Returning Home After A Hurricane.

Preparing to return home after evacuating will keep you safer while inspecting and cleaning up the damage to your home. Before traveling, ensure local officials have declared that it’s safe to enter your community and that you have the supplies you will need. Follow the suggestions below for returning to, inspecting and cleaning your home.

Image result for after a hurricane

(Photo: Survival Life )

Before Returning

  • Find out if it is safe to enter your community or neighborhood. Follow the advice of your local authorities.
  • Carry plenty of cash. ATMs may not work and stores may not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
  • Bring supplies such as flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non- perishable foods in case utilities are out.
  • Create back-up communication plans with family and friends in case you are unable to call from affected areas.
  • Plan for delays when traveling. Bring extra food, water, pillows, blankets and other items that will make the trip more comfortable. Keep the fuel tank of your vehicle as full as possible in case gas stations are crowded, out of fuel or closed.
  • Carry a map to help you route around heavy traffic or impassable roads.
  • Find out if local medical facilities are open and if emergency services are functioning again. Do NOT call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number to do this.
  • Understand that recovery takes time. Focus on the positive and have patience. Others will have similar frustrations.

First Inspection

  • If possible, leave children and pets with a relative or friend. If not, keep them away from hazards and floodwater.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around your home.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home.
  • If you smell natural gas or propane, or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and contact the fire department.
  • If your home was flooded, assume it is contaminated with mold. Mold increases health risks for those with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions.
  • Open doors and windows. If the house was closed more than 48 hours, let it air it out before staying inside for any length of time.
  • Turn the main electrical power and water systems off until you or a professional can ensure that they are safe. NEVER turn the power on or off, or use an electrical tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may be trapped in the ceiling or floors may be unsafe to walk on.

Cleaning Your Home

  • Be careful when moving furnishings or debris, because they may be waterlogged and heavier.
  • Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that have been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Some cleaning solutions can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if mixed together. If you smell a strong odor or your eyes water from the fumes or mixed chemicals, open a window and get out of your home.
  • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys).
  • Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
  • Clean hard surfaces (flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
  • Return to as many personal and family routines as possible.
  • Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

Items to Take When Returning Home:

  • Government-issued photo ID and proof of address
  • Important phone numbers
  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Cleanser/hand cleaning gel for personal use
  • Hygiene products and toilet paper
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy waterproof boots and work gloves
    Flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries
  • Cameras for photos of damage for insurance claims

Using Generators Safely

  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe

If your community has experienced a flood, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET- INFO to register yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Red Cross. “Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood” Web blog post. Hurricane Central, The Weather Channel. 19 Sep 2014. 13 Sep 2017

Clean Up Safely After A Disaster

Highlights

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures that have not been examined and certified by an inspector.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole cleanup work.
  • Carbon monoxide can cause illness and death.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.

When returning to your home after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster protect yourself and your family by following these tips.

 

Reentering Buildings

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. You may want to wait to return to buildings during daylight hours, when it is easier to avoid hazards, particularly if the electricity is off and you have no lights.
  • Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure may fall or if you smell gas or suspect a leak. If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

General Safety Measures

  • Have at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank) for cleanup work.
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
  • Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).
  • When using a chain saw, operate the saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions, wear appropriate protective equipment, avoid contact with power lines, be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that have gotten bent or caught under another object. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw. For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.html).
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of the affected area.
  • In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing. Do outdoor activities during cooler hours. For more information on protecting yourself against heat-related illness, see the CDC Extreme Heat Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html).

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless gas from these sources that can cause sudden illness and death—can build up indoors and poison the people and animals inside.

For more information, see Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/carbonmonoxide.html).

 

Mold and Cleanup

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

See Mold After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/), Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters and the CDC Flood Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html) for further guidance on safely reentering flooded homes, cleaning up flood or storm water, worker safety issues, and mold cleanup issues.

Electrical Issues

  • If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Do not connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard and it may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

 

Hazardous Materials Issues

  • Call the fire department to inspect or remove chemicals, propane tanks, and other dangerous materials.
  • Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, a respirator if needed) when handling hazardous materials.
  • Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous materials.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use caution if you have to remove a car battery. Avoid any acid that may have leaked from a car battery.

