The arrival of spring means warmer weather and wildflowers and flip-flops instead of winter boots. But, in many areas, it can also mean dangerous storms are likely on the way. The key to staying safe is preparation. Here are the steps you’ll want to take to protect your home and loved ones this season.
Have you downloaded the aps for your local news and government? They’re critical lifelines for information in an emergency situation. You can also sign up for alerts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who send out text message updates during storms.
Clean out your storm shelter
Did your pantry or walk-in closet become cluttered and overrun with stuff that belongs elsewhere over the past year? Same. This should be No. 1 on your spring cleaning list. Sure, having a nice and tidy garage would be great, but that’s not where you’re heading when a storm is coming your way. Getting the area you use as a shelter in order is crucial; you don’t want to have to scramble to clear the space when the sirens are blaring.
Do you have sufficient water for everyone in the house and a first aid kit and emergency batteries and all the other stuff you need in an emergency kit? Great! You’re halfway there. Now ask yourself, Where are they?”
Stocking up on safety items and must-haves is only half the battle. Making sure they’re accessible to you in a storm is key. Experts recommend having everything you need in a storm in one place, and making sure you can reach them easily should you lose power and access to other parts of the home.
Check the exterior
You should be doing a thorough evaluation of your home’s exterior at least once a year, and, if you’re in an area that is prone to spring storms, now’s the time. Here are a few things to look for, according to American Family Insurance:
• “Loose shingles that look rippled or ones that have already fallen to the ground.
• Check the siding to see if it’s firmly in place.
• Tree branches extending over your house or dead branches that could fall in a storm.
• Note loose patio furniture and décor that should be secured or pulled inside when a storm comes.
• Gutters should be firmly attached and all downspouts need to be in place.
• If you have shutters, make sure they’re secure.
• Check to see if your fence needs repair.”
You’ll also want to make sure your gutters are cleaned out so water flows through them smoothly when the rain is heavy and your home doesn’t flood.
Make a plan
Family meeting time! Every member of the household needs to know what to do and where to go when a storm hits. “Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area,” said Ready.gov.” Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.” FEMA has a great template for a family emergency communication plan.
Check your insurance coverage
Did you have any changes to your policy in the last year? We’re all guilty of ignoring the small print sometimes. It wouldn’t hurt to give your insurance agent a call as a double-check. “Every homeowner should know exactly what their policy covers, or doesn’t cover, so there are no surprises in the event of storm damage,” said Farmer’s Almanac. “Damage to your swimming pool, for example, may not be covered.”
Prepare for power outages
Having a bunch of candles and a lighter is just the beginning. If you lose power, it could last for just a few minutes or hours, or several days or longer. Farmer’s Almanac has some great tips for dealing with an outage.
• You can make an “old time icebox” by filling up empty soda bottles with water and freezing them. You’ll also want to make as much ice as you can.
• Get a battery-operated radio.
• Use a cooler. Fill it with that ice you make to keep food cool and closeby, without having to open the fridge.
• “If you have an electric garage door opener, be sure to disconnect it before you’re stuck in the dark, without a vehicle.”
• Think like a camper. “Either get a camp stove (always use it outside), or use the grill to cook if you’ve lost power. If you have a lot in the freezer and it’s going to be a long time without power, you may just want to invite the neighbors over and grill up as much as possible before it goes bad.”
• Keep cell phones, laptops, and tablets charged.