If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes or tropical storms, you should know that it’s vital to have some sort of storm preparedness plan in place in the event of a storm.
Being part of a storm watch group or getting notifications from relevant authorities, for instance from weather notification services and government warnings can be part of critical planning for such events.
Being part of such information services is just part of the challenge.
There is a whole lot more you need to do to make sure your home can withstand a storm.
What to do to prepare for a hurricane?
There are quite a few things you can do to get your home ready for the first event and then improve your preparation for future storms.
We’ve got a list of steps you can take for the immediate event and then steps you can take to prepare for future storms.
What you’ll see in the tips/steps below are short term steps, which are things you can do right now and long term/future steps, which are things you can do to prepare for future storms.
Benefits of Preparation
There are many benefits of being prepared for a storm, because even the smallest crack or opening can allow wind and rain in to cause a lot of damage in your home.
Hurricanes are powerful forces of nature and can easily wreak havoc to the exterior of your home.
We’ll take it area by area in and around your home, from your backyard to your front door.
Whether you’ve been given a few days’ notice, or planning to do some home improvement over the next couple of years, we’ve got this covered.
Keep reading the 30 tips to prepare your home for a storm, so that you know what to do right now, and in the future to ensure you and your home are as ready as ever to weather any storm.
Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are two of the most vulnerable entry points to your home. That’s why it’s imperative that they are the first items on your to do list to secure in the event of a storm.
Immediate Action Item (Short-term upgrades)
1. Close and latch windows
In a panic state, this might not seem so obvious. Windows are a clear point of vulnerability because they are the only things that stand between you and the outside world.
If your windows are unprotected in a fierce wind, the chances of it breaking are very high, especially in gale force winds when there are so many flying projectiles in the fierce winds.
With this in mind, it’s important for you to consider installing or upgrading to hurricane resistant windows. We say this because they will prevent any wind seepage that may cause damage to your home.
2. Check and reseal all windows and doors (if necessary)
In drier climates, the need to inspect and replace seals is less likely. In areas where you’re prone to lots of rain and humidity, together with frequent strong winds, it’s important to inspect and replace window and door seals.
Obviously broken seals can lead to wind seepage, which may result in wind pushing water into your home. Consistent increase and decrease of wind pressure against these seals will often lead to them failing far quicker if not replaced.
To check, inspect the caulk around door-frames and in the sealant around the glazing in your window panes.
If you find that your windows need a little more than resealing, you can always opt for more protection by upgrading to storm resistant windows.
3. Install Shutters on all the Windows
If you know a powerful storm is approaching your home, installing shutters on the outside of your windows is a good idea.
Ensure that you can get shutters that are resistant to flying debris at a speed of 100mph at a minimum.
Just remember, hurricane force winds push and pull the whole time ie, the air pressure builds and subsides rapidly.
Attaching shutters directly to your window frame could result in the frame and window panes being damaged. Install shutters outside of the windows, onto the brick wall around the opening of the windows instead.
You can do it yourself or get a contractor to do a professional installation for you. Just remember, if you’re going to use contractors, the costs will be significantly higher because labor charges are included.
4. Install heavy-duty door locks/bolts
If your doors are a little flimsy, you might want to consider adding a bolt to the top and bottom to reinforce them against increased air pressure from a hurricane. You could easily do this chore in a morning.
Just head out to your local hardware store and grab a couple of bolt kits. They’re easily installed in a few minutes for each door.
Just remember you’re reinforcing your doors because the slightest weakness will be tested by the brutal gusts of wind during a storm. Should a door fail to hold, the savage winds will destroy your home from inside out.
It just takes a small crack or opening.
Future Action (Long-term upgrades)
5. Install impact-resistant Doors and Windows
Impact-resistant doors and windows will help strengthen the most vulnerable areas of your home.
These customized doors and windows should be able to withstand wind gusts up to 200 mph (As well as any projectiles hurled).
How will they benefit you? Highly reduced chances of damage to your home and an even greater reduction in the possibility of a cleanup.
All of the preparation work necessary to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane can seem a little overwhelming.
The best thing you can do is work section by section. Create a task list and then break the task list up into sections.
Tackle 2-3 tasks a weekend. If you have help, then delegate tasks to spread the workload, which also helps move the preparation along faster.
The roof is one part of your home that is often damaged in strong storms, so it’s one of the more important tasks that should be close to the top of your priority list.
It’s one part of your home that’s most exposed to the elements, so you need to inspect it often and make the necessary repairs as and when you find them.
