This article was updated on 01/28/19. Happy National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!
Life along the gulf coast presents an annual threat Hurricane season. Katrina, Harvey, and Ike taught us several valuable lessons: the critical importance of keeping your homeowners insurance up to date, buy plywood early to board up windows, and to stock up on food, drinking water, and batteries.
If you have recently relocated to the gulf coast area, you may not know the history of destructive tropical storms and hurricanes that we are on the business end of. It is critical that you understand the risk and how to mitigate it.
There are many excellent sources of historical data. A couple of these are your local American Red Cross chapter and the emergency management office. Once you understand how these storms have affected life and property you will understand the need to prepare.
Preparation Before the Threat of a Natural Disaster
To start with, determine the replacement cost of your house. Note that this is not the same thing market value. This figure will determine the amount of homeowners insurance you need. Next update the value of your policy if necessary.
Also, you should buy flood insurance if your property is located within the flood plain or it is close enough to the ocean that it may be affected by a potential storm surge which is arguably the worst part of the storm.
Realize that just because you werent in the flood zone the last time you checked, that may have changed. It is updated periodically. An insurance policy can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Yes, FEMA can help but it is minimal help.
Next, take the time to put together a disaster emergency kit. What should you stock it with? Include all the standard first aid medical supplies, along with a flashlight, candles, matches, and a stock of batteries.
It is prudent to buy a Leatherman multi-tool as well as a camping stove and lantern (gas or liquid fuel). Stock up on canned food and plenty of bottled water. A weather radio/TV with a hand crank for power will let you keep up with changing weather conditions and evacuation notices.
Be sure you are capable of defending your home and family. Bad guys take advantage of unstable situations in the days following disasters. Be sure you own a weapon. A shotgun is good for home defense although a handgun is more portable.
If you can apply for a conceal carry permit (called a CHL here in Texas) in your state, that might be something you want to consider.
Your windows will need to be protected with either storm shutters or plywood. Metal storm shutters are the best choice, but you will find that they are more expensive. The roll-up motorized variety are more convenient, especially if you have a second story home.
If you decide on plywood, Plylox hurricane clips will make installation easier; they will allow you to friction fit the boards. Whatever you decide, never put off until the last minute shopping at the home improvement store.
There are also various window films on the market that claim to offer protection from hurricane force winds and flying objects. Does it really work? I find it to be a fairly optimistic claim. Make up your own mind on this one.
Your roofs gable ends should be sturdily braced in order to prevent a collapse during strong gusts. Ideally, this is done during initial construction in order to conform to your building code, but certainly it wouldnt hurt you to verify that it was done.
Hurricane straps will also offer an additional degree of protection for your roof. These are galvanized straps that lock your roof trusses to the exterior walls.
Most people overlook their garage doors during disaster preparation. But it is crucial to ensure that they are secure because if they arent, the storm can enter your home via the garage. Most metal doors are just thin shells.
But if your doors are made out of wood, inspect them for rot and repair them as needed. If they have glass windows, board them up as well.
It is also convenient to own an emergency back-up generator with a surplus of fuel, although not a requirement strictly speaking. When your power goes out, it will sometime takes weeks or months to bring it back online.
Secure your trash cans, patio furniture, and any other items that may blow around. Hide a stash of cash money somewhere around your house. When the power is out, those ATM machines will not work and merchants have to revert to the old way of doing things.
One of the last minutes things you will need to do is fill your largest cooler with ice and your bath tub with water to use for flushing the toilet. And finally, ensure that you have a good supply of any prescription medications you might be taking.
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.