Here are some considerations as you review your choices in window protection.
• Can you install the protection yourself, or do you have a reliable person to do it for you? Screwing plywood panels in place is a heavy, awkward task that typically takes more than one person.
It's a lot easier to pull an accordion shutter across sliding glass doors or to push a button and watch motorized shutters roll down. (You can even get these with a wind vane that rolls them down automatically when winds reach a certain speed.) Of course, these are more expensive than plywood.
Advocates of impact-resistant glass and window films say their products are always in place, need no last-minute installation, and provide sun and burglary protection.
Window film, however, does not pass the Miami-Dade certification test because it doesn't strengthen the frame. It won't stop your glass from shattering; it will hold the pieces in place. A film-covered window will withstand only whatever wind load it can handle without the film.
• If you already have window protection, are you ready to roll? Do you know where the Tapcons or wing nuts or other fasteners are? Do you know how to install or operate your protection?
Storage space can be a problem for plywood and for heavy stacks of aluminum or steel panels. Those metal panels also can tear up your hands or cause serious injury if a stack of them drops on your foot.
• Where will you be when the storm hits? Most homeowner and condo associations do not allow window coverings to be left in place when owners leave for vacations or the summer. They're an unsightly giveaway that a home or apartment is unoccupied. Community associations may regulate the kind, style and color of window protection, but they may not prohibit homeowners from protecting their property.
Fire officials discourage leaving window coverings in place because they make it difficult or impossible for occupants to get out if there is a fire.
• What are the testing standards? Window protection must withstand repeated blows by a 9-pound 2 by 4 traveling at 34 mph followed by hurricane-force winds. A label on the product should confirm its certification. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (www.flash.org) recommends products that have been tested to these standards: ASTM E 1886 and ASTM E 1996; SBCCI SSTD 12; or Miami-Dade Protocols PA 201, 202 and 203. FLASH is a partnership of the insurance industry, government agencies, nonprofits and businesses.
• Need specifics on shutters? The FLASH Web site (www.flash.org) offers technical information about building or retrofitting a home for hurricane safety, links to other sites and consumer advice.
An "interactive shutter tool" helps homeowners estimate the cost of various kinds of window protection. Click on "Hurricanes" and scroll through the list to select "An interactive shutter tool."
• What does it look like? Appearances matter. Some panels fit into tracks or ridges around the windows. Others hook onto bolts, or require that holes be drilled in the walls. You must decide what you're willing to look at the rest of the year.
Almost anything you put over your windows is going to darken the interior during daylight, which some people find claustrophobic. Many homeowners prefer to mix and match solid shutters (metal or aluminum) with a couple of clear Lexan panels. Or they include some translucent heavy-duty fabric panels that admit daylight.
Times staff writer