How to Prepare for Extreme Weather

Here's advice from Home Advisor expert Dan DiClerico about how to prepare and protect your home and property for severe weather with a Five-Step Storm Guide.

Forecast:  HURRICANE Coming

By Dan DiClerico, Home Expert at Home Advisor, a free referral service that connects homeowners with prescreened local contractors.

Severe weather tends to come on fast. Think flash floods, blackout-inducing thunderstorms, or tornadoes that spin out of nowhere. Keeping your home and your family safe is all about proper planning and preparation. HomeAdvisor’s Five-Step Storm Guide covers all the bases:

Step One: Check your Insurance Coverage

When a storm is bearing down, it’s too late to add extra coverage to your homeowner’s insurance policy, and standard policies rarely cover damage caused by flooding.

Ask your insurance providers about any policy limits and exclusions and consider adding separate coverage for high-risk disasters. Homeowners pay on average $700 per year for additional flood insurance. That’s not pocket change, but it’s nothing compared to the $20,000 in damage that a single inch of sea water could cause in your home.

Step Two: Ensure Backup Power

Power failures often follow severe weather. Besides the inconvenience, blackouts can set off a chain reaction of disasters. For example, house fires are a common result as homeowners often resort to burning candles. In the winter, a power failure can knock out the furnace, leading to burst water pipes as the temperature inside plummets. Installing a backup generator, whether standby or portable, is the best defense against prolonged outages. (Check HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide for more information on the cost to install a generator.)

Step Three: Devise a Family Plan

A fast-moving coastal storm could strike while family members are separated. Especially if you have young children, create a paper copy of contact information, maybe on a wallet-sized card that they keep in their backpack, and designate a safe, familiar place where family members can meet if they’re separated. This could be a neighbor’s house, say in the event of a fire, or the local library, where you might gather after being separated during a flash flood.

Step Four: Stock up on Essentials

Every home should have an emergency kit with supplies for at least 72 hours. The kit should include water (3 gallons per person), non-perishable food, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, dust masks, a whistle to signal for help, and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Step Five: Protect your Property

Water is one of the biggest threats, so start by checking that your home’s gutter system is in good working order, to channel heavy rains away from the house. Inspect gutters for clogs and signs of rust or corrosion, as well as places where they’re pulling away from the house.

As the storm is approaching, remember to keep windows closed, along with blinds or curtains. Applying heavy-duty tape to windows will help prevent shards from flying if they’re broken. Store lawn furniture and other outdoor equipment in a garage or shed.

Park cars on higher ground, if possible, and move any valuable items, such as artwork, to an upper floor of the home. It’s also a good idea to create an inventory of all valuable items in the home, maybe in the form a video, since your insurance provider will likely need to see proof of possessions before paying out a claim.

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