Hurricanes are powerful tropical cyclones characterized by heavy rains, strong winds, and rotating clouds. These storms form over warm ocean waters and can significantly damage your home when they surge onto land. So keeping family safe from hurricanes at home should top your priority especially if you are from hurricane-prone regions like Florida.
Hurricane season, which spans from early June to late November, is particularly alarming for those living in coastal regions. Even the lowest hurricane category can wreak havoc on your home and adversely affect your family’s safety and well-being.
Because of such concerns, you should be well-informed about protecting your family from hurricanes at home. Key steps include reinforcing doors, roofs, and windows, stocking emergency supplies, and creating safe zones and evacuation routes.
Keep reading this guide to familiarize yourself with the proactive steps you should take to keep your family safe from hurricanes.
What Is a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a tropical storm which forms over warm ocean waters. It’s a large-scale weather system with violent winds, heavy rains, and a distinct center called an eye. Hurricanes are also known as typhoons or cyclones in various parts of the world.
These storms derive energy from the tropical oceans’ moisture and heat. The warm ocean water offers enough fuel for the storm to bolster itself and sustain its intensity.
As warm air blasts off the ocean surface, it forms a low-pressure zone. Surrounding air fills the void, producing strong winds that roll inward towards the storm’s center.
A hurricane’s strength is classified using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which divides hurricanes into categories (1 to 5) depending on their sustained wind speeds. The higher the number, the more intense the winds. For example, Category 5 hurricanes have the worst devastating winds, surpassing 157 miles per hour.
Hurricanes are linked with several hazards, the most notable being violent wind, which can severely damage infrastructure and vegetation. The integration of strong winds and low atmospheric pressure close to the storm’s center can cause a storm surge, which triggers coastal flooding.
Meteorological firms use radar systems, aircraft surveillance, and satellites to examine and track hurricanes. These supplies aid in projecting the path and magnitude of the hurricanes, allowing for early warnings to possibly affected regions. With this information, you can take precautions and prepare to protect your family and property.
What Are the Effects of Hurricanes?
Hurricanes strike with lethal force, impacting coastal and inland regions. Given below are the effects of a hurricane:
- Powerful Winds
Hurricanes are infamous for their strong winds, severely damaging buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation. Violent winds can uproot trees, and topple utility poles, causing widespread power outages and communication network issues.
- Heavy Rainfall
Hurricanes often come with intense rainfall. The heavy precipitation can lead to flooding, endangering life and property. Floodwaters can subdue drainage systems, roads, buildings, and homes and cause displacement of people. Heavy rains also result in landslides and mudslides in hilly areas.
- Storm Surge
Storm surge is among the most deadly aspects of a hurricane. Storm surge is rising sea levels caused by a hurricane’s high winds pushing water towards the coast. This water surge can lead to coastal flooding, eroding beaches, and endangering life in low-lying areas.
Another downside of hurricanes is tornadoes. These tornadoes can facilitate localized destruction, like damaging infrastructure, buildings, and vehicles. Tornadoes caused by hurricanes are usually brief and fast-moving, making them more dangerous.
- Coastal Erosion
Heavy rains, storm surges, and powerful winds can bring about coastal erosion. The intensity of the hurricane’s waves may erode beaches and cliffs, changing the shoreline and destroying coastal infrastructure.
- Disruption of Services
Hurricanes can interfere with power lines and substations, causing localized power outages for an extended period. Water supply and sewage systems can also be compromised, limiting access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Other essential services that hurricanes impact include transportation networks (roads, bridges, and airports). They all can be rendered impassable or partially damaged.
- Environmental Impact
Hurricanes can cause long-term environmental implications. The heavy precipitation can result in water pollution as harmful substances are washed into rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. Also, the decimation of vegetation and habitats can affect ecosystems and wildlife.
- Economic Consequences
The aftermath of hurricanes extends to the local economy. Small businesses, for example, can struggle to recover from the loss of customer base and inventory. Rebuilding and fixing annihilated infrastructure and homes can be time-consuming and costly. Also, the tourism and hospitality industries may experience a decrease in visitors because of the perception of the area being unsafe. The economic implications can last for years after a severe hurricane.
- Health Risks
Individuals impacted by hurricanes can have health complications. Stagnant floodwaters may be contaminated with hazardous substances, raising the risk of waterborne diseases. The demolition of basic services, including healthcare facilities and access to medication, can also affect public health.
- Displacement and Homelessness
Severe storms can force individuals to vacate their homes for prolonged periods. Sometimes, homes can be completely decimated, leaving families without shelter. This displacement can cause temporary or long-term homelessness, demanding emergency housing and support.
