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Follow these tips to protect your home from hurricanes, tropical storms

Does it do any good to tape windows?

Tape does not protect a window from shattering. Commercial films that will hold shattered glass in place can be applied to the insides of windows.

Do hurricane shutters help?

Yes, but be sure you get the right shutters for you. Removable steel plates are heavy and awkward to handle and not appropriate for everyone. Roll-up shutters are easier to use but expensive. Some fabric coverings are tough, less expensive and easy to handle.

Is plywood a good alternative?

It isn't as strong as commercial storm shutters, but it helps if you are strong enough to handle it. Be careful: If you nail it into the frame of the window or the house, you create holes into which water can later leak and damage walls. Ask your home supply store how to mount plywood so the holes can be plugged after the storm passes.

Are old plywood sheets still usable?

If they are not warped. Lay flat with something heavy on top to prevent warping. Still, even warped plywood might be usable it the warping is not severe.

What are the most vulnerable points in a home?

The garage door and the front door. Garage doors are easily broken, bent and ripped from their tracks. They can be retrofitted for added strength. Front doors are seldom windproof, especially double doors. High winds can crack dead-bolt locks and get in through damaged garage doors. Once the wind finds a way into a house, the roof is in danger. If the roof goes, the house is lost. Consider replacing double front doors with single doors that can be reinforced from the inside. In the space remaining, install long, stationary, shatterproof windows.

How do you prepare the yard?

Trim dead or rotten limbs, which could become missiles in high winds. Decide where you will store sprinklers, hoses and yard ornaments out of the wind.

What about patio furniture?

If you have a pool, throw your furniture in it. Otherwise, turn tables top down and tie down chairs or take them inside.

What about a computer?

Dismantle it and move it to safety. If that's impossible, back up important data and put it in a safe place. If you evacuate, unplug the computer, phone and cable lines, and peripheral equipment. Move the equipment as high off the floor as possible.

Can I reuse sandbags from last year?

Yes, if they have been stored in a dry place and have not become moldy, water-logged or torn.

Should I stay with my house to protect it from looters?

Your belongings aren't as valuable as your life. Let the police do the policing. If there is a place for you to go and you can get out of a devastated neighborhood, you should do that. Presumably, you already have identified and made arrangements for your most valuable personal effects.

If my home is damaged, who should I get to fix it?

The most needed specialty after a storm is a roofing company. Don't be in a hurry to hire one. There will be all sorts of impostors looking to cash in. Get recommendations from insurers and others who have had satisfactory experiences. Ask for references.

How do I prove to my insurance company what I owned?

Buy a digital camera now and take pictures of everything in the house and store the camera or the picture card with the valuable items that you plan to take with you when you evacuate. Or videotape your valuables. Then you can show the insurance company what you lost. If you have sales receipts for big-ticket items, they will help place a fair value on lost property.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

It generally covers damage to the building and contents and provides living expenses until the dwelling is livable again. In the case of a condo, the exterior of the building and the roof generally are covered by a homeowners association master policy. Individual owners have unit policies that cover floors, ceilings, interior walls and contents.

What does renters insurance cover?

It covers contents and living expenses if your apartment or house is no longer livable. Your lease might not require your landlord to find alternative housing for you.

What do I do if my car is damaged?

That is generally covered by auto insurance. If the inside has flooded, don't try to start it. Cover broken windows. List all lost valuables.

Preparing your house

If you protect every opening in your house with shutters or impact-resistant windows that meet the current building code, your house stands a good chance of surviving a hurricane intact.Hurricane straps: These metal straps hold the roof frame to the walls of your house. They are found where the trusses meet the walls. Look for loose, rusting or missing straps.

Gable ends: Reinforce wood gable ends. Connect 2-by-4s to trusses and roof beams to provide better strength against the wind.

Shutters: Inspect windows and shutters to make sure they are in working condition. Practice putting up all your shutters to make sure they fit and you have all the hardware.

Landscaping: Trim trees and shrubs. Cut limbs or trees that could fall against the house. Replace gravel landscaping with shredded bark.

Trusses and beams: Repair or replace trusses or beams that have cracks, large knots or insect damage. To make temporary repairs, nail 8-foot-long (or longer) 2-by-4s on both sides of the damaged truss or beam.Nails and plywood: Resin-coated nails should be used at 6-inch intervals to attach plywood to trusses. Poorly attached plywood is likely to blow off under hurricane conditions, exposing the attic and house interior to damage.

Boats: Be prepared to secure your boat at home. Place it in a safe harbor, or store it at a marina or dock.

Garage door: Protect garage doors with hurricane panels, or reinforce the door from the inside with wood studs or metal braces attached lengthwise. Make sure that the grooved runners in which the door's wheels travel are firmly attached to the wall.

Exterior: Gather outside furniture, garbage cans and other potential debris, and move them inside. Help your neighbors to do the same.Doors: Inspect doors to make sure they are in good condition. Add extra locks or slide bolts to inward-swinging doors. French doors and double doors are especially vulnerable.

Tiles and shingles: Repair cracked or missing roof tiles or loose asphalt shingles.

Follow these tips to protect your home from hurricanes, tropical storms 05/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 5:30am]
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