A calm approach to storms

By Times Staff
Published April 17, 2005

1. Start planning how you will protect your windows and doors. Shop for window protection (shutters, screens, roll-downs). If you decide to go the plywood route, buy it now, cut it to size, predrill holes and label the pieces. Learn how to protect your garage door.

2. Repair to prepare. If your home needs a new roof; if the siding needs repair; if the chimney needs repointing; if the soffits need replacing - wait no longer.

3. Plan how you will survive in your home for some time without power. If you think you will want a generator, buy it now and learn how to use it. If you don't know how to use a chain saw to cut down damaged trees, learn now.

4. Find and read your insurance policy. Discuss with your agent whether you have sufficient coverage. Do you need flood insurance? Have you added window protection that will trigger a rebate or reduction in rates?

5. Compile the important paperwork and a few irreplaceable items you will take with you when you leave the house. Place these items in an easy-to-carry waterproof box.

6. Prepare an inventory of your home's contents. Include receipts where available. Take photographs or make a video. You'll need this information to support an insurance claim.

7. Learn how to secure your home if you have to leave: where and how to turn off power, gas and water.

8. Start stockpiling the materials you will need to make emergency repairs: tarps, duct tape, plywood, tools. Power may be out when the storm passes, so plan to use cordless tools or hand tools.

9. Have trees trimmed to eliminate dead branches that could become missiles or that could damage power lines. Have dead or rotting trees removed.

10. Condo and homeowners associations should plan now how to secure property in case of a storm. Create an operations manual: Who is in charge of securing outdoor furniture, who will open the gates in advance of a power failure, who will go door to door to make sure loose items (furniture, garden implements, potted plants, flags) are stowed away? Determine where and when the board will meet after a disaster. Compile a list of emergency phone contacts for unit owners.

11. Make a family communications plan. If you have only cordless and cell phones, get a land line that plugs into a phone jack in the wall. This may be your best option if the power goes out and the cellular towers are damaged. Designate an out-of-state relative as a contact point and establish a family phone tree.

12. Begin to stockpile items you'll need: a radio, flashlights, plenty of batteries for both; a grill or hibachi to cook on, plus fuel; a first-aid kit.

13. Pick up a few items for the hurricane pantry every time you shop: Bottled water. Canned meats and fish. Canned fruit. Individual-serving puddings. Powdered milk. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Hand sanitizer. Liquid soap. Plastic bags. Bleach.