As the Caribbean and Florida prepare for Irma—the second powerful hurricane to threaten the US in the past three weeks—people are evacuating and taking other precautions. Most of us know to stock up on water, food, batteries, and the like in advance. So, we rounded up some more tips you can do to stay safe and protect your home during natural disasters.
Storms can increase or decrease in intensity, so it's best to continue to track them. Outside of radio or TV news, Stormpulse or government departments like NOAA and the National Weather Service are good places to stay up to date on the latest reports. MyRadar is an app that closely tracks the intensity, rainfall inches, and the duration of storms for those nearby. Also be sure to check city and state alerts for evacuation notifications. An official battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio will provide alerts without access to wifi or cell service, says MyRadar meteorologist Joe Wermter.
Prepare the outside of your home.
For those with outdoor space, that means moving patio furniture, trash cans, grills, toys, potted plants and the like inside if possible. Check nearby trees for dead or loose branches that could fall off during winds. If you have gutters that you're responsible for, make sure they're clear, as they can cause drainage issues and possible flooding during periods of heavy rain, according to the National Association of Home Builders. While you're up there, make sure your roof is secured and sealed.
Watch those windows and doors.
If your doors have multiple locking mechanisms, use them all to prevent them from flying open. As for windows, make sure they are also locked, and that storm shutters or 5/8-inch boards are secured on the outside (if you rent, get permission in writing to board up your windows or install storm shutters if they're not already present). Unfortunately, using masking tape on them doesn't do anything, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The safest place to be during severe weather is inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. An interior room, a closet or bathroom on lower levels are best, according to the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.
Pay extra attention to the garage.
If you happen to have a garage, the door might be extra susceptible to high winds. Check if your garage has a wind or pressure rating, and if you have time, you can choose to reinforce it with a brace kit, as noted by FloridaDisaster.org. If severe weather is already on the way, they also mention that you can use your car as an additional brace.
Secure your car.
If you have a car, make sure you have a full tank of gas, that the wipers are new, the tire pressure is good, and the windows are sealed, says Consumer Reports. Also have an emergency go bag on hand (here's what Ready.gov recommends you have) as well as phone chargers, maps, and insurance paperwork. If you rely on street parking, check that it's not parked under any trees or in any particular areas prone to flooding.
If flooding is possible, consider these measures.
First, if you don't know your flood risk, check with FEMA. Bankrate compiled a lot of options to prepare in advance of flooding, but if waters are rising already, here's what you can do: Move as many items as possible (including electronics and important documents) to a higher floor—or at least raise them off the ground floor; elevate appliances on concrete blocks; and turn off electricity to affected areas from the breaker panel. FEMA also has an extensive guide on what to do before, during, and after a flood. If you have renters insurance (or flood insurance for homeowners), check your policy—it could cover temporary housing if your unit is rendered uninhabitable, and even replace your storm damaged property.
Don't forget about pets.
Make sure all pets are inside during severe weather. If you have to evacuate, know which hotels are pet friendly, recommends Weather.com. Most Red Cross disaster shelters cannot house pets, so see if there are friends or family in unaffected areas that can take them. Check that their vaccines and tags are up to date, and consider microchipping if they are not already.
Before evacuating, freeze some water.
The "quarter in a frozen cup of water" tip went viral last year, but is actually helpful to know if the food in your freezer is safe to eat. To paraphrase: freeze a mug of water, and place a coin on top of the ice. If you return and the quarter is frozen at the bottom of your mug, your refrigerator has lost power for too long and items may not be safe for consumption. If it's halfway in the mug or higher, you should be good to go.
If your freezer is not full, consider also freezing gallon jugs of water; a packed freezer keeps things colder than one with more space for air to circulate.
Readers, do you have other tips for staying safe in severe weather? Share in the comments.
Updated from a post originally published 8/25/2017 - TB