Preparing Your Home for Storm Season

Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, high winds, and hail can all do tremendous damage to your biggest investment, your home. While violent weather can erupt at any time, the most severe and damaging storms often arrive between March and August, with the height of the storm season usually occurring throughout the spring months (March through May).

This guide will help you prepare your home, your belongings, and your family to avoid the negative effects of severe weather:

Before Storm Season

1. First, visit your insurance provider and go over your policy to make sure that you have appropriate insurance coverage for your home, property, and belongings in case of storm damage. If you are in a flood prone area, remember that flood insurance is not a staple in homeowner's insurance policies.

2. Trim, or have a professional trim, any trees, bushes, or large plants that are near your home to avoid damage. Strong winds can bend trees, causing them to hit your home, which may damage siding, windows, doors, or the roof. It doesn't take a tornado to cause serious damage or injury. Falling limbs can also be problematic, so have any that are damaged, unstable, or those that overhang your home or garage removed.

3. If possible, replace the glass in your home with wind and impact resistant glass. If replacing the glass is not currently feasible, learn about safety film that can be used to cover glass to help prevent shattering. It is also prudent to install storm shutters. Shutters will protect your windows but more importantly will protect the interior of your home and especially your family, from glass that may shatter during severe weather.

4. Sliding glass doors are especially dangerous, and do not forget about skylights. If you cannot employ any of the above protective methods before severe weather arrives, cover large areas of glass with plywood, a tarp, or winterizing plastic for some temporary protection.

5. Purchase a non-electric radio, preferably one that has access to the NOAA weather band for up to the minute weather information, or at least a radio that can clearly receive a local station. Make sure fresh batteries are available at all times, or purchase an emergency radio that is powered by solar energy or one that features a hand crank to charge it up when needed.

6. Make sure at least one working flashlight with fresh batteries is also available, since the power may go out and you may be left without electricity for several hours. Using candles during violent weather is not advised, in case of gas leaks. A flashlight is also helpful for getting someone else's attention should you need to be rescued. Look for a flashlight or radio that includes a personal alarm or siren for this purpose.

7. If your electric service is frequently interrupted during severe weather, consider purchasing a generator. You may also want to purchase or put together a survival kit. There are many different types of generators and survival kits available in assorted price ranges.

When Storms are Predicted

1. Move vulnerable items to a safe location. Put your car inside the garage, move patio furniture, lawn equipment, bicycles, and other items such as barbeque grills into the garage or shed. Anything that cannot be moved to another location should be tied down to avoid causing damage or injury if thrown by strong wind.

2. Close awnings to avoid updrafts of air that could tear them away from your home and cause them to break windows, slam against your house, or cause injury. Close the garage door to protect your vehicle and other items enclosed within.

3. Unplug your appliances and electronic equipment before the storm hits, if you have warning. Surge protectors only work to prevent or reduce damage caused by power spikes and surges; they cannot prevent damage from lightning.

4. Unplug your phone. Unplug the phone line from the jack and unplug the power base from the electrical outlet. Stay off land based phones during storms, especially phones with cords. If you have plenty of warning before the storm, charge your cell phone before the storm arrives. You may need access to emergency services, or you may just want to alert family members and friends that you are safe.

5. Move to a safe location in your home (see "Preparing a Safe Zone" below). The basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of the home is the best choice. Stay away from doors, windows, and anything that conducts electricity.

Preparing a Safe Zone

Consider constructing a safe room or a storm cellar. There are various plans and kits available to help you prepare a safe location for your family during severe weather threats.

You can also transform an existing space in your home into a modestly safe zone for your family on your own. One of the first steps is to choose an area that does not have windows, or to replace windows with safety glass. Even if you cannot replace all the glass in your home, it should be affordable to do in a single room.

The safe zone should be on the lowest floor, and should be protected by interior walls. There should be enough space for the entire family including pets. Let neighbors or extended family members know where the safe zone is located, in case of emergency. If severe damage occurs, they will know where to find you.

Make sure the room has something that can be used for cover. Supply the room with a heavy table or at least a mattress to hide under to protect against debris. This is a good area to store sleeping bags and heavy blankets, which can also be used for cover, and may be needed after a storm.

Store your emergency items in this room, and develop a family plan for reaching the safe zone in case of severe weather. Keep bottled water, non-perishable snacks, medicines, and a first aid kit or survival kit in this space as well.

Copyright © 2006 Ian White