A hurricane can be extremely dangerous. There is no denying that fact. They bring with them wind, rain, storm surge, and can lead to catastrophic losses of life. There was once a certain sense of complacency that widespread deaths from hurricanes were behind us. After all, Camile, had been the benchmark for deadly storms making U.S. landfall, resulting in 256 deaths until Katrina came along in nearly the same location and killed 1,200 people in 2005.
Facts like these are meant to remind you that you need to have a plan in place before there’s a storm churning in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico to prepare for any hurricane and keep your home and your business as safe as possible.
Hurricane Preparation Tips and Safety for Homeowners and Businesses
Before the Storm
Preparation is the key to safety. As soon as you learn there’s the possibility of a storm heading your way, you need to be prepared. Have a written plan that assigns specific tasks to each member of your household or your management team for your business is ideal. Everyone needs to know his or her role, and be prepared to carry those roles out in the days leading up to landfall.
The good thing about a hurricane is, if you can even say that, is that you can see them coming from a long way out. While there is some degree of uncertainty with forecasts, you can generally tell if you have cause for concern a few days ahead of going into full-on red alert mode.
Decide to Stay or Go
Before you begin shopping for supplies,boarding up your home or office, and/or placing sandbags at your doors, you need to decide if your plan is to ride the storm out or to evacuate. The earlier you make the decision to leave the better. It will prevent you from getting caught in massive traffic jams and reduce the risk of being caught on the road when the full force of the storm (and danger) of the hurricane is upon you – which puts your life and the life of rescuers called to save you in greater danger.
At this point in time, business owners need to make efforts to protect customer information, inventory, and the structure of the building. Also, create a plan for getting in touch with employees after the storm to notify them about the conditions at work and when they can return to work. Also set up messages to reach out to customers through email or your website to inform them about what’s going on with your business and when you’ll be reopening.
If you’re going to ride out the storm, be prepared. Get plenty of cases of bottled water. Collect water in the bathtub to help with flushing toilets, purchase canned foods (and handheld can openers), flashlights, batteries, battery operated radios, and begin freezing blocks of ice in any spare areas in your freezer. This step can be critical in helping you keep food from going bad in the days you go without power after the storm passes. Also buy charcoal and place the bags in garbage bags for weatherproofing so that you can cook food on the grill afterwards. Create a go bag you can grab and go if water threatens to overtake your home.
Make sure to include a hatchet for cutting through the roof if necessary. Flood waters rise fast and there may not be time to search for one. In addition to the hatchet your bag should include snacks, medications, basic toiletries (preferably in a zipper bag to keep out water), water, baby items, medications, identification, insurance information, and cash in case ATMs are out of service in the area.
Protect Your Home and Business
Whether you’re staying or going, you’ll need to prepare your home to protect your possessions, and your home, as much as possible from the storm. This involves boarding up windows, using sandbags around vulnerable areas where water may come in, and securing objects outside that could become projectiles damaging your building or others in the neighborhood.
During the Storm
Hopefully you’ve headed the warnings and evacuated if that is called for in your community. If not, keep an eye on the water levels outside your home. Storm surge is deadly and comes in alarmingly fast.
Keep your mobile phones and other devices charging as long as you have the power to do so. Once the power goes out, use them sparingly and only when necessary. Also keep the freezer and refrigerator doors closed as long as possible to preserve the cool air.
After the Storm
Once the storm is passed it’s time to assess the damage. Talk to your insurance company as quickly as possible to find out if you can begin making repairs – especially in the case of water coming into your home or business. The longer water remains inside, the more damage it will do. Document everything with videos and photographs if possible, before making efforts to clean up. Take care of hazards that pose a risk to safety right away.
If you own a business, now is the time to call your employees and let them know when they can return to work and what kind of conditions they can expect coming in.
Most hurricanes result in mild business disruptions of a day or two as the worst of the weather, or the eye of the storm, moves through. Every once in awhile a storm comes into the community and alters it forever. If you prepare for every storm with this expectation your home and business will fare much better than most.
Before you do anything, though, you need to protect your investment in your home or business with adequate insurance protection. Even renters need to have insurance protection and everyone in a coastal or inland region near a coast needs to invest in flood insurance protection for your home and business. Flood insurance is not a part of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy and must be purchased separately, so keep that in mind.