Protect Your Home and Family: Severe Weather Guide
It's never too early to prepare your family and your home for hurricanes, severe weather or natural disasters. Use this “How-To” guide to help you protect your property and loved ones in advance of an emergency.
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Have a Plan
The time to prepare for severe weather is when there isn't a cloud in the sky. Take a few minutes and put together a family survival plan. It'll help keep your loved ones and your home safe. For more in detail information about what you can to right now to prepare for a storm click here. It is also important to create an essential phone numbers list and store in a safe, readily available place. Create your own here.
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Severe Weather: Tornado
In the case of a tornado, flying and falling debris is the biggest danger. If there is immediate danger from a tornado or severe thunderstorm:
- Stay away from windows.
- Take cover immediately. Go to the basement or the center of the lowest level of your home. Bring your Storm Readiness Kit with you or it may be blown away by high winds. If no basement is available, get underneath something sturdy, like a workbench or heavy table, crouch down and cover your head. Under a stairway is also good.
- Cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
- Bring a radio with you to your place of shelter so you'll know when the danger has passed.
- If you are caught outdoors and no shelter is available, crawl into a ditch, depression or culvert and cover yourself, protecting your head. Stay away from trees and cars, which may be blown on top of you.
- If you're in a vehicle, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of the path of the tornado by driving at right angles to it. Otherwise, park your car quickly and safely, off the road. However tempting, don't park under bridges,which can cause a traffic danger while giving you little protection.
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3 Storm Kits
Every family should have a Storm Readiness Kit. Here are suggestions for how to make three kits: basic, upgraded and ultimate. Make sure all family members know where the kit is stored. The Basic Kit: this storm kit will get your family through 48 hours without electricity and basic services and help you deal with storm- related emergencies. The Upgraded Kit: If you’d like to feel more comfortable about your ability to survive a severe storm and you have the resources, consider an upgrade of the basic storm kit. The upgraded kit will help you through three to four days without electricity and other services. The Ultimate Kit: If you live in a remote area, care for an elderly or physically challenged child or adult, or if you simply want maximum preparedness, this is the kit for you. It will help you through one week without electricity and basic services, or through catastrophic conditions. For more in-depth lists for what to include in your Storm Kit click here.
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Emergency Car Kit
Having an emergency kit in your car is smart. Even in mild weather, you can get stranded or stuck, and when a storm hits, your kit could be a life-saver. Learn what to include in your kit here.
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Severe Weather Safety Tips
Here are our safety tips for storms, fires and floods:
- If you're wet, barefoot or standing in water, don't use anything electric or try to plug in power cords.
- If you're working outdoors or in an area with any dampness, use GFCI-protected outlets or extension cords.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Don't walk in a flooded basement if the power is still on or could go on.
- Turn off the hot water heater (electric or gas) if there is any chance of flood.
- Avoid using candles. If a fire starts, there may be no phone service, the fire department may not be able to get to you, and fire hydrants may not be working.
- Don't ever use a charcoal or propane grill in the house.
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A home generator can keep your refrigerator running, plus lights, microwave, air conditioners, TVs, computers and cell- phone chargers—even the washer and dryer. And in the aftermath of a storm, it will allow you to run circular saws and other power equipment. It can make a huge improvement in your ability to comfortably weather a power outage, and quickly recover from a storm. There are two basic types of generators to consider: stationary and portable. To learn more about what type of generator is best for your needs click here.
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Tie it Down
You've probably seen the photos of plastic drinking straws driven into telephone poles during a hurricane. If high winds can do that to a straw, think of the damage they could do with a lawn chair or grill cover. When severe storms are brewing, it’s critical to batten down the hatches. Click here to learn what to tie down and how to do it.
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Storm Shutters for Doors and Windows
Shutters are your best defense against high winds and flying debris. Removable shutters or panels attached to permanently installed bolts are a durable and economical solution that works with most windows and doors. After the first use, when the shutters are cut to size and bolts are set, these types of shutters can be installed and removed very quickly. Permanently installed shutters are the most expensive option, but are convenient once they’re in place, and may qualify you for a discount on homeowner’s insurance. To learn more in-depth information about the specific types of storm shutters click here.
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In high winds, doors are a weak point, especially their frames and hardware. Click here to learn how to reinforce them.
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Reinforce Your Roof
A properly constructed roof in areas subject to high winds has trusses attached to walls with hurricane tiedowns, properly nailed sheathing, and heavy-duty shingles. These are usually accomplished during a complete re- roofing. (Consult your local code officials for details.) However, even if you're not planning a total re-roofing, there are do-it-yourself measures that will help keep the water out and the roof intact. To learn what steps you can take to reinforce your roof click here.
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Strengthen Your Garage Door
Few old garage doors are built and installed well enough to resist high winds and flying debris. When weak doors fail, a domino effect can take place, leading to failure of the garage walls and roof. The best way to deal with weak doors is to replace the door with a new, code-approved model. In lieu of replacement, there are several ways to strengthen an existing door. Learn how you can strengthen your garage door yourself here. However, if your door is made of lightweight materials, replacement is your best option.
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Get Your Home Ready for Floods
You don't need to live in the Mississippi Delta to be at risk for flooding. Heavy rains, melting snow and inadequate drainage can also inundate a home with water. In fact, 25% of flood insurance claims occur in low-to-moderate risk areas. Learn what you can do to get your home ready for floods here.
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A Safe Room
When severe weather strikes quickly, evacuation may be difficult. In these situations, many experts say the best place to head is a safe room. A safe room is a freestanding structure with walls and roof built of materials capable of withstanding the impact of falling and flying debris. They're also the logical place to store your Storm Kit and other supplies. Safe rooms are designed to be independent of the house structure and are securely bolted to a concrete basement floor, ground-level slab or outside pad. They can be made from reinforced poured concrete, concrete block, welded steel or multiple layers of wood, steel and fiberglass.
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Storm-Tough Building Products
Installing storm-tough components while remodeling isn't only safety-smart, it's dollar-smart too. Why?
- Many storm-tough products are also energy efficient products, helping reduce utility bills in the long run.
- Although the materials may be more expensive, the labor to install them is often no more than to install standard products.
- Most products, because they're built to stand up to the elements, have a longer projected lifespan.
- Many insurance companies offer discounts to policy holders installing storm-tough materials.
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Prepare Your Home Checklist
Did you know? Most hurricane damage is caused, not by wind, but water entering the house from leaks, broken windows, flood water, storm surges and back- flowing sewers.
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After the Storm
After a storm, stay safe, help others and record the damage. Visit our "after the storm" master list here, which includes advice for what to do after a rain and wind storm, flooding and the best supplies for recovery. Quick tips for recovery:
- Don’t return to severely damaged buildings until advised to do so. There may be structural damage that makes the building unsafe to enter.
- Help a neighbor who may require special assistance: the elderly, people with disabilities and large families with young children.
- Take photos of the damage for your records and save samples of spoiled floorings and furnishings to show to your insurance claims adjuster.
Originally Published: September 12, 2018