 

Hygiene and Infectious Disease Issues

  • After completing the cleanup, wash with soap and water. If there is a boil-water advisory in effect, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing). Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that were exposed to floodwater, wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

Water Issues

  • If the building is flooded, the waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste. Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection. (See also Clean Hands Save Lives: Emergency Situations(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/handhygienefacts.html) .)
  • To reduce cold–related risks when standing or working in water which is cooler than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C), wear insulated clothes and insulated rubber boots, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Fact Sheet: Clean Up Safely After a Disaster” Web blog post. Disasters, Clean up. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 30 Aug 2017, 12 Sep 2017.

How To Prepare An Emergency Kit.

Hurricane Irma could hit the United States by this weekend, meaning now is the time for coastal residents — along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico — to prepare.

Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, with sustained winds of 175 mph.

AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel issued a warning on Monday: “Have emergency supplies ready.”

Here’s what to pack in an emergency kit and additional steps to take ahead of a hurricane, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Emergency kits should combine basic staples (food, water) with supplies reflecting your family’s unique needs, such medications or baby formula.

Water: First and foremost, store at least three gallons of water per person — enough to last each three days. If you think you’ll be cut off longer, add an extra gallon per person per day.

Cash: Banks and ATMs could shut down. Power outages render debit and credit cards useless.

Documents: Keep copies of key documents in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container. These include identification such as passports and Social Security cards as well as insurance policies and bank account records.

Medications: Keep a one-week supply of prescription medications plus any over-the-counter items like pain relievers and antacids.

Food: Lay in a three-day supply of canned foods and dry mixes — nothing that needs refrigeration. Avoid thirst-inducing foods, and remember the dietary needs of those around you, including infants (ready-to-feed formula) and pets. Secure a hand-operated can opener.

Sanitation: Think moist towelettes, garbage bags and diapers. Consider paper goods such as plates and cups as well as plastic utensils.

Backup phone batteries: Extra batteries for your devices, also called portable power banks, could prove essential in a power outage. Here’s how to prep your smartphone for disasters.

Additional items: Flashlights with spare batteries, blankets, a first aid kid and NOAA weather radios are all recommended.

FEMA offers an extensive printable checklist for all-purpose emergency supply kits, too.

The agency also recommends tailoring supplies to whether you plan to evacuate or stay put at home, and to sign up for local alerts (just Google your city or country name plus “alerts”).

 

 

 

Josh Hafner, USA TODAY. Hurricane Irma: How to prepare an emergency kit. web blog post. News, USA Today. 5 Sep. 2017

Steps to Create a Home Inventory Checklist

After a fire, burglary or another event in which you lost possessions from your home, it may be difficult to remember the details of every one of the belongings that you have accumulated over the years. In this situation, having a current inventory of your possessions, including make and model numbers, may help you with any potential insurance claims. Taking the time to document your belongings now can help you recover faster after a loss.

Here are some steps you can use to help build your home inventory checklist.

Step 1: Take the Time to Walk Through Your Property. Compiling a comprehensive home inventory takes time and effort. The more detailed your inventory, the more useful it will be if you have to make a claim. Document possessions inside your home and on your property that may be of value.

Step 2: Keep Your Inventory in a Safe Place. Creating a digital home inventory and storing it off-site will help ensure that it won’t be lost, stolen or damaged during any disaster at your home. You can also create a photo or video inventory and upload it to a cloud-based service.

  • First, take a picture of relevant rooms or items. Label pictures of rooms and important individual items with a description, including where you bought it and the make, model and serial number. Don’t forget to inventory items that may be out of sight in storage closets or drawers.
  • Second, walk through your home or office using your phone to shoot video of the contents, describing them as you go.
  • Finally, digital home inventory programs allow you to upload multiple photos of each item, including photos of the serial number, receipt and other identifying details. If you choose to create a paper version, consider storing it off-site in a safe deposit box.

Step 3: Update Your Inventory Often. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to the inventory while the details are fresh in your mind. This is also a good time to delete items that you have replaced or no longer own.

Step 4: Remember Your Business Assets. While most people think of their home when making an inventory, it is important to document the contents of your business, if applicable, as well.

Step 5: Consider Valuable Items. Valuable items like jewelry, art, and collectibles may have increased in value since you brought them into your home. Check with your agent, if you have one, to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage for these items as they may need to be insured separately. Consider putting jewelry or other valuables that you don’t often wear or use in a safe deposit box.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “5 Steps to Create a Home Inventory Checklist.” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 25 Aug 2017.

Help Prevent House Fires.

Faulty Wiring and Outlets Are One of the Top Causes of House Fires.