- Emotional and Psychological Toll
The effects of a hurricane go beyond physical destruction to have a profound emotional and psychological impact on victims. Survivors might suffer trauma, anxiety, grief, and depression as they lose homes, belongings, and loved ones.
Note: These effects display the destructive nature of hurricanes and the essence of preparedness to reduce their impact on communities. Steps to counter hurricanes include community resilience initiatives, effective evacuation plans, and more.
How Can I Make My House Hurricane Proof?
If you stay in hurricane-prone areas, taking proactive measures to protect your house all year can guarantee the safety of your family and most valuable assets. Here are ways to hurricane-proof your house without compromising the overall aesthetic:
- Roof Reinforcement
Most homes affected by hurricanes sustain roof damage. You can keep your home from hurricane damage by installing impact-resistant roofing materials, like concrete tiles or metal. Such materials can tolerate strong winds and flying debris.
Routinely inspect your roof for worn-out materials to keep them from flying off your house during hurricanes. Ensure you install hurricane straps or clips to secure the roof to your home’s frame. These steel brackets offer additional strength.
- Windows Protection
Hurricanes generate high winds, which may trigger debris to go airborne. This risk is particularly dangerous around windows that could fracture into numerous glass fragments.
Protect your home from heavy winds by installing impact-resistant windows. These windows have insulated tempered glass and warp-resistant frames, suitable for withstanding strong winds and airborne debris.
Cover the existing windows using hurricane shutters and ensure they are made of high-quality materials.
- Door Protection
Like windows, doors are vulnerable to damage from flying debris. Double-entry doors are more susceptible to wind damage. Reinforce these doors with a heavy-duty deadbolt lock to strengthen their weak points to ensure home safety.
Use hurricane-impact glass and storm shutters to protect other liable entryways. Inspect your doors and frames for broken seals, and replace the caulk on spaces where water can penetrate.
Sandbags can also do wonders in the case of a hurricane. Stack the sandbags into a wall-like structure to prevent storm surge waters from entering your house.
- Garage Doors
Rushing water, flying debris, and high winds can also damage garage doors. Begin by decluttering your garage to free up the space for keeping outdoor furniture during a hurricane. After that, install garage door locks and put weatherstrips at the bottom. Install hurricane panels for extra protection.
Gutters direct water away from your home’s roof and foundation, so you should prepare them for heavy rains. One way to achieve this is by using a leaf blower to blow dry debris from the gutters. Then, wear your work gloves and collect the remaining leaves, dirt, and sticks from the chutes.
Inspect the gutters for damage or possible weak points. Fix sagging sections and loose connections to protect the system during a hurricane. If your gutters cannot hold up a storm, reinforce them with robust hangers.
- Outdoor Systems and Appliances
Hurricane storms can destroy your outdoor HVAC system. Avoid this danger by equipping the system with metal tie-down straps. These gadgets anchor the system to the ground, making it challenging for powerful winds to lift it.
Additionally, you’ll need a surge protector to keep your system from power surges. A power surge can render your systems and appliances useless despite lasting for a few seconds.
So it only makes sense to invest in a surge protector to keep the excess voltage from coming into contact with your appliances when power resumes.
- Clear The Surroundings
Trees present a major threat to homes during a hurricane. Eliminating trees to prepare for hurricane season might not make sense if the tree is healthy and adds to your home’s appeal.
Alternatively, you can trim your trees to ensure they are not vulnerable to destruction from strong winds. Take out rotting branches and unhealthy trees that may fall due to high winds.
- Locate Your Utility Shutoffs
Hurricane damage can trigger power surges and cracks in water and gas lines, causing electrical shock, flooding, and fire. Identify the gas, water, and electricity shutoffs so you understand how to turn these utilities off when a hurricane approaches.
You can turn off your home’s electricity by flicking the main circuit breaker switch. The switch is in the electrical box, typically located in a utility closet, the basement, or the garage. Most homes have the main water valve in the basement, closet, or an outside utility area.
Use a wrench to turn off a gas line. You can achieve this by turning the shutoff valve by the gas meter into the off position.
- Identify a Safe Room
If you cannot evacuate during a storm, identify the safest room in the house. The best place to take refuge should be far from glass doors or windows. If your basement does not pose a flood risk, it is the best place for your family. The safest place for homes lacking a basement is the bathroom or a first-floor closet.
- Review Your Insurance Policy
Most typical insurance policies do not cover flooding. Even if a hurricane caused it, homeowners insurance only covers damage from tropical storm winds and rain. You can purchase flood insurance separately. Review your insurance policy to discover what is covered, and add coverage as necessary.
