Of all the natural disasters, hurricanes allow for the most time to seek safety and protect the home.
Many times warnings go out and homeowners work feverishly to board up their homes and pack and move out only for the storm to change course. All that work … but nothing happened. But if you think about it, do you really want to experience the ravages of a hurricane? Do you really want to lose your possessions to a hurricane's wrath? Be thankful the storm moved a little to the north or back out to sea.
When a hurricane warning is sounded, look critically at your home. Is it fortified to withstand high winds?
Hurricanes are categorized using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. The scale is used to give an estimate of potential property damage and flooding when a hurricane makes landfall.
Category One Hurricane has winds 74 mph-95 mph, with storm surge generally 4 feet to 5 feet above normal. This is a weak storm and is not expected to cause damage to building structures. Unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees will take the brunt of the storm. Some flooding on coastal roads and pier damage are to be expected.
Category Two Hurricane has winds coming in between 96 mph and 100 mph, with storm surge generally 6 feet to 8 feet above normal. Roof, door, and window damage are typical, and considerable damage to trees and shrubbery, mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, piers, and small craft will occur.
Category Three Hurricane whips in with winds between 111 mph and 130 mph, with storm surge generally 9 feet to 12 feet above normal. There will be some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings along with damage to shrubbery and trees. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed.
Category Four Hurricane has winds between 131 mph to 155 mph, with storm surge general 13 feet to 18 feet above normal. Small residences will experience more extensive exterior damage with some roof-structure failures while mobile homes will be completely destroyed.
Category Five Hurricane has winds greater than 155 mph, with storm surge generally greater than 18 feet above normal. Many residences and industrial buildings will see complete roof and some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Massive evacuation on low ground within 5 miles to 10 miles of the shoreline may be required.
Of all the natural disasters, hurricanes allow for the most time to seek safety and protect the home. The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) has outlined safety tips for citizens who could be in the path of a storm.
Before the storm hits:
Have an evacuation plan.
Check your homeowners’ and auto insurance policies; be sure to check with your insurance agent about what is and isn’t covered in your policy. Remember, insurance companies do not cover water damage; this coverage is provide through the National Flood Insurance Program. Talk with your agent about coverage.
Put together a first aid kit.
Take a serious look at your home. Will it withstand high winds? If you don’t have storm shutters, install them or nail plywood panels to the window frame to protect windows.
Take an inventory of home belongings.
Listen to local news or the weather channel and heed the advice; do not try to wait out the storm.
Once the warning to evacuate goes out:
Listen to the radio or TV for information.
Secure your home, close storm shutters, and lock down outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
Turn off utilities if instructed to do so.
Turn off propane tanks.
Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
Moor your boat, if time permits.
Be sure you have a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
Have the following ready to go:
Computer (hard drive or laptop)
Important papers such as insurance policies, birth certificates, social security cards, driver's licenses, deeds, stocks, bonds, etc.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your safe room. If you do not have one:
Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.
Close all interior doors and secure/brace external doors.
Keep curtains and blinds closed.
Go to a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
Lie under a table or another sturdy object.
After the storm:
Wait for an OK from the police or local emergency management before re-entering your home or leaving the reinforced room.
Boil tap water before drinking or cooking, or use bottled water.
Keep circuit breakers turned off until the power is back on, then check for frayed wires or burning smells. Turn off the electricity if you detect these or other problems.
Stay away from power lines.
Check for gas leaks. If there is a leak, leave the house immediately and notify the gas company at once from a safe location.
Check your house for any wildlife that may have entered with the floodwater.
Any medicines and/or food (even canned goods) touched by floodwater must be thrown out.
Let your car dry out before trying to start it.
Document any damaged property or possessions. Do not throw away any items without first getting approval from your insurance claims adjuster.