With the 2021 hurricane season expected to be above-normal, we’re reminded yet again that storms are increasingly intense. Even if you’re out of a typical tropical storm path — perhaps inland or on the West Coast — this fall and winter start a watch for La Niña, a climate pattern that can cause heavy rain and flooding in the Pacific Northwest.
To be as prepared as possible, it’s best to start readying your home long before the next big storm even has a name. Yes, there are smaller tasks that perhaps can wait — like taking in that last bit of patio furniture before the weather intensifies — but the larger preparations that help protect your home aren’t last-minute jobs. Below, seven tips for preparing in advance.
1. Have a backup power plan
The average power outage lasts four hours, but a major storm can knock it out for longer — about 20 hours for the average South Carolina customer during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. Stocking up on batteries and candles gets you the basics, but if you want your refrigerator and air-conditioning to stay on if the grid fails, you’ll need a backup energy source.
A generator can cost up to $27,000 for a medium-size home, so a portable home battery is a more cost-efficient option. A model like EcoFlow’s DELTA Pro, available for presale via Kickstarter, is a fraction of that price, at $2,999. With up to 25kWh capacity, it can be plugged into your home’s circuit breaker via a special connective panel, and can supply an entire family’s electricity for emergency use for up to a week. It also has a series of add-ons — think solar trackers and panels, smart generators — that offers up more ways to use the battery, maximize electricity, and manage your power supply. The DELTA Pro can be charged via electrical or car outlets, an electrical vehicle charger, a smart generator, or via solar or wind power. Plugged into a 120V electrical outlet (which is common in the U.S.), the battery can reach 100-percent capacity in just 2.7 hours.
2. Purchase flood insurance
Homeowners insurance typically covers wind and hail damage; however, it rarely covers flood damage. Since just an inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 worth of damage, according to the FEMA-managed National Flood Insurance Program, it’s wise to invest in a separate policy that insures not only your house, but also your belongings. Just don’t delay the decision until you’re in the path of a storm: There’s often a 30-day waiting period between purchasing flood insurance and being able to file a claim.
3. Trim trees in your yard
Think of how often you see fallen tree limbs after a storm, and it’s easy to get why it’s important to trim low-hanging branches on a regular basis. Doing so can prevent thousands of dollars worth of damage, plus help keep the lights on during a storm.
An arborist or similar contractor can help with your trees, making a plan to keep them healthy and to keep your house more protected. The best time of year for pruning is the late winter or spring, and it typically costs between $200 and $760 per yard. However, there’s no time like the present if your yard is overdue. Limbs and branches that are particularly low or look like they could snap — especially those hanging over your house, garage, or power lines — are of special concern.
4. Clean gutters and downspouts
Gutters and downspouts steer water away from a house, so they need to be free of leaves, twigs, and other debris to work well. Aim to clean gutters and downspouts twice a year, ideally in the late fall and spring, and avoid doing it after a rainfall. The job can be as simple as picking out the leaves and hosing the gutters down — and to state the obvious, you should be sure that any equipment you might use, like a ladder, is safe and secure before tackling the job. And, if the water isn’t properly draining from the downspout, there could be a clog that needs professional help. It’s usually fairly affordable: The national average for a gutter cleaning is $118-$224, and homeowners can help minimize biannual cleaning efforts by installing gutter guards or screens.
5. Seal and repair gaps and holes
Give your property a thorough walk-around to identify gaps and holes in structures, as well as anything that doesn’t look strong enough to withstand heavy wind gusts. Look for loose siding and shingles, missing roof tiles (particularly near the roof’s edge), and gaps in vents, pipes, cables, and outdoor electrical outlets. Most gaps can be sealed with moisture-resistant caulk — something that can save energy year-round — but bigger holes will need to be repaired. Loose or missing siding and roof shingles will probably need to be replaced, which is a job best left to roofers.
6. Storm-proof windows and doors
Storm shutters are a time-tested way to help protect glass during a storm, but nailed-down plywood can often do the job in their absence. If you’re building a new home or renovating, then consider installing windows, skylights, and sliding doors made with impact-resistant glass. Although it’s a bit of a misnomer — impact-resistant glass can break from blunt force — the glass is designed not to crack wide open, which can make all the difference during a storm. The cost for impact-resistant windows varies from home to home, but on average costs a bit over $8,000.
7. Make an emergency preparedness kit
Avoid frantic last-minute shopping trips by having essentials on-hand. This includes the usual go-tos like batteries and candles, but also things like nonperishable food, water, and medication. You can purchase a three-day emergency preparedness kit from the American Red Cross, or create your own. Consider including the following:
- Water (one gallon per day per person)
- Food (at least three days’ worth per person)
- First-aid kit
- NOAA weather radio with working batteries
- Fire extinguisher
- Batteries and/or portable power stations
- Basic tools: hammer, wrench, nails
- Candles or fuel lamps plus matches
- Important phone numbers and documents (IDs, insurance policies, medical documents)
Although there’s no 100-percent-certain way to keep your home protected during storm season, tactics like these can make a significant impact. To learn more about how to plan ahead, check out Peace of Mind from EcoFlow. Until September 30, you can find expert insights on home resilience, a map of recent U.S. power outages, and more tips about how to best prepare for storms and power outages.