How to Protect Your Family from Hurricane Damage
The surest way to guarantee your home’s safety is to prepare it for all the risks a hurricane can cause. Find out more below:
- Prepare an Emergency Kit
Select a sturdy bag for keeping your family’s necessities in one place should you shelter at home or in the event of an evacuation. The kit’s size depends on your family’s size and individual needs. It would help to get more than one bag and keep the kit in an allocated spot, ensuring everyone knows where it is.
Stock the bags with the following items:
- Nonperishable food
- A whistle
- Duct tape
- Garbage bags
- A flashlight
- Cell phone with chargers and backup battery
- Plastic ties
- A first-aid kit
- A dust mask
- Plastic sheeting
- Wrench to shut off utilities
If you own pets, include their essentials as well. Apart from these general supplies, pack prescription drugs and other relevant documentation.
- Make an Evacuation Plan
An evacuation plan is crucial, particularly in a hurricane-prone area. The plan should incorporate a specified meeting place. This can be useful if you are not with your family when the heavy winds hit. Or when you separate from your family during the storm. Ensure you all practice meeting at the predetermined location and go over the evacuation route in your region.
- Get Enough Supplies of Water, Food, and Essentials
If you are not told to vacate your home, these reserves will sustain you and your family in case of power outages, blocked roads, and flooding. Fill plastic bottles with drinking water because you’ll have limited access to clean water for some days. Also, fill bathtubs or sinks with enough water for washing and flushing the toilet.
You may also need a home generator to offer electricity during power loss. This should help sustain essential services, like refrigeration and lighting.
What Type of House Can Survive a Hurricane?
The high impact of heavy winds has put hurricane-proof house design at the forefront of many architects’ minds. So what type of house can survive a hurricane? The best type of house to fare well in a hurricane season is one with concrete or steel composition, with a multi-slope roof and circular exterior shapes.
While no house is completely immune to severe hurricanes, some types of construction and design can boost a home’s resilience against storm winds. Here’s a list of houses that can withstand a hurricane:
- Reinforced Concrete Homes
Houses with reinforced concrete walls, roofs, and foundations are proven to resist hurricane winds. Concrete is durable, strong, fire-resistant, and readily available. It can resist storm surges better than most building materials.
- Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) Homes
SIP homes comprise robust foam insulation panels enclosed between two layers of structural boards. These panels have outstanding durability and insulation properties, making the house more hurricane-proof. Structural Insulated Panel homes also have fewer air leaks, which helps to sustain internal pressure during high winds.
- Elevated Homes on Stilts or Pilings
These houses are mostly found in hurricane-prone areas. They are built on stilts or pilings. By raising the living space above the possible flood level, these homes can prevent the risk of water damage when a storm hits.
- Dome Homes
Dome-shaped houses allow wind to flow smoothly around them, minimizing wind resistance due to their aerodynamic shape. Also, the curved structure spreads forces more uniformly, making them withstand strong winds better.
- Metal Frame Homes
Metal frame houses are becoming more common in hurricane-prone areas because of their incredible strength and durability. The best part? They are less vulnerable to termite and fire damage than wood. Metal roofs can resist strong winds and flying debris.
- Monolithic Dome Homes
These homes are built with a single, flawless structure made of concrete. The curved design and reinforced construction make monolithic dome homes highly resilient to high winds.
What to Do at Home During Hurricane
If you stay in coastal regions, you know that hurricane season is no laughing matter. The best way to keep your family safe from this deadly storm is to prepare, plan, and take the necessary precautions.
Here’s what you should know:
- It would help if you had a portable radio to be informed about crucial storm updates, information, and instructions.
- Don’t Go Outside: Curiosity killed the cat and might do the same to you. Hurricane winds can reach up to 200 miles per hour, and even tiny bits of debris can be lethal at such speeds. So, stay indoors until the wind calms, and don’t be fooled by the lull that happens when the storm’s eye is overhead. After the eye passes, winds intensify quickly and originate from the opposite direction. So, avoid testing the wind, no matter how tempting it might be.
- Don’t Use Electronics: Hurricanes can damage your plugged-in electrical devices. Unplug sensitive electronics to prevent power fluctuations during high winds and power surges that can happen when service is restored.
Turn the main breaker off if flooding is predicted, but don’t try to do so if you must step into the water to access the breaker box.
- Avoid Watching the Storm Through a Window: Flying debris and broken windows can cause severe damage. So, board up your windows before a hurricane and stay far from doors and windows, as the wind may break through and debris will fly in when the storm comes.
- Avoid Taking a Bath During the Storm: While significant amounts of lightning do not usually accompany hurricanes, there may be strikes during a storm. It would be better to avoid showering and cleaning dishes as the strikes can travel through your home’s plumbing system.
