Remember the summer of 2012 when we all learned the word “derecho” for the first time? That wild storm’s wind and rain caused power outages and downed trees throughout the Washington region, an area increasingly beset by tornados and torrential rain storms. Whether you live in an apartment, a town home or a single family home, there are steps you should take before the next storm hits so you are prepared for potential damage to your home or an extended power outage.
Whether you own your home or rent, you should take a proactive approach to protecting your property and your family.
• Check your roof yourself or hire a roof inspector to look for missing or loose shingles or possible spaces where water can seep into your home. Have these items repaired as soon as possible to prevent leaks during a storm.
• Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water to back-up and leak into your home or basement during heavy rain.
• Inspect your trees and shrubs. When winds whip up and tree limbs become waterlogged, they can easily be torn from the tree or even topple the entire tree onto your home, through your windows, onto your car or on top of a power line. Trimming weak limbs ahead of a storm can lessen the potential damage.
• Check your sump pump. If you have a sump pump, make sure it works properly and consider having a battery back-up system installed in case the power goes out.
• Keep track of your outdoor items. If a storm is coming, you may need to move your garbage cans and outdoor furniture to keep them from going airborne and causing damage.
Pre-storm Financial Preparations
While most storms pass by and leave behind piles of wet leaves and twigs, some unfortunately cause more damage. Getting back to normal is easier if you are financially prepared for an insurance claim, lost power and even a potential temporary relocation.
• Take a home inventory. Insurance claims for damaged or lost property are easier to make if you have documentation of your possessions. Tour your home with a camera and take photos or even a video of all of your electronics, appliances, furniture and artwork. You should take a photo of your closets and your garage to show the contents of those storage spaces and your attic if you have one. Keep this record along with receipts for major purchases at home and keep a back-up copy at our office or another location. You can also store an electronic version for safekeeping.
• Make a list of easily accessible phone numbers such as your utility companies and your insurance company, along with emergency contacts such as relatives and friends and babysitters so you aren’t scrambling for phone numbers in the midst of a storm. You can keep this list on your cell phone and have a printed version in case your cell phone doesn’t work and you have a landline available during a power outage.
• Make a list of your home insurance policy number and your bank account numbers and any other account numbers you may need in the aftermath of the storm.
• Keep some cash on hand. ATMs don’t work during a power outage and you may need to purchase some food or water after the storm passes.
• Have a credit card with available credit for emergency use. If your home is damaged or the power will be out for an extended time period you may need to check into a hotel or pay for additional meals out. If you have to pay a contractor for some immediate work, using a credit card can offer you protection in the case of shoddy work and provide a clear statement for reimbursement by your insurance company.
Residents of hurricane-prone areas like Florida have their storm supply list ready as soon as hurricane season begins, but everyone should have some supplies available in case of a power outage.
• A battery-operated flashlight. It’s best to have one for each family member. Don’t forget to have extra batteries on hand, too, since they sell out fast when a storm is predicted.
• A battery-operated radio and extra batteries. A radio can be your only source of information if you lose Internet and TV service.
• Bottled water. You’ll need water for drinking and cooking if the water supply is compromised.
• Non-perishable food. Be sure you have food available that won’t spoil and that doesn’t require cooking.
• Medications. Make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription medications on hand at all times, preferably at least an extra month’s worth of medicine.
• First-aid kit. A basic first-aid kit should always be in your home, but this is particularly important during a storm when stores may be closed and roads impassable.
• A battery or crank-operated charger for your cell phone. You should charge your cell phone when a storm approaches, but having a back-up charger for extended power outages can be helpful.
• A cell phone charger for your car. Another back-up plan for your cell phone is a cord that allows you to charge it while driving.
• A generator. If you live in an area prone to lengthy power outages, you may want to consider purchasing a generator. While a generator won’t power your entire home, you can use one to keep your perishable food safe and for cooking.
If your home does get hit hard by a storm, you’ll need to check for damage after the storm passes. Be careful to avoid injuring yourself when inspecting your home. Take photos of any damage for insurance purposes.
While we all hope to escape the worst of summer storms, taking steps to prepare before the deluge can protect you, your family and your home.