In the event of violent winds, a roof can sometimes be blown right off. So it’s imperative you work on your roof and make sure it’s as watertight and properly secured to your home as possible.
Immediate Action Item (Short-term activity)
6. Inspect all shingles, tiles, sheeting and seams
Just like you did for your windows and doors, inspect each and every part of your roof.
Start by inspecting indoors.
Head up into the attic, if you don’t have an attic, then you need to climb into the ceiling with a flashlight to go and inspect the rafters and beams.
Make sure there aren’t any signs of water damage and check for rotten patches. If you do find any rotted wood, you need to take action to replace it immediately.
Rotten wood in a roof truss or beam could seriously weaken your overall home structure, so pay attention and act swiftly to prevent major damage. It would be best to have a professional install the replacement/s.
Once your interior roof inspection is complete, it’s time to get onto the roof.
Check every single tile, shingle and seam. (Remember, it just takes the smallest weakness to let wind push water in)
Make sure everything is securely fastened to your roof. If you have galvanized sheeting, make sure the bolts are secure.
If any of the shingles are peeling or lifting, it’s important to replace them now.
If you have clay roof tiles, check that they aren’t cracked and that any seams are properly sealed to prevent water being pushed into the home.
7. Inspect roof bracing
While inspecting your roof, inspect the gable ends and ensure there’s enough bracing.
As we said earlier, if you need any party of your roof replaced, get a professional to do it, that way, you can be sure you’ll be covered by insurance should something go wrong.
8. Repair shingles or tiles
Earlier on, we inspected the roof tiles and shingles, now, it’s time to get some work done. If you find any tiles or shingles peeling off or loose, it’s time to replace or re-secure them.
Look out for:
Bald spots on your roof
If you see most of these symptoms and you spot leaks, you might want to consider getting your entire roof replaced.
It’s best to get qualified professionals to do this. Costs can vary depending on the type of roof you have.
9. Check for or install straps
Is your roof properly secured to the rest of your home? You would probably be very surprised to hear that most homes aren’t fitted with roof straps.
A roof strap connects and holds your roof in place in the event of strong winds. You cannot rely on gravity to hold your roof in place. A strong gust of wind could easily send it flying.
This is something you can do yourself and it won’t cost a lot. Head down to your local hardware store and ask them to point you in the right direction.
Future Action (Long-term upgrades)
10. Install an impact-resistant roof
The roof is a protective barrier to all the possessions you have in your home. It’s the one part of your home that is most likely to be damaged in storm.
If you didn’t already know, there are impact-resistant shingles available. They’re designed to withstand wind and hail damage.
These types of shingles are manufactured using either a blend of copper, aluminum, resin, and plastic, or they can be made solely from one material or another.
They might cost a little more than traditional shingles, but, because they’re impact resistant may end up lowering your homeowners’ insurance premium.
Yards, Decks, Porches and Patios
Although the yard, deck, porch and patio aren’t directly attached to your home in most cases, they may be a hazard for your home.
So you need to ensure that they’re taken care of as well and regular inspections done to ensure they’re secure in the event of a storm.
Immediate Action Item (Short-term Activity)
11. Move all free-standing décor indoors
That ornament standing on your deck, is it fastened in place? Your flower pots, are they secured to the ground. Your lounger, suntan bed, the deck chairs, are they all safe and secure?
As you check on the items, ask yourself, in a 100 mph gust of wind, will this stay in place. If the answer is no, or you’re not sure, then do the right thing and move it indoors.
12. Deck and Porch Post Inspection
Are your deck and porch posts securely fastened or anchored firmly to their respective platforms?
By anchored, we mean, bolted down and won’t move in the event of a 200 mph wind.
Everything, large and small outside of your home needs to be anchored to the ground or something else that will keep them firmly in place in the event of a powerful gust of wind.
If there is any doubt in your mind about their security, then you should take immediate steps to fix it, or move these items indoors.
Should you neglect to act on this advice and a gust of wind manages to get under a deck or porch that’s not properly anchored, the wind can potentially send posts and poles flying through the air at 100 mph.
The impact they could have on your home may be devastating.
Check it, take action and fix it.
13. Manage Vegetation
Check trees and large shrubs for dead, or overgrown branches. Trim and remove these as soon as possible.
Dead branches are brittle and can easily be snapped off from the main trunk.
Branches like these can easily be airborne in a strong gust of wind. A tree branch could easily fly through a window or be torpedoed through an exterior wall if it comes at the right velocity.
