The temperature’s dropping, leaves are already falling, and the snow won’t be far behind. Autumn is in full swing, which means we are at the crossroads of hurricane season and winter storm season.
“Making it up as you go along” is great if you’re a jazz musician or abstract artist, but it’s a terrible idea for storm preparation. The best way to make it through a heavy storm that could disrupt power for days is to prepare in advance. At FMI, we take storm damage very seriously. Follow these home safety tips so you can stay prepared before no matter what hits.
Tip 1: Have Supplies on Hand
Large storms are almost always preceded by huge runs at grocery and hardware stores. Why? Because people fail to prepare beforehand. Don’t make that mistake. Be sure to always have storm damage supplies on hand in case you lose power or can’t leave the house. The Red Cross has a very helpful storm preparedness checklist that suggests you always have:
- 3-day supply of water—one gallon per person per day. Which means 12 gallons for a family of four.
- 3-day supply of food—best is non-perishable, easy-to-prepare foods. Think canned goods, and other foods that don’t spoil if you lose power to your refrigerator.
- 7-day supply of medications and medical supplies—this includes any prescription meds, hearing aids and batteries, glasses, syringes, etc.
- Baby supplies—Formula, baby food, diapers, etc.
- Pet supplies—Food, leash, carrier, bowls, etc.
Tip 2: Prepare Your Home
Powerful hurricanes and storms can wreak havoc on your home. You may not be able to control the weather, but you can do your best to mitigate any storm damage by following these home safety tips:
- Bring in anything that can be blown by the wind—bicycles, lawn furniture, outdoor holiday décor, etc.
- Remove weak branches and dead tree limbs—One of the most common causes of storm damage is wind-blown branches and tree limbs. Make sure your yard is free of anything that can cause damage when hurricane winds hit.
- Clear your gutters and downspouts—Over time, gutters and downspouts can get clogged up and not work the way they’re supposed to. Once a year, clean your gutters and make sure your downspouts are clear of leaves and debris.
- Close windows, doors, and hurricane shutters—If you don’t have hurricane shutters, try to board up all windows and doors with plywood
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting—In case you lose power, colder food will last longer.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors shut as long as possible—With no power, keeping the door shut keeps your food from spoiling
- Make sure your sump pump is working—A malfunctioning sump pump can quickly lead to flooding during a storm. Make sure yours is in good working order.
Tip 3: Have an Emergency Kit
An Emergency Prep Kit is another essential item to have ready before a huge storm hits. Essential supplies could be hard to come by in the days after a storm—particularly if you lose power. FEMA has an excellent list of Emergency Kit items that can help you stay prepared. FEMA recommends you have:
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- Wrench or pliers to shut off utilities
- Cell phone fully charged with backup battery packs
- First aid kit
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Fire extinguisher
- Important family documents such as insurance policies, bank accounts stored safely in waterproof container
- Paper cups, plates, napkins, and plastic utensils
- Books, games and other activities to keep occupied
Tip 4: Take a Personal Property Inventory
You don’t need to be a meteorologist to understand how storm damage can destroy your personal property. That’s why it’s important to document your home and property before the storm strikes. Take photos or videos of your home to record condition. Make sure the photos are securely stored, either in the cloud or backed up to someplace safe and secure.
Don’t forget to document your personal property of value—clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, heirlooms—anything of value that could get destroyed. Make sure all your documents are in a safe and waterproof location. A safe deposit box in a bank, or a safe in your home are both good options for keeping your inventory safe.
Tip 5: Preparing for a Blizzard
Though hurricanes tend to get more attention, blizzards can cause their share of damage as well. Plus they’re lot more common around New Jersey. When the next big winter snowstorm is forecast, here are some tips to prepare:
- Keep the cold out—Make sure your insulation, caulking and weather stripping are in good shape.
- Make sure outside pipes are clear—Exterior water pipes can freeze up and burst easily. Make sure any pipes leading to outdoor hoses are cleared. You can do this by shutting off the water main, and turning on the outdoor hose spigot until it empties of water.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—Make sure they are in working order, and that you have backup batteries on hand.
- Be careful shoveling snow—Overexertion in cold weather can lead to a surprise heart attack. If you’re feeling tired, take frequent breaks while shoveling.
- Salt your walkways and steps—Make sure you have plenty of rock salt or sand to prevent ice accumulation on your steps and walkway. You don’t want anyone to get hurt. This goes for freezing rain as well.
- Be mindful of leaks—One burst pipe can cause a world of damage. But you can proactively prevent leaks with a water detector.
- Use SmartHome technology: FMI also provides exclusive savings on a range of SmartHome products to help you stay on top of leaks, frozen pipes and more.
Review Your Insurance Policy
Finally, make sure you’re familiar with your Homeowners Insurance and what it covers. Check what your deductible is. That’s what you will have to pay if you have a covered loss. Other things to check your policy for: limits of coverage for items like jewelry or electronics. You can purchase more coverage for items such as those if you’re concerned about damage. Also, in case your home is unlivable after the storm, make sure your policy covers additional living expenses for the cost of a temporary residence such as a hotel, if you cannot reside in your home.
This is where having a trusted independent insurance agent can come in handy. They are the ideal resource to answer any questions about policies. As a rule of thumb, it’s smart to speak with your insurance agent at least once a year to touch base, and keep them informed of any significant life events so they can help you stay prepared for anything.
Have questions? Talk to your trusted insurance professional.
Your FMI agent is always available to assist you. They can help answer any questions about your coverage. They can also help you tailor your homeowner’s insurance to best meet your needs. Use your FMI agent as your go-to source of insurance information and advice.