There are two important steps you should take to protect your property before a storm makes landfall.
First, call your insurance agent and review your coverage.
Make sure your policies cover recent improvements and any increase in value in this real estate market. You’ll also need a separate flood policy because home policies don’t cover that or storm-related water damage.
Second, fix what needs to be fixed.
Hurricanes will exploit any damage, especially the roof. If that fails, it’ll allow wind and water to enter and severely damage your home or business.
Here’s a checklist of what else you can do to protect your property.
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Secure and repair your home
- Roof tiles or shingles that are worn out or missing should be replaced.
- If the roof leaks, fix it. Water infiltration could cause another set of problems, like mold.
- Inspect each window and door, and reseal them if needed. If they’re broken or busted, fix or replace them before the storm takes them out for good.
- Remember to lock windows and doors before a storm. Install a heavy-duty bolt to doors to keep them secure.
- The garage door is another way for storm winds and rains to invade a structure. Consider bracing or reinforcing the garage door with a kit from a home improvement store. If the garage door needs to be replaced, don’t wait until the last second.
- Remember that making repairs now is your call. If your home is severely damaged, then it becomes your insurer making the decisions.
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Clean the yard
- Trim trees and foliage to reduce the potential missiles a storm could hurtle at your home or business, or someone else’s.
- Trimming trees around power lines is dangerous to do yourself. Hire professionals.
- Even strong, healthy trees have damaged or weakened limbs. Prune them.
- Dying trees, trees with multiple trunks and newly planted trees are all potential problems. They may not be able to withstand a tropical system. If they are close to your house, check them for cracks, decay or weak roots. They may have to be removed.
- Don’t wait until the storm shows up to trim and clean up your yard or property. If garbage day is canceled by the storm, those branches will become a pile of trouble sitting at the curb when tropical storm-force winds show up.
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Eliminate flying objects
- Check around your home or business and secure anything the wind could pick up: outdoor furniture, flower pots, signs, etc. Remember loose objects also put your neighbors at risk.
- Store outdoor furniture inside, or sink them into the pool itself. (Remove the cushions, of course.) Even lawn decorations and potted plants could break a window if left outside.
- Taping windows doesn’t protect them. What will is covering them with plywood that‘s at least ⅝ of an inch thick. Google how to properly hang plywood. Or consider installing shutters.
- Keep tarps and plastic garbage bags on hand to cover up storm damage, such as a damaged roof or busted window. You’ll also need mops, brooms, rakes, trash cans, etc. to clean up after a bad storm. In the worst-case scenario, a long-handled squeegee will help get the mud and water out of a home.
- Buy hurricane supplies in advance. Avoid the last-minute rush into big box stores. There’s still a pandemic going on.
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- Sandbags cannot prevent storm surge from entering a structure. But when used right, they can help.
- Pile sandbags in front of doorways and garages to keep out minor flooding. If a careless driver plows through a flooded street, sandbags can help prevent waves from rippling into a home or business.
- There are more effective variants, such as water-activated flood bags. They come in a variety of sizes — some as long as a two-car garage — and can be stacked together. They’re also reusable.
- Prepare the inside of the home or business for flooding. Get anything the water could destroy off the floor.
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Protect your electronics
- Consider having a whole-home surge protector hard-wired into the electric service panel to prevent a lightning strike from frying your electronics and appliances. Separate units can protect your cable, satellite, internet and phone lines.
- Make sure valuable electronics — TVs, computers, video game systems — are plugged into surge protectors. (Power strips don’t count.) Consider backup battery supply units.
- Surge protectors only last three to five years and can lose effectiveness without warning. Refresh them every few years.
- If you have to evacuate, unplug all your electronics.
- Don’t leave electronics on the floor or near windows. Place them on an elevated surface to protect them from flooding or water damage.
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2021 Tampa Bay Times hurricane guide
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Seven hurricane myths that need to go away
BACK-UP YOUR DATA: Protect your data, documents and photos
BUILD YOUR HURRICANE KIT: Gear up — and mask up — before the storm hits
PROTECT YOUR PETS: Here’s how to keep your pets as safe as you
NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter
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PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.
PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.
PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?
INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk