The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is upon us and as residents of our coastal region are all too aware, the consequences of a major storm can be devastating to properties caught in its path. Case in point: 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near McClellanville, S.C., caused an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion of damages to U.S. homes and businesses and left at least 800,000 homes and businesses without power in South Carolina alone.
While homeowners have no way to completely avoid damages when major storms strike, there are several steps they can take to minimize the potential impact. Those looking to prepare for the worst should consider these 12 steps to ready their homes for severe weather.
- Relocate valuables: Residents should ensure that treasured family possessions — especially irreplaceable heirlooms like family photos, wedding albums and other sentimental items — are kept away from windows and doors. If possible, they should move them into an upstairs location where they’ll be less susceptible to flood damage.
- Perform a roof inspection: Whether the homeowner or a professional performs the inspection, it’s important to make sure that a home’s roof is in premium shape before a major storm strikes. Potential problems such as loose or missing shingles should be remedied before they lead to further damage.
- Clean out rain gutters: The home’s rain gutters, downspouts and drains need to be free of debris so that water won’t accumulate and can be directed away from the home quickly. Water that pools on the roof or alongside exterior walls can lead to serious, expensive-to-repair structural damages.
- Prep windows: Storm windows or storm shutters can help prevent flying debris from smashing through a home’s windows, keeping damage-causing water and winds out of the home. If storm windows or storm shutters aren’t a current budgetary fit, homeowners can plan ahead and have window-protecting plywood measured, cut and ready to mount in the case of an approaching hurricane.
- Learn how to cut off the water supply and electricity: Residents should know where their water main’s shutoff valve and electrical system’s circuit breaker panel are and be aware of how to use them to shut off the water or power if needed.
- Use surge protectors: While surge protectors can’t always prevent a home’s electronics from being damaged in the case of a direct lightning strike, they can often prevent equipment damage if a lightning strike in the area causes a power surge in the home. Further, when surge-protection devices are registered with their manufacturers, many are backed by replacement guarantees that cover up to a certain dollar amount if surge-related equipment damage does occur. Lastly, with or without surge protectors, it’s a good idea for homeowners to unplug their expensive electronics if they’re home during a storm.
- Protect outdoor electrical outlets: Most homeowners know that electricity and moisture/water is a dangerous mix. To keep moisture and water from getting into outlets and switches that are exposed to the elements, homeowners should install protective covers or foam sealant designed to keep water out and prevent danger to people and potential harm to the equipment.
- Have a fire extinguisher at the ready: To make sure that they’re accessible in case of emergency, fire extinguishers should be stored/installed in easy-to-reach spots and all of a home’s residents should be fully aware of their placement and how to use them. Further, homeowners should check the pressure of their extinguishers regularly to ensure that they’re in working condition and have them serviced as needed when their pressure gets low.
- Secure outdoor accessories: To prevent outdoor equipment such as yard ornaments, furniture and accessories from becoming dangerous projectiles in the case of high winds, residents should store them indoors or in an enclosed outdoor if a major storm is threatening. If space limitations eliminate this possibility, such equipment can be secured using cables, bungee cords or spiral landscape anchors.
- Trim trees: Homeowners should always be on the lookout for brittle and dead tree limbs and branches on their property and be sure to trim any troublesome limbs and branches before they become a threat to fall off or blow into a structure or power line. Further, if possible, trees that are growing too close to a home should be transplanted before they present a danger of falling into the home when severe weather strikes.
- Review insurance coverage: A home and its furnishings, as well as all of a homeowner’s valuables, should be insured for their full replacement values — and it’s important to ensure that this is the case well before a storm strikes, as coverage extensions often take time to go into effect (and may not be allowed at all when a major storm is approaching). Additionally, homeowners in flood-prone areas should discuss flood insurance with their insurance agent, as this is typically not part of a standard home policy. To simplify claims should disaster strike, homeowners should take photos of their homes and valuables so that they can easily prove damages when needed.
- Protect wiring and jacks: To add an additional layer of protection against unexpected repair bills, FTC customers can add Connection Protection to their FTC Internet, Voice, Security and Digital TV services. For just $4.95 a month, Connection Protection covers a home’s wiring and jacks against damage caused by accidental cutting, normal wear and tear, pests and other unforeseen events. With Connection Protection, any service problems are diagnosed and repaired by a trained technician, all without incurring any service-call costs — including those for labor and materials.Visit ftc.net to get answers to frequently asked questions about Connection Protection and when you’re ready to protect your home’s wiring, contact FTC Customer Service at 888-218-5050.