- Don’t Seek Refuge Near an Exterior Wall: Exterior walls are frequently pierced by doors and windows, which hardly make good companions when the storm hits. The home’s framework secures interior spaces, such as closets, so it makes sense to stay as close to the house’s center as possible.
- Don’t Go Outside Without a Clear Signal: Vacating your hideout before getting the all-clear signal can be fatal. If you confuse the calm of the hurricane’s eye with the storm’s end, you may find yourself heading out into the worst. Even though the storm has passed, leaving your shelter before the all-clear signal leaves you susceptible to fallen trees, downed power lines, and more.
- Never Fire Up the Grill Indoors: Everyone should eat but never use charcoal or gas grills or camping stoves inside the house. All these emit deadly carbon monoxide that quickly accumulates in poorly ventilated areas. Stick to non-cooking foods and use sweaters and blankets to keep warm.
- Don’t Neglect Evacuation Orders: Dangers escalate quickly in the initial stages of a storm, so listen to warnings from your local officials to ensure your safety. Also, board your windows, gather emergency kits, and create an emergency plan in advance. If an evacuation order is issued, follow it and proceed to safer ground.
- Do not Go to the Gas Station: Don’t go out looking for gas when a hurricane approaches. The gas stations are usually already closed, and if there’s a power outage, the pumps won’t operate anyway. This essential task should be completed long before a storm hits. Maintain a full gas tank in the days preceding a storm so you don’t end up evacuating only with a quarter tank and no way to refill.
What to Do If Your House Is Destroyed by a Hurricane?
Hurricanes remain one of the most lethal natural forces. They are associated with heavy winds and rainfall, which can damage your home significantly. So, what can you do if the storms destroy your house:
- Ensure Safety: Safety should be at the forefront. If you’re still sheltering in the damaged house, check the immediate environment for unstable structures or other hazards. If it’s unsafe to stay, vacate to a safe location and heed local officials’ guidance.
- Contact Emergency Services: Call the appropriate helpline to report the destruction and ask for immediate assistance. Tell them your location and offer as many details as possible regarding the scale of the damage.
- Document the Damage: Create an inventory of every room to help recoup all insured losses. Take photos and videos of the damage to your home and its contents. This documentation will help with insurance claims. Record serial numbers, document purchase dates, and the approximate price of the lost items.
For valuables such as jewelry, obtain copies of expert appraisals.
- Inform Your Insurance Company: Notifying your insurance company immediately about the damage will help initiate the claims process. Give them the necessary documentation to back your claims. Comply with their guidelines regarding inspection and any other requirements.
- Secure the Property: After a hurricane decimates your house, you should take steps to prevent further damage. For example, you can cover exposed areas with boards, shut off utilities, and secure entry points to prevent looting or more damage.
- Seek a Temporary Shelter: If your house is inhabitable, find temporary shelter for you and your family. Reach out to disaster relief organizations or local emergency management agencies to discover housing options and assistance programs.
You can also inquire about disaster relief funds offered by government agencies or charitable organizations. These programs can provide immediate needs, like food, clothing, and essential supplies.
- Begin the Recovery Process: Work with disaster recovery specialists and contractors to assess the damage and create a recovery plan. They can help you navigate the process of repairing your house while adhering to building codes and regulations.
As you repair or rebuild your home, ensure you implement extra measures to improve the resistance of your new house. Include hurricane-proof design features, like reinforced roofing systems. Consult experts to determine the best strategy depending on your location and budget.
- Review Insurance Coverage: After completing the recovery process, update your insurance coverage depending on the lessons learned from the hurricane experience. Make sure your policy supports your repaired or rebuilt house and its contents.
- Retrieve Your Belongings: Salvage any valuables from the annihilated house. This includes sentimental items or essential documents. Exercise caution when accessing the damaged house and put on protective gear.
- Preserve Detailed Records: Maintain records of all transactions, interactions, and expenses associated with the recovery process. Keep duplicates of correspondence, contracts, receipts, and other documentation related to purchases, repairs, and insurance claims.
Keeping Family Safe From Hurricanes at Home
Given the deadly effects of storm winds, you should know how to protect your family from hurricanes at home. The process involves proactive planning, preparation, and taking precautions to deter extensive damage.
Here are some measures that can help you survive a hurricane:
- Install backup power
- Secure outdoor structures and clear the surroundings of possible projectiles
- Reinforce your roof, windows, and doors.
- Get flood insurance
- Prepare an emergency supply kit with basic medications, food, and water.
By prioritizing the measures above, you can be confident that your family is safe from the deadly storms associated with hurricanes.