Check and trim all vegetation within a 10 foot radius of your home.
14. Clear gutters
When last did you clear debris from your gutter? Leaves, twigs, small branches and all manner of other debris can cause a backup of water if a storm hits.
Blocked water flow can result in water flowing over your gutters, damaging your siding, the roof and may even send water into your basement.
15. Inspect the foundation
Check your foundation for cracks, fissures or any signs of stress. It’s quick and easy to mix up a batch of concrete to fill in cracks.
You can do this yourself, but if you spot a larger problem, it may be worthwhile getting your insurers involved, because a professional foundation repair can get a little pricey.
Future Action (Long-term Work)
16. Reconsider your landscaping
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes and gale force winds, you are well advised to steer clear of stones, tiles and other hard types of ornamental goods often used to make a property look more appealing.
These items can easily be picked up and sent as projectiles in strong gusts of wind.
Substitutes to consider:
Exchange gravel for mulch
Paving blocks for grass
Pebbles for wood chips
Use your imagination and go see what other alternatives are suggested at garden nurseries, what your neighbors do. Ask around and get some ideas for your own home.
Your garage door is the most vulnerable point of that structure. We’ve got a couple of tips for you below.
Immediate Action Items (Short-term Activity)
17. Re-inforce with vertical braces
Garage doors aren’t designed to be particularly rigid.
This makes them a vulnerable spot in your home security, should a storm approach.
Storms often exert pressure on the exterior of your home, which means that these doors are often sent flying into your home. (In this case the garage enclosure)
To prevent this from happening, it would make sense to reinforce them with garage door braces on the inside of the garage.
The braces tend to be a bit pricey, but take the damage that could be avoided, then you’ll realize they may be a worthwhile investment
18. Horizontal beams
Installing vertical braces is an excellent way to stop your door being blown in, so that takes care of the vertical aspect.
If the door is left as is and pressure is exerted on the door, it can still buckle and fold inwards. That buckling could render the vertical braces useless.
To combat this, strengthen the door’s structural integrity by installing horizontal beams.
By adding horizontal beams, you’re significantly improving the strength of your door and this ensures that the door will stay put, and there’s no buckling in the event of severe wind.
Future Work (Long-term Action)
19. Install an impact-resistant door
Considering how much any damage to your “baby” (Your SUV, or other posh vehicle you might have) in the garage could cost, it makes sense to consider installing a sturdier door than you found when you bought your home.
It might cost quite a bit more than a regular garage door, but what you’ll save in the long run, definitely makes it worth it.
If flooding isn’t one of the risks you need to worry about on your property, then your basement might be one of the safest places to stay during a severe weather event.
If it is at the lowest point of your property and prone to flooding, then we’ve got some tips for you to consider.
Immediate Action (Short-term Activity)
20. Use Waterproof Tote Bins or Plastic
Yes, hurricanes have violent winds that can totally demolish a home and wipe it off it’s’ foundation in ideal circumstances.
A part of hurricanes that’s often more deadly than the wind, is the storm surge that often accompanies them.
Storm surges are caused by their violent winds pushing the sea further inland than normal.
If you live in and are low enough to be reached by storm surges, then you need to take some preventative measures to ensure your valuables remain water free.
Place your valuables in tightly sealable containers.
We’ve found rugged plastic tote bins to work perfectly. Use what you’ve got and if need be, seal plastic bags around everything.
Just make sure that everything’s properly labelled for easy identification and quick removal in the event of an evacuation.
Future Action (Long-term Plans)
21. Install a sump pump
This might sound stupidly obvious and you shouldn’t need to be reminded to install a sump pump, but you will be surprised to find that not many people who have flood prone basements, have installed a sump pump.
It might not seem like the best solution, but trust us. A sump pump can save your basement and home from a lot of damage if it’s properly maintained.
To avoid water damage to your basement and home:
Regularly check the filter in your pump (make sure it’s free of debris)
Make sure your backup battery is charged
Ensure the hoses that exit your home, send water away from your home
Run the motor and test the pump pressure at least once a month
Check all hosepipe connections and check that the hose is in good condition
Simple maintenance tasks like these will ensure you have a sump pump that works when you need it to. Water damage can and should be avoided, because the cost of repairs to a water damaged home could be astronomical.
Personal Safety Tips
No matter if you leave the premises and come back later, or whether you decide to hunker down and wait it out, there’s a couple of things you should do to ensure your and your family’s safety in the event of a severe storm or hurricane
22. Make or Buy a Survival Kit
You should keep a survival kit with you all the time. You should have one in your car, van, truck, boat, cabin and anywhere else you spend time.
