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How to Prepare for Severe Weather

When severe weather hits, the primary concern is for your family's safety. But your house is important too, and it requires protection even though you may be evacuating. Plan ahead to protect your home and family before a potentially devastating tornado, hurricane or other severe weather event occurs.

Emergency kit with water, flashlights and candles

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Prepare a Safety Kit

Make sure everyone in the household knows where the safety kit is kept. Include the following:

  • Battery-powered radio or TV
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • One change of clothing and footwear per person
  • Protective clothing depending on the weather (rainwear, rain boots, coats, gloves, etc)
  • Non-perishable food and water (one gallon per person per day) to last three days. Water shouldn't be more than six months old.
  • Non-electric can opener
  • First-aid kit with medications
  • Extra set of car keys, credit/debit cards, and cash
  • Sanitary supplies
  • Cell phone and tablet chargers (home and auto). Also consider a hand-cranked charger that you can use when the electricity goes out. Some of these devices also include a built-in flashlight and a radio.

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Cover the Windows

Man covering windows with plywood

If you live in an area vulnerable to hurricanes, consider installing storm shutters. They're available in several different types, and they'll go a long way toward keeping the damaging wind and rain from entering through your home's windows. Furthermore, they may reduce your homeowner's insurance premium.

If you don't have storm shutters and a storm is on its way, putting plywood over your windows will help prevent water from getting in or flying objects from breaking the glass. For the best protection, the plywood should be at least 5/8 of an inch thick.

Secure the Doors

Man covering window with plywood.

Steel entry doors provide the best protection for your home. Double doors and French doors are most vulnerable to high winds. No matter what type of door you have, a hurricane panel is your best option to keep damage at a minimum. You can also nail plywood over the doors to help keep out water and debris. Don't nail yourself inside the house, in case you need to evacuate the area on short notice.

If you have double doors that have no structural member in the center between them, install special hardware to secure the doors where they meet. Bolts that secure the door into the framing at both the top and bottom greatly increase the door's strength. Wedge a dowel or a piece of broom handle into the track of sliding glass doors to prevent them from coming loose in heavy winds.

Provide stiffening support for garage doors. The pressure from wind increases with the door's size, and wide doors in particular need bracing for stability during high winds. Make your own vertical supports by nailing two 2x4s together and attaching them to the inside of your garage door with L brackets.

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Prepare Your Roof

Man inspecting shingles on a roof

Ensure that your roof is in good shape prior to severe weather. Here are a few precautions that you can take:

  • Disconnect and remove any television antennas or satellite dishes.
  • Remove roof turbines and cover the holes. Otherwise, high winds could remove them, leaving a gaping hole for rain to enter your home.
  • Check for loose or damaged shingles. Seal around flashings, chimneys or vent pipes.
  • Check for loose and clogged gutters and downspouts. Backed-up gutters can send water flowing into your home in the event of heavy rains.

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Gutter Cleaning and Repair

Keep the Yard Clear of Flying Debris

Man cutting back hedges

Now that you've focused on the house, it's time to look at your yard. Here are a few tasks that you can do to prevent flying debris from damaging your home.

  • Trim back large tree limbs. Thinning out the branches to allow wind to pass through will also reduce the potential for damage to the tree itself. Remove dead or damaged branches.
  • Lawn furniture, ornaments, toys, grills and exterior potted plants should be taken inside.
  • Anything that can't be brought inside should be tied down. Sheds, doghouses, play houses, swing sets, and boat trailers should be secured with tie-downs, turnbuckles and cable or stout rope.
  • Concrete tie-down spaces are a good home improvement in areas susceptible to hurricanes. If you don't have concrete-mounted tie-downs when the weather threatens, screw-type tie-downs secured deep in the ground must suffice. If you live in a mobile home, it's particularly important that you inspect and repair your home's tie-downs.

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Shop Chains, Ropes and Tie-Downs


Chainsaw Buying Guide
Watch Video: How to Use and Maintain a Chainsaw
Watch Video: How to Cut Down a Tree

Protect Cars, Trucks and Boats

Boats on raised platforms

If you live in a low-lying area and a hurricane is coming, move your car, truck or boat to higher ground, preferably to an enclosed garage or warehouse.

If you must leave a boat behind, don't leave it in the water. If the boat is left outside, anchor the trailer tongue of a trailered boat to a firm spot on the ground. Lash the boat to the trailer and let some air out of the tires. Add water for weight, but make sure you keep it below engine level. Stow all loose gear (outriggers, canvas tops, etc.) and remove electronics and other valuables to avoid damage and theft. Cover the boat to keep out additional water and debris.

Have an Evacuation Plan

Tablet with an evacuation plan

Communication Plan
For any disaster, have a plan of where to meet and how to communicate with family and friends.

An Evacuation Package
Make sure to include important family documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies in your evacuation package. Think about keepsakes and items that insurance could never replace. Place all of these items in a waterproof and fireproof container. Make sure everyone knows where the package is kept and assign a family member responsibility for it in case you need to evacuate.

Emergency Contact
Pick a friend or family member that's not in the affected area to call in the event of an evacuation. This contact can be the person who lets others know where you are and that you're safe so you won't have to spend precious time doing so.

Good to Know

Take a look at your insurance policies to make sure you're adequately covered. Keep lists or videos of your belongings as documentation for the insurance company.

Consider a Storm Shelter

steel storm shelter

If you're in an area that's particularly vulnerable to severe weather events, such as tornadoes or hurricanes, consider installing a storm shelter. These impenetrable steel shelters are resistant to leakage and will protect you from high winds and flying debris. They're fitted with heavy-duty steel slide bolts and an in-swing door to ensure that you're able to get out even if debris has fallen on top of the shelter. Storm shelters can be fitted with lighting and a power source.

Shelters can be used in residential or commercial areas. Depending on your needs, they can be built above ground or in ground, inside or outside of your home. They come in various sizes to accommodate 6-16 people. Also consider your situation. For those in a tornado-prone area, the footprint of the storm shelter can be smaller because you're not in it for as long as you would be in a hurricane. Some units are equipped with steel outriggers on each end of the shelter and at the bottom to prevent the unit from floating, which is ideal for hurricane-prone areas.

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