it begins. Read on as we discuss which steps you can take to help mitigate the damage and keep you, your family, and your home safe. 

Evaluate your risk

Coastal communities are obviously hit the hardest by a hurricane. The combination of strong winds, rain, and storm surges can cause severe flooding and wind damage. But just because you don't live near the beach doesn't mean that a hurricane isn't dangerous. The heavy rains and winds brought on by a hurricane often cause flooding further inland as well, and may even spawn tornadoes.

That's why it's important to evaluate the risk posed to your area when preparing your home for hurricane season. You can review historical hurricane data and even track current storms on the NOAA website. Using these resources can help you determine exactly what preparations you need to make and help you develop an evacuation plan if needed.

Preparing your home

The best time to begin preparing your home is before hurricane season starts. When the storm is on the horizon, many of the materials you need may be difficult to come by, and you may not have adequate time. 

Preparing the exterior of your home for a hurricane

A hurricane is a destructive force - they dump immense amounts of rain, tear things apart, and can turn harmless objects into dangerous projectiles. Fortunately, when preparing your home for hurricane season, there are some modifications and adjustments you can make to your yard and the exterior of your house to mitigate damage.

Trim hedges and trees. Branches and limbs near your roof can become dangerous when the winds of a hurricane begin to blow. Not only can larger branches crash against your roof and windows, smaller sticks can become damaging projectiles if the wind is strong enough. Trim your trees away from your house and remove as many dead branches and limbs as possible. 

Reinforce windows. If you have the time and resources, invest in and install storm shutters over your windows. If you need a last-minute solution, you can board your windows to protect them from breakage. Because hurricanes create swirling winds, it's important to secure all windows, not just the ones facing the water. 

However, despite what some sources suggest, you should not put tape over your windows. It won't do much to prevent the glass from breaking, and it can hold larger shards of glass together, which can be incredibly dangerous when blown by the wind.

Check window and door seals. With the strong winds of a hurricane, it's important that the seals around your house are in good condition. Over time, the weather stripping and seals around your windows and doors can deteriorate. Before hurricane season, inspect all of these thoroughly and apply caulk to areas that have degraded. 

Sandbags. While sandbags can't stop larger floods, they can often be used to divert the flow of water away from your house. If you have the capability, having sandbags on standby may be a good idea.

Clean your gutters. When the heavy rains come, it's important that your home's gutter system is unobstructed. If you have leaves and sticks blocking the pathways, water can collect and potentially damage your roof. 

Clear your lawn. During a hurricane or tornado, the smallest object on your lawn could be incredibly dangerous. If you know that a hurricane is on the way, it's important to clear your lawn of sticks and rocks. If you have lawn decorations and furniture, consider storing them in a safe location or find a way to secure them to the ground. 

Secure your garage door. Garage doors are notoriously weak spots during hurricanes. If you live in an area that often experiences such storms, it might be helpful to install a reinforced garage door. If you need a more last-minute solution, you can find a variety of garage door braces that allow you to reinforce it without replacing the entire thing. 

Preparing you and your family

While securing the exterior of your home is essential, there are important steps you can take to ensure the safety and security of your family within your home. 

Emergency kit.  Creating an emergency disaster kit beforehand ensures that you'll have all of the essential items you'll need, but may not have access to during the storm. In your kit, include items such as non perishable food, water (one gallon per person per day), flashlights, batteries, a water purification method, and first aid supplies. Most experts advise that you prepare your kit to sustain you and your family for at least three days. 

Prepare for power outages. During a hurricane, power outages are incredibly common. Strong winds can knock down or otherwise disable power lines, and they can stay down for days. For a reliable source of light, use flashlights or electric lanterns as opposed to candles as having an open flame in your home can easily lead to a fire.

If you have the resources, having a backup gas-powered generator can help you keep important electronics online for a time. If you have a propane grill, consider filling the tank in the event that you need to cook without power. If a power outage is widespread, it's possible that water treatment plants won't be operational, so consider filling your bathtub with clean water before the storm hits. 
Secure important documents. Apart from damage to your house, the damage from a hurricane can cause you to lose important documents, such as your will, a deed, or birth certificates. If possible, store these documents in a secure, waterproof container, such as a safe. Even if you have a secure location, you may also want to back up your important documents on the cloud.

Perform an insurance checkup

Last, but most certainly not least, when you're preparing your home for hurricane season, it's important to perform an insurance checkup. Most homeowners insurance covers wind damage, but not flood damage. Flood insurance has to be purchased separately from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a new policy typically takes 30 days to go into effect. That's why it's essential that you contact your insurance agent and make sure you have the coverage you need. 

If you need to file a claim after a hurricane, you can speed up and assist the claims process by using Germania's Home Inventory Checklist. With this document, go through your home room by room and catalogue all of your belongings. Once you've done this, keep a copy in a secure location. It's a simple tool that you will hopefully never need, but it is invaluable when catastrophe does strike.  

Rain falling down roof shingles on a home prepared for hurricane season.

Get a property insurance quote from one of our trusted Germania agents and be prepared when disaster strikes.

Read more: With strong storms abound, your roof can take a beating. But should you replace your roof after it's damaged

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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