Is Your Home Safe? Assess these 3 Hurricane Risks

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Preparing for a hurricane is a long-term and ongoing process. The first step is to assess your home’s risk and prioritize your risk minimization list.

Here are 3 areas you should check, and what to look for:

1. Flood Risks

Assess: Your community has flood risk data compiled as a tool for federal flood insurance and preparedness. Find your area’s Preliminary Flood Hazard Data. Know your flood risk, your elevation, and the location and possible risk from the nearby community, such as dams, levees and water sources. Also check drains to be sure they’re working properly.

Minimize: If you’re in a hurricane danger zone, you should consider flood insurance. Even if your flood risk isn’t high, it is always a possibility. And keep in mind it takes on average 30 days for insurance to kick in, so you should get a plan in advance of hurricane season.

Have a plan to get to higher ground if you’re at a low elevation or have high food risk. Prepare a route, transportation and quick access to any important documents or belongings you wouldn’t want to leave behind.

To prepare your home, unclog drains regularly and be sure they’re in good condition. Rubber seals can also help keep water from seeping in through doorways.

Barriers like sandbags (or soil bags, if sand is not available) can help mitigate flood damage. Fill them half full, then fold them. For the most secure sandbag wall, stack them only up to 3 rows high, unless it’s against a building or stacked into pyramids. Sandbags can also deteriorate over time, so be sure not to put them out too early, and to check them regularly.

2. Home Risks

Can you name the most vulnerable part of most homes in a hurricane? Surprising to many, it’s the garage door. While rooftop damage is most common, the garage doors are large, potentially insecure surfaces that are often overlooked. Leaks of any sort in the home should also be regularly repaired or sealed.

GARAGE DOORS
A blown-off garage door will almost assuredly cost you your roof, a substantial safety feature. If the door comes off, the forceful winds inside will create intense pressure, which will remove the rooftop.

Assess: For solid protection, a garage door should be able to withstand at least 50 pounds of pressure per square foot. A sticker on the inside should tell you the pressure rating. If there’s no sticker, that probably means you should reinforce the door.

Minimize: You can choose to reinforce the door you already have, although there is risk in doing so. Some choose to install their own bracing.
It is sometimes safer and cheaper to replace the doors entirely. Look for a impact rated door that has no windows, and which has 1 door instead of 2 separate pieces. Be sure to consider your local building codes.

ROOFTOPS
If the roof isn’t secure, it could potentially be blown off by the upward pressure on it, leaving your home’s walls without a crucial bracing point.

Assess: The typical connecting point between the rooftop and the rafters is merely a nail, so if you don’t’ have additional protection, you’ll want to reinforce your rooftop. You should also check for any damaged shingles or leaks. Even bent or cracked shingles can pose a risk. Be sure that vents are firmly attached.

Minimize: Add braces to keep the roof connected to the rafters. Consider installing clips to anchor the roof. The building codes in your area as well as the risk level of your home will determine what strength level you should use, and how many clips you will need.

WINDOWS & DOORS
If strong hurricane winds get into the home, it will cause greater force inside the home, which can greatly increase the risk of losing your rooftop. Glass on windows and doors can also shatter, creating a deadly hazard.

Assess: If you don’t have specifically hurricane-proof windows and doors, you will definitely need to take measures to secure them in the event of a hurricane.

Minimize: Wind-resistant windows and doors are your best bet. They can stand up to flying debris during the storm, and keep the wind from entering and adding additional push on the roof.  Consider Miami – Dade county rated products, as Miami has some of the toughest hurricane standards in the US.

If you can’t get your windows reinstalled, shutters are the next best option. There are many types of shutters. Plywood that is at least 3/4 of an inch thick can also work, but you will need to be sure they fit properly, and to install them properly for the best protection.

Don’t try to tape the windows and doors, it can provide a false sense of security and can actually increase the size of the glass shards entering your home.

3. Outdoor & Environmental Risks

Minimizing the risk of objects outside the home damaging its exterior is a crucial step in protection. Avoid substances like gravel or rocks, because the wind can pick them up and throw them against your home.

TREES & SHRUBBERY
Assess: Trees (or shrubs) in your yard? You’ll need to keep an eye on it regularly as it grows. Watch for limbs over your home or near power lines, weak or cracked branches, and debris caught in the trees.

Minimize: Keep the shrubs well-trimmed for wind resistance, and cut branches off of trees that look weak or cracked, or any that come too close to the home or power lines.

PORCHES & OVERHANGS
Assess: Check to be sure the roofing is as secure on the porch as it is in your home, as losing the roof covering can open up the rest of the roof and home to damage. Beams are also a vulnerable point people often forgotten about.

Minimize: Reinforce your rooftop of your porch with the same attention as you would the inside of your home. Reinforce any beams holding up the roof. If you have screens, remove them before the storm hits.

LOOSE OUTDOOR ITEMS
Assess: If you have unsecured items in your yard, including: untrimmed trees, outdoor A/C units, swing sets, yard decor and equipment, or anything that might get picked up by the wind, you should secure it to keep it from becoming a hazard during the storm.

Minimize: Secure everything you can with secure fasteners or by anchoring. Bring anything else inside. Remember that smaller items can cause major damage, so children’s toys, trash cans, garden gnomes, and other small items left outside are important to keep track of.

Local inspectors can tell you more about your home’s risks. Older homes may not meet current standards, so it’s especially important to take steps to hurricane-proof older buildings.

Once you have assessed your risks, it’s good to prioritize your fixes.

Need more hurricane preparedness tips? Read more here.