Here are tips to help reduce spring weather damage (and save you repair and cleanup $)
Spring is now upon is, and for a good part of the USA, this means the beginning of another storm season. Depending on where you live, a storm may mean different things, from heavy winds and rain with flooding, to tornadoes and thunderstorms to hurricanes.
While there is nothing we can do to stop adverse weather, there are numerous things we can do around our homes to lesson any damage we may receive. Very often ones property sustains more damage from falling debris than it does from the actual wind itself.
First I would recommend that every commuter, parent, teacher, childcare provider, retailer - everyone take a class in storm spotting. During this class, (the basic class ranges from 2-3 hours in length) one learns the basics of a storm, and reading of the sky. This tells you when to take cover and be prepared. True, modern science has enabled us to be warned in many cases ahead of time, but we are not always within range of siren warnings and they do not always go off.
I also strongly advise every home and business to have a good working weather radio, with good backup batteries. An all-electric one will not do you much good in a severe storm if the power goes out. Listen to the warnings and follow the directions you are given.
Prepare yourself for a storm well ahead of time. Most importantly, make sure all family members know where to report to during a storm. If you have a basement, this will be the time to use it. If not, find a nearby shelter, preferably underground away from basement windows and gas lines. If there is no nearby shelter, then find a room, closet or hallway with no windows in the center of your home and on the lowest floor possible. Avoid mobile homes!
In your shelter, I would recommend having a storm kit in a large Rubbermaid type container or something else that is waterproof. Clearly label it to the effect that is for storm use only. Keep an inventory on the lid as to its contents, and remember some items in it will need to be rotated to avoid expiring and to stay fresh. In it, I would recommend you keep at least 2 flashlights with extra batteries and bulb. (They make ones now that you can wind up to recharge), a portable radio that picks up your local station for weather updates, medication that may be needed for those within your home-such as insulin or heart meds (stress often brings out the worse of an illness), blankets and pillows, copies of your medical and property insurance and your agents name and number, quick energy snacks such as granola bars, bottles or jugs of water, perhaps baby formula, bottle, diaper and wipes if you have a little one, empty trash bags, battery run clock, a small air horn or whistle to sound in the event you are trapped in your shelter, pocket knife, matches, first aid kit notebook and pen, personal hygiene items, feminine supplies, TP and an empty large coffee can with a lid (for a makeshift toilet). Heavy gloves would come in handy if you come out to find broken glass. Rain ponchos for each family member could also come in use. You can buy them for under a dollar at Wal-Mart in a small plastic pouch in the sporting goods section. I also would advise that you keep a list of all emergency phone numbers, family names, and their medications. If you will be taking a pet with you, you may consider a zip lock bag of pet food. You may also want a small amount of cash in your kit as well.
These contents may seem like overkill, but you have 2 things to consider:
First, you have no idea how long you may be in your shelter. It could be 30 minutes or several hours.
Second, if your home above you is blown away, and you survive in your shelter, your storm box most likely will survive also. So, you may need those items longer than just the duration of the actual storm itself. If your storm area has the room, I would add a second tote of canned no-cook foods, such as canned meats, canned fruits, peanut butter and crackers. Be sure to include a non-electric can opener. I would also add toiletries and perhaps even a change of clothes and some soap.
You can also use your imagination with your kit. If you could not use your kitchen, how and what would you cook? If you have a stocked pond on your property, then you may want to include some fishhooks and line in your kit. A reading book or board game may also be desired for a family with children.
Every 3 months, go though your box and rotate out your snacks, medications, and water.
On a day of good weather, take note of your property. Do you have any trees that have dead limbs or loose limbs? The time to trim those is now, before the storm. Why have a dead limb fall on top of your home, car, or even a person during a storm? Also look at trees and bushes grown next to your home. Trim back any that the wind could cause to brush against your home causing windows to break or siding damage.
Look around your yard. In a high wind, many objects become airborne to injure, break, or kill. This includes trampolines, grills and smokers, trashcans and lids, doghouses, and garden tools. Put outside things away where they belong. Anchor down what you can. You can anchor down such items as swing sets, doghouses, trampolines and such to prevent them from becoming airborne weapons during winds.
Keep your rain gutters cleaned out, and make sure they are well secured to your house. Also make sure any shutters are well fastened.
Take note of any loose shingles that may need replacing. It's much more inexpensive to replace one than to let it blow off and take more with it and have to replace more and risk having a leaking roof.
Make sure all members of your family know how to turn off the gas, electric, and water at the main. Also instruct family members ahead of time to stay away from downed power lines.
Make it a habit to not park under power lines, poles, or trees when possible.
Keep your garage or carport cleared of clutter and organized so that you can actually use it to park in. This will help protect your vehicle from damage it may incur if parked outside.
Get a storm buddy. A storm buddy is someone you call after a storm passes to verify they are safe. They in turn, will try and contact you. If you can not reach each other, then you would contact emergency contact number, such as their closest neighbor or a relative to see if they have had contact with them.
Know your facts! A watch means conditions are right. A warning means take cover now.
Do you have a CD of your homes inventory? If not, take one now of your jewelry, furniture, antiques, furs, appliances, and cameras. Don't forget about items that may be inside drawers and cabinets. You would want to stand in the center of each room, and take pictures from each angle of the room. Open cabinet doors to show contents. Don't forget about items that may be in your yard or storage areas such as mowers, chain saws, and tools. Obviously you do not want to keep this CD in your home, but at a separate location such as a safety deposit box, and perhaps another copy at your work location. This CD can come in handy to identify stolen, blown away, and destroyed items for insurance. (You may also decide at the same time to engrave tools in the event of theft.)
Once a year take a look at your property insurance. Make sure it is up to date for replacement costs. If you have outbuildings, make sure they are covered. If you have new items, make sure they are covered, especially if they are antiques, coins or historical vehicles - some are not covered unless you add them on to your policy as a rider. Make sure you are covered for flood, hail, and possibly even earthquake. All these things do not automatically come on your policy.
When you are aware that a storm is approaching, check your timeline and plan accordingly. If you are hearing on your way to work, that there will be one later that night, you have some time to prepare. Make sure you know where all family members will be and instruct them to call you should their plans change. Make sure your family is going to be at a safe location-not outside at soccer practice. If you can, sleep in your shelter, rather than waiting for the sirens to go off after bedtime to race to the shelter. During the tornado season, I like to keep my shoes beside the bed. If I have to go to the basement, I don't have to worry about possibly stepping on broken glass or nails when I come back out.
Make sure your pets have their ID collars on. Some pets tend to be scared and run off during storms and this will help aid their return back home.
Make sure your children all know their address and phone number, as well as any allergies they may have.
Be sure all household members realize they do not leave the shelter until they can verify the storm is over AND the all clear has been given by the local radio station or through the warning siren system. Many injuries and deaths have occurred because people left their shelters too soon.
After a family has left their safe area, it would be wise to first send one adult member into the house to check for damages and other safety issues. Do not reenter until the house has been verified as safe by both a visual check and also by a smell check if you have gas. Often it is dark, so do your check with a flashlight, not with a candle or any type of open flame. Be sure to watch your step for any power lines that may be down. Do not go outside and "explore" for damage until daylight and power lines are up. Report any downed lines ASAP.
We can't stop the storms from coming, but with some preparation, we can help to ensure our safety and prevent some damages and injuries.