  • Check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying, and replace all frayed wires.
  • Do not pinch or cover electrical cords with items such as rugs.
  • Be aware of the capacity of your home’s electrical system. Do not overload your circuits. If you have questions about your home’s electrical system, you may want to consult a licensed electrician.
  • Understand the difference between surge protectors and power strips—both allow you to plug in multiple electronic devices, but only the surge protector will help protect these devices from a power spike. Use surge protectors to protect valuable electronic devices, such as computers and televisions.

Image result for outlet fire

(Photo: Funabashi City)

Carelessness in the Kitchen May Also Lead to a House Fire.

  • Never leave your pots or pans unattended on your stove.
  • Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it.
  • Keep your stove and oven clean. Built up food splatter or grease can later ignite when the stove or oven is turned on for cooking.

Clothes Dryers Are Another Common Source of House Fires.

  • If you are installing your own dryer vent, follow the directions in the manufacturer’s installation instructions, using the recommended duct material. If you are unsure about how to properly install the vent, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Clean out the dryer vent regularly.
  • Clean out the lint filter after each load.
  • Lint may also collect under and behind your dryer, so do not forget to clean these areas.

Alternative Heating Sources May Also Create a Fire Hazard.

  • Avoid using an older space heater, as it may not have adequate safety features compared to newer units. When purchasing a new space heater, ensure it is UL Listed and pay attention to the safety features.
  • Do not place a space heater near furniture, curtains or other objects that could easily catch fire.
  • If you plan to install an alternative heating system, such as a wood or pellet stove, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are unsure about how to properly install the system, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Before installing a wood or pellet stove, check to ensure it complies with the laws of your state and municipality.

Dirty Chimneys Also Pose a Fire Hazard.

  • Have your chimney inspected annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweep. Have a professional clean and repair the chimney as needed, especially before the cold months, when you will be using it frequently.
  • Use seasoned wood only. Never burn green or damp wood.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace—these can all spark chimney fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. Help Prevent House Fires. Web blog post, Prepare & Prevent ; Fire Safety. Travelers Insurance. 22 August 2017.

Protecting Your Home From Lighting.

Lightning strikes can be a threat to both property and public safety, causing nearly $1 billion in property damage in the United States each year and claiming dozens of lives.

Lightning strikes homes

Although summer is the most likely time for lightning, it can strike anytime there is a thunderstorm. Lightning generates intense heat that can surge through electronic circuits, burn through plumbing and set structures ablaze, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

In 2014, lightning strikes cost $739 million in homeowners’ insurance losses, up 9.7 percent from 2013. The average lightning property damage claim by homeowners was $7,400 in 2014, up 26 percent from 2013. Florida saw the most homeowner insurance lightning claims in 2014, followed by Georgia and Texas, according to III.

To help prevent lightning from damaging your property, consider using a lightning protection system. These systems are designed to redirect lightning from high points on structures and guide the electrical currents safely to the ground along metal conductors.

You should consider a lightning protection system if:

  • Your home or structure already has experienced a lightning strike.
  • You live in an area that often has thunderstorms.
  • Your structure is located on higher ground or projects above surrounding properties.
  • Your structure contains sensitive electrical equipment. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, most homes today have from $5,000 to as much as $500,000 worth of electrical and electronic equipment inside.

Lightning protection systems should be installed by certified specialists who work within the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 780 “Standard for Lightning Protection Systems” and the NFPA 70 “National Electric Code.” UL offers a Master Label® certificate as evidence that a lightning protection system is installed in compliance with applicable nationally recognized standards.

The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) recommends that the contractor you hire is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. You can view a list of certified contractors at the LPI website. There is also an online directory for UL Listed lightning protection system installers.

In addition to a lightning protection system, there are other ways to further improve your protection. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends having a licensed electrician inspect your telephone, power, electrical and cable/satellite television connections, and ensure your power line connection and power distribution panel are grounded correctly.

Tips for Staying Safe During a Thunderstorm

Since most lightning strikes occur during a thunderstorm, you should take the recommended steps to keep safe. Until the storm has passed, stay away from windows and doors and avoid handling faucets or other plumbing, and do not touch electrical appliances or equipment.

If your home is struck by lightning and you have corrugated stainless steel natural gas tubing present (CSST), there is the potential for the lightning strike to produce gas leaks in the CSST. If there is no smoke, fire or imminent danger from the lightning strike, you should shut off the gas supply and contact the gas company to have them check the piping for leaks.

