Ask Kim


6 Steps to Protect Your Home from Hurricanes

Kimberly Lankford

You don't have to just sit there worrying about the weather.



Now that hurricane season has begun, what can I do to protect my home from possible storm damage?

AccuWeather predicts that the 2010 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, could be a “top-ten year” for storms. Making a few simple moves now could minimize a storm’s impact on your home. Ray Stone, vice-president of catastrophe operations for Travelers Insurance, offers the following hurricane-preparation advice based on his 20 years of on-site experience responding to policyholder claims. He knows which strategies really work -- and which don’t.

Brace your garage door to prevent more-extensive damage. “A lot of people believe that the roof is the most vulnerable part of the house,” says Stone. “But it’s not. It’s the garage door.” Most garage doors are not reinforced, and when the wind gets into the garage, it creates a positive push at the same time that the wind swirling above the structure creates a negative pull. That push-pull combination can cause the roof to fly off. See the National Weather Service information sheet to learn about kits that you can buy at home-improvement stores to brace your garage doors.

Secure your windows and doors. Broken windows can let in wind and rain, and they can also increase the pressure under the roof. Storm shutters provide the best protection, but boarding up windows when a storm is on the way can help, too. Don’t bother taping your windows, though. “Putting masking tape on the windows literally does nothing,” says Stone. Make sure doors have several locking mechanisms so they don’t fly open; deadbolts are best. And it’s important to secure windows and doors at all sides of the home -- not just the one facing the body of water where hurricanes could form -- because hurricanes can swirl in any direction. See the Institute for Business & Home Safety’s DisasterSafety.org for details about how to make your windows and doors more secure.

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Protect your roof. Consider hurricane straps to ensure your roof is bolted to the rest of your house. And inspect your roof tiles or shingles to make sure they are secure. Use roofing cement to fix any loose tiles to prevent them from becoming lethal projectiles during a storm and damaging the underlying roofing material. Seal any areas where wires enter the home, minimizing the chance of water damage during heavy wind and rain.

Trim your trees. “Make sure that there are not any dead sections on your trees threatening the home,” says Stone. “Trees are a major factor that causes claims.” Broken limbs could land on your (or your neighbor’s) house or become missiles that can break windows during a storm. If your tree damages your house or a neighbor’s house, your insurance cover the damages, but it may pay only a portion -- say, $500 to $1,000 -- of the cost of tree removal. And in most cases, nobody’s insurance policy will pay if the tree falls but doesn’t hit anything, even though hauling it away could cost a few thousand dollars. See When Your Tree Falls in Your Neighbor’s Yard for more information.

Take inventory. “The last thing you want to be doing after you’ve been affected by a hurricane is to try to remember everything you had in the house,” says Stone. “Having an inventory will make the process of getting through the claim and getting back to normal so much easier.” The Insurance Information Institute’s KnowYourStuff.org is a great place to get started. Keep the inventory in a safe place away from your home.

Update your insurance. Make sure you have the right amount of insurance, and fill in a few key gaps in coverage. See Prepare Your Homeowners Insurance for Storm Season for details.

And if you do end up filing a claim, see Make Your Insurer Pay for strategies to help the claims process go smoothly.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.




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