By Sirena Rubinoff, Networx
Your home is more than a simple shelter against the elements. It is where you keep the things and people you value most. In order to let your home do its job of protecting you, you need to do your part in protecting it -- especially when you live in coastal areas that lie in the path of tropical storms year after year. Hurricane season runs from June to November, so be sure to go through all of these safety precautions well before the weather starts to turn.
Windows are one of the biggest sources of damage to homes and other building structures during storm season. If your windows are not properly protected, they can break and let wind, water, and debris enter the house. Wind can even enter through cracks or small holes around the window frame, and built-up air pressure inside the window frame can blow out the windows and walls of a home. There are two ways to protect your home from experiencing this kind of devastation. The most common and most important form of protection is to install storm shutters over all windows and exposed glass surfaces, including skylights and doors with windows. You can get clear panel hurricane shutters made out of a super strong (and yet lightweight) polycarbonate resin for as little as $6 per linear foot, or you can go with something more classic like these wooden storm shutter panels that look great on your windows all year round.
If you live on the coast and have the budget to replace your current windows, we strongly recommend you invest in the installation of impact-resistant windows. These windows are specially designed with reinforced glass and structural elements to withstand the impact of flying debris and strong winds. If you can't replace your windows, you can still protect your home from broken glass by adding safety film to all of your windows. This kind of film is designed to hold glass fragments together after a pane of glass has broken. Laminated films are best for protecting areas at risk of repeated impact.
Strong storm winds can lift and move many things. You do not want your roof to be one of them. Make sure to check out the connection between your roof and walls before storm season starts. You can prepare your roof to be strong enough to resist the "uplift" effect of strong winds by ensuring that roof trusses and rafters are all properly tied down to exterior walls with metal hurricane connectors or straps. Do not rely on nails because they can be pulled out by powerful winds. The metal connectors should be attached to wall studs for maximum strength and security. Also check your roof for holes or tears and be sure to repair them even if they are small -- wind doesn't need a large entryway to cause major damage to a home.
House Doors and Garage Doors
Your house and garage doors probably already have bolts, but these will not hold up against hurricane-strength winds. If you don't already have a hurricane bolt system in place, head over to your local building supplies retailer and fine a sturdy one that will work well with your existing door and doorframe. Once you have a bolt system, make sure to routinely check it to make sure it is easy to operate and that it works properly. Garage doors will require more reinforcement because of their size. In addition to locking bolts, you may want to invest in vertical and horizontal bracing along the interior of the door, as well as reinforced end stiles to keep the door from twisting out of shape or collapsing.
Inside Your Home
Once you have prepared the frame of your home for hurricane season, you can move on to the interior of your home. Ordinary furniture and appliances can become hazardous to you and your family if wind comes through your home and starts knocking things down or moving objects. In order to avoid this, you should secure large objects like bookshelves and refrigerators to the floor and walls. Anchor anything that can move. The more secure your belongings, the more protected your home will be.
Outside Your Home
If you know a storm is heading your way, you should clear your porches, patios and yards of any loose object that could become a projectile in high winds. This includes toys, yard tools, garden furniture, and even tree branches.
Tropical storm season can be devastating for residents of the coasts. Don't let yourself get caught unprepared. Prepare early and be sure to check the news regularly for storm warnings. You can also check out the government's FEMA Web site for more information.