Residents are bracing for another active Florida hurricane season. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Conditions are ripe for an above average number of hurricanes in 2018, a year after one of the most devastating seasons on record.” Forecasters predict 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or more.
While the Atlantic remains in a period of “hyperactivity,” what can you do to protect yourself, your family, and your home during Florida hurricane season?
Hurricane Preparedness for Homeowners
Given the rise of “super” storms and the increased severity and frequency of monster hurricanes, it is important to be prepared. Start here:
1. Check on your homeowner’s insurance
This is an important step for hurricane preparedness for homeowners. Many people do not realize that their standard policy does not cover flooding. An exception may be if your roof is damaged and rain is allowed in.
If you live in a “designated high risk flood area,” you are required to purchase separate flood insurance. But if there’s anything we learned from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it’s that even those outside these high risk zones can experience significant – and devastating – flooding.
Consider purchasing FEMA flood insurance or a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (provided by the US government in order to fill coverage gaps left by private insurers, which often will not take on this risk). There is a 30 day waiting period to acquire this coverage; do not wait.
2. Get rid of the dead wood
Flooding is not the only risk when it comes to hurricanes. Tree damage is another big issue. Loose branches have the potential to become dangerous projectiles in high winds. Remove all downed trees and limbs; check with your municipality for rules regarding their disposal. Trim trees and limbs that could fall against your house and/or other structures.
It’s also helpful to have a tree service company come in and assess the health of your trees; you may have to cut some down in order to prevent damage. Again, check with your municipality in terms of their rules for doing so. This is another area in which it does not pay to wait.
3. Check your roof
Give your roof the best chance of weathering a hurricane by repairing/replacing any missing, loose, or cracked tiles or shingles. Take a look at your beams and trusses; if they are cracked or have other damage, replace or repair them. In a pinch, you can nail 2x4s on both sides of the damaged truss or beam.
Another critical step: check that your roof’s hurricane straps are not loose, rusted, or missing. Most newer homes have these galvanized steel straps installed during construction, when it is easy to access the trusses. They help make the structure more resistant to high winds.
4. Secure your gutters
Clean them up and make sure they are securely attached. This prevents gutters from misdirecting water during a storm, as well as from coming loose and becoming a projectile.
5. Shore up your garage
When garage doors blow in, storm water can damage vehicles and other possessions inside. If you have an attic or space above the garage, it can also cause significant structural damage. Install a vertical garage door brace and reinforce it with horizontal beams.
6. Secure your openings
Steps you can take:
- Caulk around windows and doors to prevent moisture damage.
- Install head and foot bolts on doors to provide extra protection against wind. They should extend at least one inch into the door frame.
- Make or purchase covers for your windows. They should be constructed of marine or exterior grade plywood that measures at least ⅝ inch thick. If you have sliding doors or large windows, use reinforced plywood. Do not wait until a storm is forecasted; have these materials on hand so you can install them quickly.
7. Anchors away
Anchor objects that may become airborne and dangerous, such as propane tanks. Additionally, it’s a good idea to replace gravel in your landscaping and/or driveway with shredded bark to mitigate damage. Also, store all outdoor furniture and other objects inside so they don’t pose a hazard.
8. Designate a “safe” room
Best is to reinforce an area inside your home that has running water, a toilet, and sufficient space for each person. If you do not have a reinforced area, make sure everyone gathers in the strongest interior room.
Stock up on first aid supplies, water, and non-perishable foods.
9. Secure your valuables
Whether you are able to ride out the storm at home or you must evacuate, make sure your valuable possessions are safe.
- Store guns in a locked, water- and fireproof safe.
- Put jewelry in a flood-proof safe or in a safety deposit box.
- Place important documents (e.g., insurance policies, birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, etc.) in a flood-proof container. If you evacuate, put them in a plastic bag and bring them with you.
- Save important files, documents, and photos to a cloud solution so you can access them anywhere.
- Write down important phone numbers in case you cannot use your cell.
If you are given the order to evacuate and/or conditions make it too dangerous to stay in place, go. You put yourself in danger – as well as first responders who attempt to help you – if you stay in your home.
The goal of hurricane preparedness for homeowners is primarily to keep people safe. Secondary is keeping your home safe. If you take these steps, your home stands a much better chance of being in one piece when you return. You cannot over-prepare for the Florida hurricane season.
As property damage insurance attorneys, we at the LaBovick Law Group wish you the best of luck during the Florida hurricane season. If you have any questions, we always offer a free consultation and all our cases are completed on a contingency basis; which means, we don’t get paid unless we get money for you (and YES that includes all hurricane claims).