Are you ready for Hurricane Season? 26-point Checklist and Dan’s interview with NPR!
Weather events across the globe are getting more extreme every year. Even if you have not gotten around to doing emergency preparations in the past, this year it’s a must-do, unless you live in one of these:
We are bombarded by hurricane advice this time of year, but very few people actually make these important preparations in advance. As an established contractor in Houston, I have dealt with the destruction done by eight named tropical storms and hurricanes over the years. In the aftermath, I have seen what homeowners really do (and don’t do) to prepare. My company, Legal Eagle Contractors, Co. has responded to all the flooding and wind damage emergencies and other calamities that these storms bring. I also get calls from my clients before a storm comes, asking what they need to do to prepare for weather emergencies.
Here are some suggestions based on my experience over the years. Since storms can knock out your power for one to 3 weeks, you should stock up on essentials to last at least that long.
The following is a list of preparation essentials:
1. Have enough bottled water on hand: 1 gallon per day, per person, including pets. It is a good idea to freeze some gallon jugs of water (if you have room in your freezer!) as this will help keep food colder if the power is out for an extended period of time.
2. A solar or hand-crank radio is an essential tool to have during these storms. If the power and internet are out, this may be the only way that you can get important storm information, such as approaching tornadoes. Here is a link to a good one from Walmart: https://tinyurl.com/Emergency-radio-link
3. Fill your bathtub with water to use for flushing the toilets.
4. Fill your car’s gas tank early, not at the last minute, and store your cars in the garage, if possible.
5. Buy plenty of non-perishable food to last a couple of weeks, such as breads, canned and dry goods.
6. Have a manual can-opener on hand. A wine corker is good too if you are so inclined.
7. Have a gas-bottle camp stove. Note: Even if you have a gas stove, it probably won’t light without electrical power unless it is more than 15 years old. Use the camp stove outside only.
8. LED flashlights are cheap, so have several on hand as well as extra batteries. Also, it is good to have an LED lantern of some kind.
9. Move loose items off the patio, such as BBQ pits, patio chairs and tables and umbrellas, potted plants, etc.
10. Have an emergency medical kit with an instruction manual in it.
11. Call a reputable contractor as early as possible. A list of trustworthy Houston remodelers can be found at the Greater Houston Builders Association website:
12. Meet with your family and designate a “shelter room”, a room in the center of your home, with no windows. If you know that a tornado is in the area, the best rooms are under your stairs if you have a 2-story home, or lay down in the bathtub, especially the elderly and children.
13. Determine a safe family meeting place outside of your home, but nearby, as well as an out-of-town meeting place.
14. Know how to turn off your gas, water, and power supply. Most people don’t know how to turn off the main breaker. Turning off the water at your meter requires a special tool or locking pliers. In my area the meter is usually near the street, by your driveway. To turn off the gas at the meter you need a large plumbing wrench. Practice turning these off and on to be sure you can do it in an emergency.
15. Kitchen items to be sure that you have include garbage bags, paper towels, cooking pans and utensils, moist towelettes, mess kits (which include plates, plastic forks and knives and cups), in case you must evacuate and are living elsewhere for a while.
16. Most people don’t do this but it is important to do this: gather your important family documents, such as Wills, passports, insurance papers, ID cards, banking documents, and put them in a water-proof container.
17. Make a list of your emergency contacts and numbers. Have a hand-written list of your family members, physicians, neighbors, and friends.
18. Create an emergency “bug dash-out kit”. This could be a duffel bag with food, water, first aid kit, medications, documents, flashlights, phone chargers and cords, infant formula and diapers, sleeping bags, a change of clothes, mess kits, books, games and puzzles for children, cash, and feminine hygiene products. Keep this bug-out kit in a location that everyone in the family knows. It should be something that you can just grab and go in an emergency.
19. If your budget allows, it is a great idea to have a portable gasoline generator with five 2.5 gallons of regular, unleaded gasoline on hand. Be sure to run this generator outside only, not in the garage or too close to the house.
20. If you have a stand-by generator it will automatically disconnect your house from the grid while it is running. This is the most convenient lifestyle during a storm with power outages, but they are expensive. If you can afford one, get one. Depending on what you want to have running inside, a standby generator will cost between $15,000 and $30,000. I prefer the natural gas models. It is wise to purchase a maintenance service plan to check the generator periodically to make sure it is working properly – and is not full of fire ants and chameleons, which happens a lot in Houston.
21. If you are a “planner”, you can hire someone to build plywood window covers that will prevent windows from being broken by flying debris.
22. There are a myriad of large back-up batteries with solar chargers to recharge them. These cost between $800 and $2500 or more, but they can be a life saver if the power is out for an extended period of time. These can charge your phones, and run lamps, your internet router, TV, refrigerators and freezers.
23. Structural damage. If a tree or tree limb lands on your house, stay away from that area. Go outside when it is safe and see if it has done serious damage to your house or a small amount. If it is extensive, stay away from that area until it can be evaluated by a structural engineer. Structural damage is tricky. Your roof can give way unexpectedly at any time. If a tree limb or any other flying debris hits your power line, or if the power goes out for any reason, or you leave your home, turn off the main breaker. Do not turn off the main breaker if there is damage to the glass meter, or the wires dropping from the pole to your house. In that case leave it as is and call an electrician.
24. If water begins to come into your home, move all computers and important papers above 3’, this is the height of your kitchen cabinets. If possible, put major furniture pieces up on stacks of bricks or paint cans.
25. If water is rising to where it will start getting into your outlets, tum the main breaker off and get out of the house.
26. If you smell gas, get out of the house immediately and notify CenterPoint. Do NOT turn the gas off at the meter, just leave as fast as you can.