SAFE AT HOME
2005 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Living a lesson
As four storms battered the state last year, Floridians from Key West to Panama City got an upclose reminder of the destructive power of hurricanes.
Garage doors invite wind
Unless your doors have been installed after new building codes in 2002, your home may be threatened. Retrofitting and new doors are options to consider.
Hurricanes are classified according to wind speed and flooding. The Saffir-Simpson Scale has been used by meteorologists since 1969 as a way to compare damage tropical storms inflict.
'Miami-Dade approved' is the storm standard
If you go shopping for replacement windows, hurricane shutters or a host of products to strengthen and protect your home, you'll see a Miami-Dade certification sticker. Or a salesperson will tell you that the product is "Miami-Dade approved."
A calm approach to storms
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.
A well-stocked kit
Everybody thinks of water and batteries, but here are some things to add to your hurricane supplies that you might not think of.
All about plywood
Installing panels to protect your home's windows requires some up-front preparation and thought.
Condo documents govern rebuilding
The language commonly provides that a condo can be dissolved if a certain percentage of the units are uninhabitable.
Documents to safeguard
If you have to evacuate, you'll want to take necessary and hard-to-replace documents with you. Here's a list of what should be in a waterproof, lockable container you can grab easily.
Find a refuge for pets long before storms threaten
If you must evacuate, don't leave your pet behind. Most emergency shelters don't permit pets, so you might have to turn to friends or family for help. Make these arrangements before the hurricane season.
For older homes, check your tie-downs
Since 1995 building standards were imposed, factory-built homes can withstand very strong winds. But if the foundation and the tie-down and anchoring system are not intact or up to today's safety standards, you could be in for trouble.
Have shutters ready to roll
Long before the next hurricane is the time to decide what type of window protection you need.
Hurricane shutters can't stay up all summer
Q: I'm a winter resident from Long Island. When I leave in the spring, I want to close my accordion hurricane shutters and reopen them when I return in November. But our condo's rules say shutters can be closed only when a hurricane warning is issued and must be reopened within 48 hours after the storm passes. To my way of thinking, the board is denying me the right to protect my property. Can it do this?
Q: When a hurricane passes through, is it true I should open the windows on the side of my house that faces the wind?
Insurance surges sock homeowners
As prices continue to escalate, companies that offer coverage and the state are debating changes.
Inventory your belongings
A written list of your possessions and proof of purchases can also help when making an insurance claim.
It's not your mother's mobile home
When the hurricanes blew through in 2004, the toll on manufactured housing was far less than it would have been before the visit of an earlier storm: Hurricane Andrew.
Keep trees in hurricane trim
Damage to homes and power lines can be prevented or lessened by preventive pruning.
Lock down your landscape
Gardeners should get in the habit of securing lawns and gardens - before hurricane season.
Make room for safety
Prefabricated storm rooms are another way to protect yourself and your family if you are not required to evacuate during a hurricane.
Need more? Seminar to focus on home preparations
A free class, "Preparing and Reinforcing Your Home Before Hurricane Season," will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hillsborough County Extension Office, 5339 County Road 579 in Seffner.
New building codes made a difference
Tougher state building codes adopted after Hurricane Andrew got their first real test last year when Hurricane Charley tore through Florida.
Gasoline-fueled generators can provide electricity when lines are down, but must be used with caution.
The Institute for Business and Home Safety in Tampa offers this checklist of things homeowners can do in the off-season to make their homes more hurricane-worthy.
Reviewing insurance now may pay off later
If a hurricane damaged your home, how much of the tab would your homeowners insurance pick up?
Select a roofer with care
If your home has been damaged by a storm, don't rush into choosing a roofing contractor.
Special needs? Register now
When a hurricane threatens, people with special medical needs who have to evacuate will probably be most comfortable at the home of a relative or friend, assuming they can be appropriately cared for there.
Storms factor into business plans
Ladies and gentlemen: In this corner, weighing in at Category 3 and 4, are hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
Take fiscal stock before the storm
After last summer's four hurricanes, Floridians have learned what's really important in life: ice and air conditioning. (That's after the safety of our families, of course.) There is nothing like being forced to do without something to make us realize its importance. The 2004 hurricane season prompted many of us to think about things that ordinarily escape our notice. Some of these thoughts are about small things, like keeping the flashlight where we can find it, but others have the potential to make a big difference in our financial security.
Trim, don't 'top' trees
How should you trim your trees to prepare for hurricane season?
When the boughs break
When hurricanes blow in, some trees hold their own while others topple. Those that weather the storm, however, can be vulnerable to insects and diseases that enter through damaged limbs. A tree's age, size and health are important factors in determining whether it will survive a violent storm. One thing to remember: Not all trees are created equal.
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
GET READY NOW: Protect yourself, your family and your property.