By Natalia Macrynikola
From Ideas That Spark
Post-hurricane, you always meet two types of people: Those who’ve gotten hit severely and wonder what they could have done differently, and those who’ve avoided damage -- thanks to luck or solid preparation.
After Hurricane Sandy last year, Ira Pastor, an IT professional living in Merrick, N.Y., was unfortunately the first type. “We didn’t really prep,” he admits. “I never thought anything would happen.” But during Sandy, Pastor found himself huddling with his family in the dark -- his house was flooding and electrical wires snapped and hissed outside. By the end of the storm, Pastor didn’t recognize his neighborhood anymore. Now, months later, he is still cleaning up. “I think we’re going to sell our house,” he says. “It just doesn’t pay to live here anymore.”
Climatologists predict that the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which began in June and ends in November, will likely be extremely active. Do these seven things now to protect your home and family, and you’ll avoid ever finding yourself in Pastor’s predicament.
1. Get impact-resistant windows.
It only takes a Category 1 storm (winds of 74 mph) to break a regular window, but impact-resistant windows can withstand hurricanes of the highest classification, Category 5 (winds exceeding 156 mph). That's because they're made of laminated glass (an interlayer is permanently bonded between two pieces of glass, forming a barrier that protects against hurricane-force winds) and heavy-duty, reinforced steel frames that hold the windows in place.
Cost: Around $1,000 per window
2. Install a storm door and windows.
If impact-resistant windows seem a bit too pricy, a more affordable solution is to install storm windows over your current ones, as well as a storm door. Both feature heavy weather-stripping to reduce air infiltration; a stabilizer bar runs along the middle for extra strength. Most door manufacturers sell pre-hung doors in kits so installation is easy. The kits include all the hardware you need to install the door, such as hinges, pneumatic closers and latches.
Cost: Around $75 per window, $300 per door
3. Reinforce your garage door.
About 80 percent of residential hurricane damage starts when wind enters through garage doors, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. To stay safe, consider replacing your garage door system with an impact-resistant one or hire a contractor to add struts, sturdier rollers, hinges and braces for additional strength.
Cost: Around $1,200 to replace garage door system, $600 to hire a contractor to reinforce your garage door
4. Secure your roof.
Your roof's ability to withstand high winds depends on its shape. Gable-end roofs (aka triangular) are more susceptible to damage than hip-shaped or flat roofs. If your house has a gable-end roof, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes recommends you check that it's braced properly. To do this, go to your attic and see if the gable end has been reinforced with any framing boards. Properly braced boards should connect back to roof trusses or framing boards to create horizontal or diagonal support, like this. If your roof is not properly braced, hire a contractor to do the work.
Cost: Around $100 per gable end
5. Get a standby generator.
One downed power line can leave you in the dark for days, unless you invest in an automatic standby generator. Wired directly into your home's electrical system and fueled by natural or LP gas, a standby generator reacts instantly to power loss, safely switching from utility to generator power. When the power is back, it shuts itself off and returns to standby mode.
An added benefit: Properly installed units don't pose a carbon monoxide poisoning risk, unlike other gas-powered heating alternatives that use oil, kerosene, wood, propane and charcoal.
Cost: $2,000 to $15,000, depending on number of watts (can range from 8,000 to 60,000)
6. Stock up on emergency supplies.
The American Red Cross recommends that you store at least three days’ worth of food, water and supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency kit (in case of evacuation), and a two-week supply at home in case stores are closed and you cannot leave the affected area. Supplies should include a flashlight, radio, first-aid kit, medications, batteries, personal documents, cell phone, emergency contact info, cash, emergency blanket and a map. Remember to check your supplies every six months and replace outdated items.
Cost: Varies, depending on number of family members
7. Inventory your stuff.
Finally, if you ever do incur damage during a storm, an inventory of all your stuff will speed up the insurance claim process afterward. If you haven't already, create or update your inventory and store it in a safe place away from home. Get started at the Insurance Information Institute's KnowYourStuff.org.
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