If someone is struck or otherwise injured by lightning, seek medical help immediately.

If your structure is struck by lightning, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration advises the following recommended steps:

  • Evacuate if you see fire or smoke and telephone 911.
  • Ask firefighters to use thermal imaging equipment to check for hot spots inside walls.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working.
  • Have a licensed electrician check your structure’s wiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Lighting” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 17 August 2017. 

How Hurricane Shutters Protect A Home.

Hurricanes are capable of producing winds of 100 miles per hour and more. This poses problems for a home in a number of ways. Many of the items within your yard become projectiles toward your windows. Without any kind of protection, tree limbs and more can break through the glass and enter your home. This is why having hurricane shutters installed is very important.

Image result for hurricane shutters

(Photo: Majors Home Improvement)

Hurricane shutters are installed on the outside of a home. There are various models, such as roll-down and accordion shutters. Both are economic and are out of the way until you need them. The moment you hear about a hurricane, or simply a storm with high winds, you open the shutters so that they cover your windows.

The shutters then provide protection over them. They are capable of withstanding impact at high speeds, which is what will keep branches and other items from crashing into your window.

Hurricane shutters provide protection over your windows during harsh weather.

Why You Need the Protection

The reality is that you never know when a hurricane is going to hit, especially in South Florida. While you can track hurricanes, one year could be worse than the previous year. There’s simply no way of knowing that far in advance.

While you could place boards on your windows, they are difficult to do. They also aren’t hurricane grade, so they could end up falling off and then breaking into your window. With the hurricane shutters, they fend off everything that could otherwise break into your home.

Tree limbs, potted plants, neighbors’ gnomes, and all sorts of other things have flown into windows before. Once you have a broken window, you are now susceptible to the wind entering your home, causing damage to a number of items. You also have rain pouring in, creating water damage.

Water damage is what you really have to worry about. Depending on the level of rain from the storm, it could be enough to flood your home. You might also have water damage to drywall, flooring, and a large number of your belongings.

There’s no reason for you to go through all of this. When you hear that a major storm is coming, it’s easier to simply roll down your hurricane shutters on all of your windows and then go inside your home. It ensures your home is the safest place for you to be, and you don’t have to go into a room where there is no windows because you have made them virtually impenetrable.

Hurricane protection is priceless because you need to protect your home as well as your family. Shutters simply provide you with the peace of mind needed when a storm is set to enter your zip code. This is the best feeling to have as opposed to the panic others feel.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “How Hurricane Shutters Protect A Home.” Web blog post. Blog, Palm Beach Aluminum. 17 March 2017, 28 July 2017.

 

How to Prepare For A Hurricane.

Your level of preparation before a hurricane can determine how well you weather the storm and how quickly you recover from it. You should start preparing your home, inside and out, long before a storm is in the forecast. In the end, you can never be too prepared when it comes to protecting your loved ones and your property from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Related image

(Photo: Online Insurance)

follow the Forecast

You may hear the terms “hurricane watch” and “hurricane warning” in your local forecast. Understanding the difference between them is essential to helping you prepare for a hurricane. As soon as a hurricane watch or warning is forecast for your area, it is important, depending on the type of alert, to immediately begin or complete your preparations.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. You should begin to stock up on emergency supplies in the event a warning is issued. If you live in a coastal area, you also should be prepared to evacuate.

A warning is more serious. Hurricane-force winds (74 mph or higher) are expected to hit your area within 36 hours. You should seek shelter or evacuate, if notified to do so.
General Hurricane Preparation Tips

  • Prepare a survival kit that includes items such as water and non-perishable food for everyone, including your pets; medications; a portable radio; flashlights; batteries; and battery chargers for your cell phones and other portable electronic devices, which can be powered by your car.
  • Plan your evacuation route and leave as soon as an evacuation order is issued. Also, fuel up your car before you leave.
  • Build a content inventory of the items in your home or at your business.
  • Secure all outdoor objects or move them inside. Close your home’s storm shutters and board up windows and glass doors as appropriate.
  • If possible, bring in gas or charcoal grills, but do not use them indoors. Also, do not store propane tanks inside the house or garage. Chain propane tanks in an upright position to a secure object away from your home.
  • Secure your boat or move it to a safer place.
  • Fill your emergency generator fuel tank, if you have one, and have spare fuel on hand. Store generator fuel in an approved container in a garage or shed, away from open flames, heat sources and appliances such as natural gas appliances.