It’s simple thing to create.
Find a rugged or portable waterproof container and fill it with:
A way to make fire (flint, matches)
Non-perishable food (tinned, dried, preserves, packaged)
Medicine (painkillers, antibiotics, etc)
A first-aid kit (gauze, bandages, cleaning liquids, plasters, etc)
Flashlights (at least 2 of them)
Battery-powered lanterns (at least 2)
Extra batteries (as many as possible)
Phone chargers (as many as necessary)
Battery-powered radio (as many as you’ve got)
Anything else we didn’t list? Add it
Depending on the situation, you could use solar powered gadgets if you’re not going to be holed up in the basement. For our case in this article, the list above is for people trapped indoors.
It might be out of your price range, but a generator is a worthwhile investment to have as a backup power supply if you’re going t be holed up for a couple of hours to days.
It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines about servicing your generator.
Check the fuel filter, check the oil levels and ensure that the exhaust fumes have a safe outlet.
The last thing you want to do is gas your family in the basement. Pre-plan where the generator will be placed and how the fumes will be extracted before you fire it up.
24. Max your fridge and freezer settings
If you’re lucky enough to get some forewarning of a storm/hurricane approaching, you should put your fridge and freezer settings to their highest.
Once you’re in the situation of the storm battering your home, try limit the number of times you open and close them.
This will help to ensure you keep the contents as cold as possible for an extended period of time and in turn prevent food waste.
If you’ve been notified that you need to evacuate, you need to do so quickly.
The best thing you can do for your own sanity, is get an evacuation plan written down on paper, then get your whole family and anyone else who lives with you into the same room.
Stress the importance of the plan and get input from everyone. Share and delegate responsibilities like:
Ensuring there’s enough gas in the car
Boarding up the home
Bringing all the loose items from outside indoors
Switching off all water inlets
Cutting the gas and power
Grabbing the emergency kits
Grabbing the survival packs
Grabbing the pets and their essentials
Lodging arrangements at another safe place
Checking for a clear path to the other location
Packing any tools necessary to clear a path if necessary
Every situation and home will have a different evacuation plan. Create one that makes sense to you. Make sure your entire family takes part in drills, keep educating and asking questions to make sure everyone understands what to do.
Make sure everyone understands their role and let them know that they will always get support in the event they can’t perform their duty.
Also re-iterate, that no one is to panic, they must work efficiently and stick to the plan. The more detailed the plan, and the more times it’s practiced, the more confident and efficient your family will be at pulling together in your time of need.
26. Find or create a safe place
If you’re thinking of riding out the storm, you need to understand if it’s the best option. Each storm can be a whole lot different to any previous ones you’ve experienced.
A powerful system could completely wipe your house off the map.
Are you prepared for that possibility? Could your basement or place you’ve chosen, prevent you and your family coming to serious harm? Is it the best choice? Think rationally and logically!
Can this place withstand serious wind?
Can this place withstand a storm surge?
Will this place be sturdy enough to stand even if the whole house is blown away?
How will we get out if the whole house collapses?
What happens if this place is submerged in water?
What happens if there’s a fire?
How can we get out quickly if we need to?
You need to think about these things, because your decision could put you and your family’s lives on the line. Make sure you get buy in from your whole family before you make such a decision.
Always try keep a hard copy of your insurance policy in a watertight envelope or other container to refer back to. If you can afford the additional charges, get flood and fire insurance too.
27. Read Your Insurance Policy
Do you know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t?
Check that your policy is up to date and that you know exactly what to expect if anything happens.
If you’ve got lingering questions or aren’t sure of everything, then get in touch with your agent and get clear on every aspect of your policy.
A Standard policy might not cover everything to your satisfaction (ie, flood or fire damage) – but other policies might.
Prevention is better, so get prepared before disaster strikes. While you’re on the line or speaking to your agent, find out the details and get insured for both - flooding and fire damage.
Storm Preparedness Matters
There’s no such thing as being “over prepared” when it comes to your home and safety.
When you’re told a storm is approaching, you know it’s coming, so you should never be caught with your pants down.
We’ve given you quite a bit of information to protect your home against a hurricane. It’s going to take some time and it’s going to cost you a bit, but if you implement most of what we’ve outlined in our tips, you’re probably better off than 75% of other people out there.
Do what you need to do - to keep yourself and your family safe.