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Q&A: How to prepare your home for a hurricane

HOME PREPARATION

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Does it do any good to tape up windows?

In a word: No. Tape will not prevent a window from being shattered and gives you a false sense of security. It might help stop the spread of some glass fragments, but not much. Besides, the wind can easily rush in, carrying rain and debris and enough lift to take the roof off. Commercial film that will hold shattered glass in place can be applied to the insides of windows.

Do hurricane shutters help?

Yes, they are the best way to protect a home, but be sure you get the right shutters. Removable steel plates are heavy and awkward to handle and not appropriate for everyone; some brands are lighter and easier to install and remove. Roll-up shutters are easier to use but expensive. Some companies make a PVC fabric that is 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 how you put it up. If you nail it into the window frame or the house, you create holes into which water can leak. Ask home supply store experts how to mount plywood so the holes can be plugged after the storm passes. You'll also need to find somewhere to store all that wood when not in use.

What are the most vulnerable points in a home?

The garage door and the front door. Garage doors are easily broken or bent and ripped from their tracks. They can be retrofitted for added strength. Front doors are seldom wind-proof, especially double doors. Most deadbolts can withstand the wind, but the framing could give out.

Is there anything I need to do in the yard?

Hire a tree specialist to trim dead or rotten limbs, which can become flying missiles in high winds. Decide where you will store sprinklers, hoses and yard ornaments.

What do I do with all my patio furniture on the patio?

Haul them inside if you have room. If not, turn tables over so they are top down and tie down chairs.

What do I do with valuables in the house?

The time to decide what is too precious to lose is well before a storm threatens. Make a list of irreplaceable things — family photos, jewelry, art, valuable papers, including all your insurance documents. If you evacuated, take them with you. If you stay, consider moving those things to a safer location. Large plastic storage boxes are handy either way.

What about my computer?

Dismantle it and move it to safety. If that's not possible, back up important data and secure it in a safe place. If you evacuate, unplug the computer, phone and cable lines and the peripheral equipment. Move the equipment as high off the floor as possible.

HOME AFTERMATH

If my home is badly damaged, what should I do?

Find a piece of metal or plywood, paint your address on it and it in front of the house. With so much damage in a neighborhood, it is an easy way for family, rescue workers and insurance adjusters to find you.

Should I try to do any repairs to my house?

It depends on your physical condition. For many people, it isn't a good idea beyond creating a temporary shelter. You could get hurt. Many hurricane-related deaths have occurred from such work because of heart attacks, chain saws or falling debris. Warranties and insurance could be voided. And when electricity is restored, there could be fire danger.

Who should I hire to fix it?

The most in-demand work is roof repair. But don't be in a hurry to hire a roofer. There will be all sorts of impostors looking to cash in. Get recommendations from insurers and others who have had satisfactory experience. Ask for references. Use tarps to cover your roof until it is repaired.

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

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

Q&A: How to prepare your home for a hurricane 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 4:07pm]

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