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

1. Help Avoid Water Damage

Heavy rains have the potential to cause significant water damage. These tips can help you prepare your home.

Closing and locking all windows and doors and removing any window air conditioners.

Removing valuable items from your basement or elevating them off of the floor.

Clearing debris from exterior drains and gutters.

Repairing damaged gutters and downspouts to make sure water can drain away from your foundation.

Checking your sump pump and the battery backup to confirm they are working properly.

2. Monitor Your Trees

In a powerful windstorm, trees can be a hazard. Broken limbs or fallen trees — even uprooted shrubbery — could damage your home and fences, or your neighbor’s property.

Routinely maintain the trees around your home.

Prune tree limbs within 10 feet of your home.

Check for cracking or splitting in trees.

Remove dead limbs and weakened trees.

3. Roofs, Doors, Windows and Skylights

It is important to keep wall openings, such as doors, windows and skylights protected. The roof, doors and windows of your house are especially vulnerable to wind damage. When houses are exposed to hurricane force winds, roofs are most susceptible to damage, followed by walls and openings such as skylights.

4. Secure Outdoor Items

If you live in an area that experiences high winds, outdoor items around your property that are not properly anchored can become airborne and cause damage.

If high winds are expected in your area, move as many outdoor items indoors well before the high winds arrive. As mentioned earlier, do not store propane tanks in your home or garage.

Adequately secure any remaining outdoor items that cannot be safely moved to protected areas.

5. Strengthen Your Exterior Structure

During a windstorm, wind forces are carried from the roof down to the exterior walls and then to the foundation. Homes can be damaged when wind and wind-driven water gets under the building’s exterior walls if proper controls are not in place.

Strengthen exteriors by employing a contractor to:

  • Install hurricane straps to reinforce roof-to-wall and wall-to-foundation connections.
  • Retrofit soffits to help ensure they remain in place in high winds.
  • Properly brace roof trusses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How to Help Prepare for a Hurricane.” Web blog post. Prepare & prevent, Hurricanes. Travelers. 28 July 2017

 

Flood Damage Prevention

While fire may be a more common concern among homeowners, your home could in fact be as much as ten times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire. Significant sources of water damage to one’s property can come from weather-related moisture or flooding, including flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, tidal storm surges and mudflows. In addition, new construction of buildings, roads or bridges can alter the flow of water, increasing the potential for flooding.

Living in a high-risk flood zone can increase the likelihood of experiencing a flood, but being outside a high-risk zone does not mean homeowners are safe; flooding is always a possibility.

flood damage outside a home

(Photo credit: Travelers)

 

Protecting Your Property Before, During and After a Flood

There are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property. Follow these tips to help prepare and recover from potentially costly flood damage.

Before the Flood:

Know your properties flood zone risk and evaluate your flood risk with this reference guide from IBHS.

Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.

Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.

If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.

To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow prevention valve.

Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.

In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.

Learn the flood alert signals of your community.

Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These may include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.

Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.

Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.

Plan a survival kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.

During the Flood:

Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.

Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.

Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

After the Flood:

Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

Once allowed back into your home, inspect it for damage. If your property has been damaged, promptly report the loss.

Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.

Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.

Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out about 1/3 of the water per day to avoid structural damage.

Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.

Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems. Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flood Damage Prevention”. Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent, Flooding. Travelers. 28 July 2017.

 

Why You Should Alway Hire A Licensed Contractor.

Why Hire a Licensed Person?

-A licensed person has the required education, experience, insurance and qualifications to obtain a license.  They must pass a competency examination before practicing.

-Licensed individuals are screened for prior criminal history.

-The department can discipline and even revoke a license if the person does not live up to professional standards.  This is a not a total safeguard, but is a strong incentive for the licensee to do good work.

-You may be able to sue the licensee in civil court for problems related to the work done.

Image result for contractor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit: Home Advisor)

