Parts of the country are still recovering from the unexpected damage from Hurricane Sandy. If you live in an area that frequently lands within a Cone of Probability, the best time to start preparing for a hurricane is now so that you can ensure the safety of your family and your home. Make sure your checklist is up-to-date year-round with this advice.
- keep the right supplies
- know when and where to go
- learn your home’s strengths and weaknesses
- have a plan
- make a list
- forget your pets
- skip the small stuff
- try to be an expert
Panic mode sets in for many once the storm is approaching. Keeping the right supplies now will ensure you are prepared in advance, with merely one short stop for any fresh items needed. The list should include essentials:
- Flashlights (a penlight on a lanyard worn around the neck is perfect as it uses less battery life, and eliminates potential accidents should the power abruptly shut off)
- Batteries for same
- A battery operated radio for weather reports
- Non-perishable food items with hand-operated can opener
- Trash bags
- A week’s worth of bottled water
- First aid kit
- Special care items for infants and the elderly (ice and cooler will be needed to keep medicines and food for both)
- Work gloves
- Basic tools for emergency repairs
- Storm shutters
- Waterproof tarp
- A safe place for all your important documents
Homeowners should use a waterproof bag or safe to keep important documents safe from damage. Also, utilize an online web program and/or app that stores your emergency preparedness plans and protocol as well as all of your important lists, documents and contacts off-site, guaranteeing safety of your important items, as well as accessibility should the worst occur.
Knowing your evacuation routes before the storm approaches can ensure your safety and save you from being stuck in a line of cars during treacherous conditions. Check with your appraiser’s office to see if you are in a flood zone. Call relatives or friends who live in a safe zone now to see if they would be able and willing to accommodate you in the event of an approaching storm. A shelter is the last resort, but find out where your nearest ones are located in the event you do need to use one. Should you live in an evacuation or flood-prone area, plan on leaving before the storm hits, and have your house secured in advance.
Forewarned is forearmed, and knowing what you need to do to ensure your property is protected will cut your storm preparations in half. Most homeowner’s insurance companies will do an assessment of your property to evaluate its hurricane-readiness. If you have not already had an assessment done, schedule one now. The information will not only serve as a guide for preparing your property, but will also give you a documented “before” of your home in the event of damage, later.
Do you put up the shutters the same day, day before, or hours before the storm hits? When should you have ice and a cooler prepared? Where will you go if a Category 5 is expected and you are forced to leave right away? Will your family meet at the home, or in a designated safe place? These are the myriad of questions you should know in advance of hurricane season. In addition to having your emergency contacts in your mobile phone, an expert mitigation specialist selected, and all important documents in a waterproof bag or safe, having a basic plan and supply list are the top priorities with a storm approaching.
Cell phone tower batteries die after enough days without power. These are things most people do not think about until the aftermath of a bad storm. Lists are imperative to have on hand. Those lists include emergency specialists and family member phone numbers; necessary supplies; veterinarian contact information; catalog of all valuables (taking a photo is the ideal method of doing this for insurance purposes); listing of all important documents in waterproof container; necessary supplies list. Digital programs can store all important lists off site, as well as reach out to your insurance adjustor and first responders, if necessary.
Following a major storm, many pets are abandoned or lost, leading to overcrowding of kennels and possible euthanasia. Plan for the worst-case scenario and remember that most shelters do not accept pets. Check with your veterinarian office to see what their policy is, or meet with a local boarding facility now and request their hurricane preparedness plan.
Should you opt to keep your pet with you, be sure you have plenty of food, disposable litter boxes, waste bags, and ample water. Also, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date before storm season starts. If possible, have an electronic id inserted, so local rescue groups can scan your pet and have you both more quickly reunited if separated. Finally, keep toys or other distractions around to ensure your pet stays calm during the storm.
The “Cone of Probability” is exactly that – a probability and not a definite. While the science and technology of storm tracking has advanced exponentially in the past two decades, even a slight “wobble” in the storm could spell disaster for the unprepared. Should you live in any area within the cone of probability: prepare. This means filling up with gas, taking out extra cash, checking your generator and going over your checklists.
Also, do not assume that a Category 2 storm cannot do substantial damage. When Hurricane Frances struck southeast Florida, it was a mere Category 2. However, the length of time the storm remained in the area, and the extent of damage the constant battering of the winds caused, left entire towns without power for over a month, caused more than a billion dollars in damage, and took years to completely recover. Any category of hurricane is a reason to be prepared.
“I can always take care of that later,” is the thought that runs through many storm-prone residents’ minds. Unfortunately, many fail to understand the aftermath of a storm. What if you have no power for an extended period of time? What if your roads are rendered impassable? What if your home floods? Anything could be vital during that time, which makes emergency plans and lists vital.
Listen to the experts when they tell you to prepare, or to evacuate. Following the storm, do not try to operate heavy machinery to clear fallen trees unless that is something you have experience doing. Likewise, avoid fallen power lines and do not attempt to repair your own electricity unless you are a licensed electrician. Additionally, should your home sustain damage, and you and your loved ones are safe, do not touch anything.
This is where your camera and contact list comes in handy. Photograph the damage, contact your insurance company, and call your preferred remediation expert. This will ensure maximum reimbursement of your loss or damage, faster return to normalcy for you and your family, and finally, protect you from potential harm.
The time to plan for a hurricane is before the storm arrives. It is never too early to have your master list of friends and family, service providers and post-storm experts on hand. Getting a survey of your home before the season begins is critical to knowing your home’s strengths and weaknesses. Once your castle is fully protected, prepare your checklist of necessary items, and ensure you have all important documents in one, safe location. Remember your evacuation route, and make a back-up plan for the family pet(s), and follow the expert advice to ensure you, your loved ones and your home are safe and secure. Also, remember to contact a local damage mitigation specialist for an assessment, and to receive quotes now, to avoid potential cases of price gouging later.