Getting Prepared for Hurricane Season
Hurricanes are strong tropical storms that can bring torrential rain, winds, flooding, and more. Depending on a hurricane's severity, it can be devastating to any area it reaches. Fortunately, with hurricanes, there’s usually time to prepare, so you have the chance to mitigate risk. Today, we’re going to share tips to help prepare your family, finances, and home this hurricane season and beyond.
Preparing Your Family
Family comes first. When preparing for a hurricane, you should have a plan and be ready to execute it. That means making sure your family is accounted for and that everyone understands their role in weathering a potential storm. Here are a few ways to help ensure your family is ready for whatever may come.
Create and Discuss Your Emergency Plan
When creating your plan for protecting your family in the event of a possible weather emergency, you should take into account all household members, including pets, and follow any applicable local, state, and national guidelines. All members of your family should review and discuss your plan regularly, especially as hurricane season approaches. You’ll want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Here are a few things to consider as you compile your family’s plan:
- Weather conditions that activate your plan
- Assigning out responsibilities to ensure your plan is executed properly
- Assigned evacuation routes (if applicable)
- Exits and meeting points in case your home is damaged
- Considerations for work, school, or daycare
- Updated emergency phone numbers, including family and nearby friends
Pro-Tip: Just in case you are separated from your family, it’s important to make sure they have access to finances. Make sure you have a plan in place that will enable your family to access the funds they need.
Stock up on Essential Supplies
When a hurricane is closing on your area, the time to gather food, water, or other supplies has passed. This is the time to hunker down or evacuate. Either way, it’s imperative that your family has everything they need to get by. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having a 3-day supply of food and water. While supplies should be specific to your family’s needs, things you should have on hand include:
- One gallon of water per person per day
- A large cooler and bagged ice to keep perishable food if the power goes out
- Nonperishable and canned foods
- Can opener (non-electric)
- Pet food and supplies
- Any required medications
- First aid kit
- Camp stove
- Bleach and other cleaning supplies
Pro-Tip: It’s critical to make sure you have enough fuel in the event of a severe weather emergency. If you are asked to evacuate, you may not have an opportunity to stop along the way and fill your car’s tank with gasoline. If you have a camp stove, as recommended above, it won’t run without propane. And even if your home has a generator, it cannot power anything if it doesn’t have any fuel.
Preparing Your Finances
Now that you have a plan for keeping your family secure, let’s talk about safeguarding your finances. Going through a hurricane can lead to a number of financial challenges, from property damage to unplanned time off work and even spikes in your everyday expenses. These steps will help you prepare in case you ever experience a crisis.
Double-Check Your Insurance
Reviewing your insurance is a great starting point for emergency prep. We recommend going over your medical, home, and auto insurance policies to understand what is and is not covered in the event of a severe weather event. Speak with a licensed professional and purchase additional coverage as needed to ensure that you won’t be penalized for holes in your plan. These are a few of the things you should ask about when checking with your provider:
- Flood damage
- Wind damage
- Temporary living expenses
- Which personal belongings are covered
Have Some Cash on Hand
Typically, we recommend taking advantage of digital solutions like mobile wallet technology wherever possible. These generally offer a more secure experience and can be quite a bit more convenient than carrying cash. However, strong storms can have a devastating impact on power grids and telecommunication services. In some circumstances, card payments may not work at all – let alone contactless payment options.
When this happens, it’s important to have access to some cash just in case you need any last-minute or emergency supplies. The amount is up to you, but we recommend setting aside $500 as a starting point to allow for some emergency spending if necessary.
Create an Emergency Fund
There are many reasons to start an emergency fund. You never know when you’re going to run into an unexpected expense, so it is crucial to being prepared in the event of a severe weather emergency. Your emergency fund should have at least $1,000 that you can easily access. Of course, there’s no harm in adding more if you’re able, but $1,000 is a good starting point.
Pro-Tip: If you have the financial bandwidth to put more than $1,000 in your emergency fund, you should. Looking at your insurance deductibles is a great step for determining how much you may want to have available. Another way to determine how much to set aside is by calculating your earnings for 3 – 6 months and choosing a figure in that range.
