Anyone who's ever survived a severe storm or hurricane knows that the damage to home and property can be overwhelming, emotionally and financially. The property damage attributed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 hit $81 billion, and property damage attributed to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 hit $68 billion. The annual hurricane season traditionally runs from June 1 to November 30, but a severe storm can appear suddenly at any time of the year.
What can you do to be safer during a storm? If you have advance notice that a powerful storm or hurricane is headed your way, here are some tips to help minimize damage to your property and increase your comfort level in the aftermath:
- Organize your important papers and store them off-site, in a bank safe-deposit box or some other secure location. Your mortgage, home and auto insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, and other important papers should be in a safe, dry location that you can access even if your home is damaged. Store other papers and keepsakes in plastic, sealable bags on a high shelf to avoid flood damage.
- Create a home inventory of your possessions to expedite insurance claims after the storm and keep it with your important papers off-site. It's much easier to file a claim with an existing inventory rather than trying to create one during the stressful post-storm period.
- Put together an emergency kit of bottled water, flashlights, crank- or battery-operated radio, non-spoilable food, extra clothing, sleeping bags and blankets. These items can come in handy if you have to leave your home and temporarily move into a public shelter.
- Create an easily accessible emergency fund, if possible, to streamline your post-storm recovery.
- Board up windows and glass doors with shutters or plywood to minimize damage from broken glass, in case of high winds.
- Move your car into the garage or some other place where it will be sheltered. If you don't have a garage, move it to higher ground, in case of flooding.
- Bring outdoor furniture and potted plants inside. Anything that can be picked up by the wind and subsequently blown against your home should be secured ahead of time.
- Store your gas grill safely indoors and shut off the propane tank.
- Turn off the circuit breaker to your outdoor pool and remove the motor to prevent damage.
- Prune branches that might break off during the storm and either hurt someone or cause damage to your home or vehicle.
- Rent or purchase an emergency generator, if feasible. A powerful storm can knock out power to your home for days, even weeks. With a generator, you can continue running your refrigerator and keep some lights on.