Spring to summer and likewise summer to fall generally brings volatile weather and that can mean tornadoes, hurricanes along the coasts, and flash flooding in low-lying areas after a rain. Over the last 10 years, hurricanes have caused more than $300 billion in damage to homes and businesses, affecting tens of millions of Americans. That why we believe the information we impart following is most important. A check list to help you prepare through every step, brought to you by ServiceMaster Restore.
Hurricane Preparedness Tip Sheet
Before The Storm
Communicating with Family
During a hurricane, power outages and cell phone tower outages are common, literally breaking down lines of communication. One of the best and easiest-to-implement steps to preparedness is to communicate your evacuation plan with friends, family and loved ones.
• Pinpoint a meeting location or emergency lodging area near your home, as well as one that’s outside of your neighborhood. If your family becomes separated, everyone will know where to find each other.
• Identify an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as the official family contact, and be sure all family members have his or her contact information in their cell phones and on a laminated contact card; provide family member with current photos of each member of the family (including pets); make copies of your family’s medical records.
• If you have pets, identify a list of refuge sites that allow pets: boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, pet-friendly hotels, stables, homes of friends and relatives.
Protecting Your Home
• Identify water bodies, ie: lakes, dams, rivers, ocean, around you and determine whether they pose a hazard to your home
• Ensure that your subpump is working/in order.
• Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts and make sure they are dispersing water away from the house’s foundation.
• Check your foundation to see if there are any leaks. Applying a sealant or a coating to these areas will help reduce the amount of water that enters the home.
• If a hurricane is headed your way, cover all of your home’s windows and make sure to remove all outside antennas.
Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. o Note: Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
• Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
• Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant and less likely to break and fly onto your roof or into your windows.
• Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
• Turn off all household electric or gas appliances to help reduce the risk of fire
• Install an emergency generator in case there is a power outage after a storm.
Securing the Basic Necessities
When preparing for something that could likely uproot you and your family from your home – or leave you without the option of going to the store–make sure you have all the basics for at least a week.
• Estimate that each family member will need a gallon of water every three days and stock up accordingly. If you have pets, purchase extra for them.
• Have a ready supply of nonperishable foods (including canned pet food) and the tools to open them, like a manual can opener, as well as plastic and disposable utensils to eat with.
• Refill prescriptions several days before a hurricane to ensure you have at least a week’s supply.
• Create an emergency bag with items such as cash, a first aid kit, medications, prescriptions, batteries for flashlights, disinfectants, blankets and a fire extinguisher.
• Make sure cell phones are fully charged and there are spare phone chargers in the car and in the emergency kit.
• Fill-up your vehicle’s gas tank.
• Purchase a battery-operated AM/FM radio or television to stay updated on weather events.
Protecting Your Investment
If you have to evacuate your home, make sure what you leave behind is protected, including insurance and financial documents. Take pictures of your home and all your documents so you have a record if you need them.
• Familiarize yourself with your insurance policies to make sure you are covered against natural disasters. Read the fine print. Many policies state that you have an obligation to prevent damage from getting worse (i.e. making things unsalvageable or being a total loss).
• If you’re working with a company like ServiceMaster Restore, lean on them for their advice and guidance. ServiceMaster Restore works with insurance companies all the time and helps many of our customers with insurance claims. Often times we become the point people for claims adjusters.
• Photograph the interior and exterior of your home so you can provide your insurance company with a record of all valuables.
• Store important documents in waterproof containers. You won’t be able to take everything with you if you have to evacuate, so make sure you protect what’s left behind.
During a Storm
Putting Safety First
When a hurricane hits, you must put safety first. Be diligent about checking for weather updates. If there’s a call to evacuate, take only what you need, even if it means leaving sentimental belongings behind.
• Pay attention to the TV or radio for information, instructions and weather patterns; heed all evacuation warnings.
• Close and secure all doors and windows.
• Turn off all electrical and gas appliances.
• If in a high-rise building, take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
• Limit phone and laptop usage for only emergency situations to preserve battery life.
After a Storm
Assessing the Damage
When a hurricane hits, it can vary in severity. Prepare yourself to the best of your ability and never underestimate the power or strength of a hurricane, that way you’re prepared to the best of your ability. If you have to evacuate, do it. If you need help during the cleanup process, call a professional like ServiceMaster Restore, who has the experience, training and resources to work with you and your insurance company to help restore your home to normal.
• Put on protective clothing before entering a hurricane-damaged home.
• Assess the situation. If electrical appliances are in standing water or in rooms saturated with water, call a professional immediately.
• Begin water cleanup and removal as soon as possible (within 24-48 hours) to avoid mold and further water damage
o Remove wet area rugs or other floor coverings
o Use a wet/dry vacuum to soak up excess water
o Wipe furniture dry and prop up cushions to help them dry
o Discard non-valuable wet items
o Use fans or dehumidifiers if the outside temperature is above 60 degrees
Emergency Supply Checklist
• Three days worth of non-perishable food items, manual can opener and plastic utensils
o One gallon of water per person for three days, extra for pets
• Extra blankets, clothing and waterproof shoes
• Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
• First aid kit and list of medications/prescriptions
• Cell phone and charger
• Personal hygiene items
• Flashlights and plenty of fresh batteries
• Local map and whistle to signal for help
• Alternate cooking source
• Fire extinguisher
• Crescent or pipe wrench to turn off gas and water
• One quart of unscented bleach or iodine tablets for disinfecting surfaces
• Pens and paper
• Camera to take pictures of post-storm damage to home and/or vehicles
• Cage, leash and harness
• Bowls and 3-day supply of water and food
• Microchip numbers
• Medications and health records/care instructions
• Litter box/litter
• Newspaper for sanitary purposes
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About ServiceMaster Restore
With more than 1,800 franchised and licensed locations around the world, ServiceMaster Restore and ServiceMaster Recovery Management serve customers through a global network of franchises available 24/7/365 to provide residential and commercial restoration services resulting from damage caused by water, fire or smoke. ServiceMaster Recovery Management (SRM) is the large scale commercial catastrophic disaster restoration unit of ServiceMaster Restore. More information can be found at www.servicemasterrecoverymanagement.com