Hurricanes & Windstorms

If you own a house that is located along the ocean, bay or within a coastal county, your home may be vulnerable to wind damage caused by a hurricane or nor'easter. It is important to take preventative measures to help protect your family, home and possessions. Here are some things you can do:

Measures to Consider if Renovating or Building a Home

  • Windows, doors and skylights: Install impact-resistant storm shutters on windows, doors and skylights. Storm shutters can be custom designed to fit your home.
  • Entry doors: Install entry doors that have at least three hinges and a deadbolt that fully secures into the doorjamb. Double-entry doors should also have surface bolts that extend well into the jambs and floor. Entry doors should be constructed of solid wood or hollow metal.
  • Roofing: The roof covering and structure should be properly installed to withstand high winds. Framing of the home should include all building code-approved hurricane straps at the roof to top wall connection. Gable style roofs are susceptible to high winds. Be sure they are properly secured and braced.
  • Garage doors: Garage doors should be designed for impact resistance or reinforced to withstand high winds. Double-wide garage doors are especially susceptible to high winds. Retrofit kits and storm bars are available for garage doors to help strengthen them.
  • Power supply: Consider installing a gas-powered backup generator to power your appliances, air conditioning and minimal lighting in the event of a power outage during and after a storm. Being able to run a sump pump during a power outage may help you prevent water damage.

Protecting Personal Belongings and Important Documents

  • Jewelry and collectibles: Valuables should be inventoried and stored in a secure location (such as an inland bank safe-deposit box). If offsite storage is not possible, then place these items in a waterproof container and store in an interior closet.
  • Personal documents: The documents listed below are some of your most valuable and difficult possessions to replace. Keep them in a bank safe-deposit box, other offsite storage, or in waterproof containers.
  • Legal papers: Deeds, titles to vehicles and boats, divorce and adoption records, passports, military records, living wills, powers of attorney and child custody papers.
  • Financial documents: Stock and bond certificates, numbers of brokerage and bank accounts and credit cards, a backup computer disk if you use financial management software and the first two pages of your latest income tax forms.
  • Personal items: Birth certificates, naturalization papers, marriage licenses, children’s immunization records, pet vaccination records, photo negatives or computer disks of photographs that would be impossible to replace.
  • Insurance: A copy of your policies, including vehicles and boats, health and life, telephone numbers of your agents, appraisals, home improvement records, a written description of your home’s contents and videotapes or photographs of your possessions.

Damage Prevention Steps When a Storm Approaches

  • Clear loose objects: Bring in patio and lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles, and toys indoors. Help your neighbors bring in their backyard items as well so these items do not become flying objects that impact your home. Be sure awnings are closed and secured. Tie down any other loose items that may become projectiles in a high wind.
  • Reinforce windows & doors: If your windows and doors are not wind and impact resistant, plywood can be used as last-minute protection. However, be sure it is strongly secured.
  • Reinforce your garage door: If you do not have a storm bar or other garage door reinforcement, you may want to back up your car against the inside of your garage door to help prevent it from “twisting” in high winds.
  • Move furniture and household fixtures: Move them away from exterior door and window openings. If possible, elevate these items and cover with plastic.
  • Secure household appliances: Appliances, including personal computers, should be unplugged and stored away in cabinets or interior closets.
  • Test and refuel your backup generator: If you've installed a gas-powered generator as a backup power supply in your home, test it regularly to ensure that it is operational when you need it. When a storm approaches, run another quick test and make sure that plenty of fuel is available.

Preparing an Emergency Supply Kit

  • Watertight container: Assemble and maintain an emergency supply kit throughout the hurricane season. Items should be stored in a watertight container.
  • Water: Minimum 1 gallon per day, per person for one week is needed. Two quarts are for drinking and 2 quarts are for food preparation or sanitation. When a storm approaches, fill empty containers and a bathtub with water as an additional emergency supply.
  • Food: A one-week supply of nonperishable food. Remember a nonelectric can opener, cooking tools, camping stove, paper plates and plastic utensils. Remember special dietary needs for infants, the elderly and pets.
  • Clothing: Rain gear, sturdy shoes.
  • First aid kit: Pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, an assortment of bandages and gauze pads, antiseptic, latex gloves, first aid cream, scissors, tweezers and a thermometer. Also include a two-week supply of prescription drugs.
  • Flashlights and batteries: Keep these items on hand. Using candles for light can pose a fire hazard.
  • Battery-operated radio: To help you stay informed of severe weather updates.
  • Cash
  • Bleach and antibacterial soap
  • Toilet paper and personal hygiene items
  • Plastic bags and tarps
  • Matches
  • Pillows and blankets

Store your kit in a place known to all family members. Replace and/or refresh items in your kit every six months.

Prepare an “Action Plan” in the Event of an Evacuation

  • Become familiar with your community’s disaster preparedness plan and know your evacuation route. Check with The American Civil Defense Association for the safest escape route in the event of a flood warning.
  • Have a predetermined destination in mind so that you can quickly relocate to a shelter or relative's house. Select a common meeting place or single point of contact for all family members in case you are separated through the evacuation process.
  • All vehicles should be fueled well in advance of evacuation. Gas will be hard to purchase, and power failures will render gas pumps inoperable.
  • Make sure your cell phone has a full charge, and bring along the charger.
  • Always stay informed of approaching storms by monitoring local television and radio stations for severe weather updates.

If You Are Unable to Evacuate

  • Identify a “shelter” room in your home. This enclosed area should be on the first floor, in the central part of the house with no windows. When the storm gets bad, go there. Avoid unprotected windows and doors until the storm passes.
  • Remain in contact with neighbors. Others who are riding out a storm may need your help and you may need theirs.
  • Use your emergency supply of water or boil any water before drinking, until official word is given that the water is safe.
  • After the storm passes, beware of loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the proper authorities.

Next: Lightning