There are several steps residents can take to give their home and belongings a fighting chance against a storm.
PROTECT YOUR WINDOWS
The best way to protect your home is with hurricane-resistant windows, however, they can be expensive. Most people are left with two more economical solutions – hurricane shutters or plywood.
For those who can afford them, hurricane shutters are the way to go because they are very easy to deploy once installed. Just know that not all shutters are created equal. Thinner gauge aluminium shutters will not perform as well as ones that are thicker, when tested
by a major hurricane.
Those who live close to the sea or, at higher elevations where hurricane winds are stronger, should strongly consider the heavier gauge shutters.
Putting plywood over windows will also work. It’s best to buy plywood in advance and store it in a dry place. Make sure to use proper screws – and have the right amount of them – to anchor the plywood to the side of your home.
PROTECT YOUR ROOF
Hurricane straps on the rafter system are a vital protection for roof structures. Homeowners with houses that don’t have them should see about getting them retrofitted.
CLEAR YOUR YARD
Make sure there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks and building material inside or under shelter. Knock down any coconuts hanging from nearby trees as well as any loose tree limbs.
SEAL WINDOWS AND DOORS
Storm surge is a very real threat during a hurricane. If there are any openings in a home, water will find a way through them. Seal gaps in doors – especially near the bottom – with either silicone caulking or duct tape, or a combination of both. If possible, seal all doors from the outside.
Put duct tape over outside electrical outlets and dryer vents. If practical, put duct tape over eave vents to prevent wind-blown rain from entering through the eave vents
and damaging attic spaces and interior ceilings.
Flooded septic tanks can cause toilets and sinks, especially on the ground floor, to back up and flood apartments. Turn off the water to your toilet, flush it and then bail out any remaining water. Then put a sandbag or two over the drain hole to prevent sewage and storm surge from back-flowing into the home.
PROTECT YOUR BELONGINGS
Put valuable possessions up high, on top of cabinets, closet shelves and other permanent structures. Those who live in a home that has more than one storey can consider taking valuable furniture and belongings upstairs. Another option is to raise downstairs furniture off the floor using cement blocks.
Cover items like beds, artwork and electronics that can be damaged by water with plastic.
Keep important documents including passports, birth and marriage certificates, and other legal documents in a sealed plastic bag and close by so that you can take them with you if you must evacuate on short notice.
Remember to unplug everything electrical in your house to protect it from surges due to lightning strikes.