Dangers of Hiring an Unlicensed Person

  • Poor qualifications.  Unlicensed persons typically do not have the education, insurance, or qualification required of a licensee.
  • Poor quality work.  Unlicensed contractors typically do poor quality work or do not finish the project, leaving the homeowner on the hook to repair or finish the project.
  • Possible criminal background.  Unlicensed persons often have criminal backgrounds that may include fraud, theft, violent crime, sexual offenses, and substance abuse.           
  • Likelihood of being the victim of a scam.  Unlicensed persons often disappear after taking your money, and the department cannot discipline an unlicensed person, help get your money back, or require the person to finish or improve the work done. Scams in the construction industry, especially home improvement, are sadly widespread.  Con artists pose as contractors and often target vulnerable people and take advantage of homeowner’s need for urgent post-hurricane property damage.
  • Limited resources for broken contracts.  When you have a dispute with a licensed contractor, you call the department, which has the authority to discipline and even revoke the license.  This gives the licensee more incentive to play fair.    However, this type of action is not available against unlicensed contractors and homeowners often find the only answer is an expensive, and generally futile, civil suit.
  • No insurance and liability for injuries to others:  You may end up being liable for personal or financial injuries to others.  An unlicensed contractor typically is uninsured and will have no way to pay you back for any property damage.
  • No coverage under homeowner’s policy.  Most homeowner policies require that work must be done by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
  • Noncompliance with building codes.  Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed contractors ignore or are unfamiliar with.  If your project isn’t permitted or doesn’t comply with the building code, you may have to remove or repair the work at your own expense and be subject to fines by local government.
  • Liens being imposed on your property.  You may be subject to liens placed on your property by subcontractors or supplies.  Please see http://www.dbpr.state.fl.us/reg/Liens.html for more information about Florida lien law.
  • No coverage under homeowner’s policy.  Most homeowner policies require that work must be done by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
  • Noncompliance with building codes.  Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed contractors ignore or are unfamiliar with.  If your project isn’t permitted or doesn’t comply with the building code you may have to remove or repair the work at your own expense and be subject to fines by local government.

 

Red flags that you may be dealing with an unlicensed contractor.

  • No license number in advertisement or posting. Licensed contractors are required to list their license number in all advertisements. Rule of thumb: Do not do hire anyone that does not have a license listed in their advertisement, which can be verified.
  • Advertisement or invoice lists only a name and telephone number.   A legitimate business provides sufficient contact and licensure information on an invoice.
  • A claim to be “licensed and insured” but cannot produce a DBPR issued license.  This type of claim often merely means that the person has a driver’s license and automobile insurance.
  • Want all or most of the money up front or will only accept cash. Never pay cash for your home repairs or improvements.
  • Want check written to them individually or to “cash.” Be cautious of writing checks payable to individuals when a company has contracted to do the work.  Include a note on check or money order about what the payment is for.
  • Unmarked vehicle and/or out-of-state license plate.  Contractors licensed by the department are required to display their license number on the vehicle.
  • Blank or generic invoice.  Contractors licensed by the department are required to display their license number on an invoice.
  • Oral agreement only.  The best business practice is to put everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, an anticipated completion date and the total cost.
  • Ask you to pull the permit.  Pulling an Owner-Builder permit is risky business. Licensed contractors must pull the permit themselves.
  • Unsolicited phone calls or visits.  Some reputable contractors do business this way, but it is generally a tactic of the unlicensed.  Be very wary of anyone who offers a bargain price, saying they are doing a job in the neighborhood and have leftover materials.
  • High pressure sales pitches or scare tactics.  Don’t be pushed into hiring anyone, even during a state of emergency!  Dishonest people will prey on your fears.

 

Choosing a Licensed Contractor

  • Before you hire a contractor, ask to see a DBPR issued license.
  • Ask to see multiple forms of identification, such as a driver’s license, all contact information and keep copies for your own file.
  • Ask for references. A legitimate contractor will be happy to provide you with the names and contact information of recent customers.
  • Get a written estimate from several licensed contractors. Make sure the estimate includes the work the contractor will do, the materials involved, the completion date, and total cost.
  • Beware of contractors who claim to be the fastest or the cheapest. Hiring them could result in poor workmanship, inferior materials or unfinished jobs.
  • Get a payment schedule in writing.  Many contractors ask for a 10% down payment and then periodic payments during the project.  Document what must be accomplished before further payments are made and conditions that must be met before any final payment.  A contractor that receives more than 10% down must apply for needed permits necessary within 30 days after the date payment is made and start work within 90 days after the date all necessary permits are issued, unless you agree to another arrangement in writing.  It is a criminal offense for a contractor when a contractor does not follow this law.
  • Check with your local building department about any permit requirements.
  • Contact your insurance agent first to verify your insurance covers the repairs before you sign a contract and the process for filing a claim if needed.  You do not have to tell the contractor how much your insurance company will pay for repairs, but if you do, get the contractor’s estimate first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Why Hire A Licensed Person?” Web blog post. Consumer Tips. Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. 25 July 2017