Protect Your Personal and Financial Documents
While many of your possessions can be replaced if they are lost or damaged, personal and financial documents may be a little harder to recover. Naturally, these can be replaced if necessary, but this can be a long, stressful process. If you have paper documents at home, you should take special precautions in case of an emergency.
Start by placing them in waterproof bags or containers to protect the physical copies. We also highly recommend scanning them, so you have digital copies readily available. You should also consider leaving such documents in a secure fireproof safe or renting a safety deposit box at your local bank or credit union.
Pro-Tip: If you do have digital copies, save them to a cloud storage provider. Remember, if you just have them saved to your computer, they may not be able to be recovered if your computer is damaged in the storm.
Preparing Your Home
As you take steps to protect your family and secure your finances, it only makes sense that you would give special consideration to your most important investment – your home. Remember, a home is likely the most significant financial investment you will ever make, so it’s important to be ready if you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes or tropical storms. Here are a few steps you can take to be ready in case of such an event.
Inspect and Maintain Your Roof
All homeowners understand the value of regular home maintenance, but if your home is in an area that makes it susceptible to hurricanes, you will want to pay extra attention to the roof. Your home's first line of defense against a hurricane is a durable, leak-free roof. Check for wear, damage, and leaks long-before hurricane season starts. A professional can inspect your roof, make a list of loose shingles or tiles, and advise on any needed repairs. Depending on your home's location, you may also need to inspect, replace, or install roof straps to secure it during potentially high winds.
Clean and Secure Your Gutters
Your home's gutters will really be put to the test during a hurricane. When they work correctly, gutters divert water away from your home, so cleaning and inspecting your gutters is a must. This is an oft-overlooked chore, but it can help ensure that your home is ready to weather a strong storm. Gutter work can require some dangerous ladder use, so work with a professional anytime you need help.
Secure Your Outdoor Items
During the high winds of a tropical storm or hurricane, almost anything left outside can become a dangerous projectile. If you know a storm is headed in your direction, bring outdoor furniture, equipment, tools, and toys inside before a storm starts. If you cannot bring something indoors, strap it down and try to add enough weight to ensure it won't go flying.
Prepare Your Windows and Doors
High winds and debris can knock out windows or break down doors during a hurricane. To protect your home, start by inspecting all openings to your home, both inside and out. Inspect and reapply caulking on windows and doors as needed. When a storm is imminent, close your storm doors and shutters, and make sure they are secure.
Additionally, board up your windows with plywood on the outside for more protection from breaks. This will not only help protect you and your family from some physical threat, but it can also help prevent expensive home repairs down the road.
Plan for Power Outages
As much as we may wish otherwise, the power grid is still vulnerable to outages during severe storms – especially hurricanes. These outages can last for days or even weeks after the storm has passed. Even if you can’t afford to purchase a generator that will allow you to continue using your electronic devices, you may still take some steps to make your home as comfortable as possible without power. Even simple DIY projects like installing heavier curtains to help insulate your home or setting up a convenient place to cook outdoors after the storm can help you and your family be ready in case your home loses power in the wake of a hurricane.
Locate Important Shut-Off Valves or Switches
In some emergency situations, you may need to shut off your gas, water, or power to prevent damage. Call your local providers and ask them to help you identify emergency shut-offs and how to use them if needed. They may also already have resources they can share to help you protect a home in your area through specific emergency scenarios.
Using a Home Equity Loan to Weather the Storm
One huge advantage that homeowners have, especially once they’ve been in their home for several years, is that their home builds equity over time. At First Service, we work with you to take advantage of the equity in your home to get cash for the things you need. Whether you are planning to make improvements to your home, trying to consolidate debt, or even making costly repairs after a strong storm, our home equity loans are designed to help you get access to the cash you need. They can also be used to fund your hurricane preparation. Complete the form below to speak with one of our friendly, local advisors about how First Service can help you prepare for whatever life may throw your way.