While we tend to view hurricane season as starting on June 1st, because of early storm activity over the past six years, the National Hurricane Center began issuing Tropical Weather Outlooks on May 15th. That means it is time to tackle those hurricane preparedness tasks for 2021.
So far, NOAA is predicting a busy hurricane season, though not as severe as last year’s. Unfortunately, there is just no way to know how this season’s storms may affect us here on the Gulf Coast. (Wondering “who” we will be hearing about this summer? You can find out the names slated to be used this hurricane season at the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.)
To help you get ready for any upcoming storms that may head our way, make sure to put together a hurricane preparedness kit. You should also review your homeowner’s insurance policy, locate your evacuation route, and get your home storm-ready.
Hurricane Preparedness: Packing Your Emergency Supplies
Having a cachet of emergency items neatly bundled into a duffle bag or backpack can make living through a storm that much easier. By keeping bottled water, batteries, flashlights, nonperishable food, and other items in one place, you can easily grab what you need, even if it is dark because the power has gone out.
You should create your emergency pack yearly and replace any expired items. Ready.gov has a list of items that Americans should have on hand in case of a hurricane or other natural disaster.
One thing you should always have on hand that we do not tend to think about is cash. Most of us tend to use debit or credit cards for our purchases, however, should there be a large-scale electrical outage, those payment methods will not work.
Also, keep in mind your family’s specific needs, even if you work from a checklist. If you have an elderly family member or a loved one with special needs, consider what they will need to get through a hurricane so you can help make them as comfortable as possible throughout the ordeal.
Hurricane Preparedness: Review Your Homeowners Insurance Policy
Most of us do not like reading legal contracts like insurance policies, but it is important that you understand your homeowner’s insurance policy and what it covers. You should review your policy yearly to make sure that you are adequately protected. If you have made improvements to your home, you may also need to get your home reappraised so that it covers the current value of your home. You should also ensure that you have enough coverage for your possessions and that you have photographs of your valuables should you need to make a claim.
As you are reading your policy, consider whether the coverage you have is enough for your needs. Will it cover the replacement of your home? Will it cover the types of damage typical from hurricanes and tropical storms, like roof damage and flooding? If not, you may need to find a new insurance policy or purchase supplemental coverage in order to safeguard your property.
While reviewing your policy, make sure you understand the claims process and what is required of you. With some policies, claims must be made within a certain timeframe. Familiarize yourself with the policy and keep it somewhere that you can take with you should you need to evacuate.
Hurricane Preparedness: Know Your Evacuation Route
You can find evacuation information on the following websites:
- Hillsborough County Emergency Management
- Pinellas County Emergency Management
- Tampa Office of Emergency Management
If you have time before leaving, put all of your important documents together, including things like your marriage certificate, birth certificates, social security cards, and insurance policies. This last one is essential because it will detail how and when you will need to make a claim. To save time in case of emergency, you can scan these important documents onto a flash drive and keep that flash drive in a safe place.
How to Protect Your Home During a Hurricane
First, I want to note that while we all love our homes, our lives are more important, and if the local government gives evacuation orders, you should prepare to leave the area for your safety and the safety of your family.
That said, let’s talk hurricane prep for your home. At the beginning of every storm season, you should visually inspect your roof. Look for any loose or broken shingles and have them replaced, so that wind or rain do not further damage your roof. You should also have your gutters cleaned of debris so that water can easily drain off your roof.
Trim back any trees so that they do not hang over your home. If you have any dead or dying trees, you may want to have them removed before a storm does the work for you. Also, check that no limbs near windows or your AC compressor unit need to be trimmed.
If you have any storm drains on your property, like those common along curbs, make sure that they are clear from debris to prevent any flooding.
If you use electric storm shutters, test that they are in working order. You do not want to find out that they are on the fritz at the last minute!
If you usually use plywood to board up your windows, it may be harder or more expensive to purchase plywood this year because of a lumber shortage. To make sure you have some on hand for any upcoming storms, you may want to buy some now before the stores are flooded by homeowners looking to protect their windows. You can also consider installing hurricane shutters so that you will be protected this year and for years to come.
Once a storm is imminent, be sure to bring in any outdoor furniture that may transform into a projectile by high winds.
While I hope you have found this article useful, I have my fingers crossed that we will not have any storms making landfall this season!