How to be Prepared for the Next Major Storm
ON THE SECTION COVER:
Generators of Houston
Keeping Houston Bright Since 2004
BRACING FOR THE STORM
Five Ways To Prepare Now For Hurricane Season
By Marsha Canright
Ready or not the 2018 hurricane season begins June 1. It’s the last thing that most Houston-area residents want to think about, especially as many are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
Still, now is the time to renew your family’s hurricane plan, strengthen your home’s infrastructure, trim back the trees and ask your licensed agent to review your insurance coverage.
Along the Gulf Coast, our most active storm period stretches from August to October, so there is still time to prepare.
For peace of mind, here are five quick questions to answer.
1. Do you have a hurricane plan?
Decide where you will go if you need to evacuate. Make advance arrangements and then share the information with family and friends. Compile an updated list of phone numbers. If you have pets, be sure you have an individual carrier for each one. Have a to-go kit for important papers and irreplaceable family photos.
2. Is your insurance coverage up-to-date?
Make sure your coverage is appropriate for your current needs. “An annual insurance review is a good idea for everyone,” said Allstate agent Todd Kronshage. “Most people would rather never talk about insurance but 30 minutes can make a significant difference in your protection. When people know their options, they usually pick what is best for their situation.”
Kronshage told us that, since Hurricane Harvey, flood lines have been redrawn in the Houston area and that may mean changes in insurance coverage.
Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding; that’s what flood insurance is for. It takes a minimum of 30 days for flood insurance to go into effect so, if you wait until there’s a storm in the Gulf, it’s too late.
When reviewing your policy ask whether you’re covered for living expenses if your home is not habitable and don’t forget about your car. Kronshage cautions that only comprehensive insurance covers a flooded automobile, so it’s a conversation worth having.
3. Is your home’s infrastructure strong enough?
While you still have time, check the stability of your roof, strengthen your doors and windows, and arrange to cut back tree limbs that could become projectiles in high wind.
START WITH YOUR ROOF
“Do a visual inspection of your roof and don’t forget to check your gutters,” said Paul Martin of Shamrock Roofing. “If your gutters are full of debris and we get 51 inches of rain in a weekend, the water will back up and you will have a problem,” he said.
Next, schedule a free roof inspection. “There are many reputable roofing companies in the area who will come to your home and do a free assessment,” he said. “If your roof is ten years old or older, you may need to replace a few bad shingles or make minor repairs. These are usually inexpensive and taking care of it might help you avoid a catastrophe.”
You may also ask about hurricane straps or clips to ensure your roof stays bolted to your house. Martin recommends checking the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List and looking at Google reviews before hiring a contractor. “A little research on the front end can prevent heartache on the other side,” he said. “Ask your contractor for references and call them.”
DOUBLE-CHECK WINDOWS AND DOORS
Doors and windows can be the weak part of a home’s infrastructure. Multiple studies have shown that extra protection for doors and windows in a hurricane may be critical to a home’s survival.
Install extra locks or deadbolts to protect doors from flying open in high winds, and don’t forget to reinforce the garage door.
To protect or reinforce windows, you can install shutters, use 5/8 inch plywood to cover windows, or strengthen the glass by applying breach resistant film.
Storm shutters are a traditional solution for securing windows but the new automated shutters make preparation easier, according to Maria Lopez from Rolltex Shutters.
“These shutters roll up into an outside box that can be operated manually with a crank or by a remote,” she said. “They aren’t just for storms but provide security, sun protection and they can help lower your electric bill.”
Automated shutters come in all sizes from a few inches to a 19 foot by seven foot opening. The price varies from $350 to $6,000 each depending on the material and size. Rolltex also provides other types of storm shutters but the automated ones are popular because they secure the window quickly when a storm is coming, she said.
Another popular way to reinforce windows is to temper the glass with an impact-resistant film, said Michael Fjetland with Armor Glass. “Windows are the most fragile part of the house and, for most people, their house is their biggest asset. If you buy a nice car, you don’t put cheap tires on it. By beefing up the windows to avoid a breach, you can avoid damage,” he said.
Fjetland said Armor Glass film costs more than solar film because it’s stronger. It has to be at least eight millimeters to protect against impact. In addition to shielding a home from UV sunlight and broken glass, the film provides storm protection without the cost of high-impact glass or shutters and doesn’t require the hassle of storing and installing plywood, he said.
4. Are any tree limbs a danger to your house?
It’s the time of year to make certain that no tree limb is a danger to your home. Tree limbs near your roofline or those that could damage your house in a storm need to be trimmed or removed, said Javier Aviles with Four Seasons Tree Service. Aviles said most tree services are willing to look at your trees and give you an estimate for proper pruning.
5. What items may be critical and are they close at hand?
A manual can opener, car chargers for your cell phone, a working flashlight and batteries for a battery-powered radio are easy to overlook but they may become crucial. These are small purchases so why not take care of them now?
If you are considering a larger purchase like a generator, advance time is needed for permitting and upgrades.
“A generator can allow you to maintain a normalcy of life when everything around you is in chaos,” said Burt Koenig of Kiss Generators. “Our generators connect to your natural gas so you don’t have to fill it with gasoline or worry about carbon monoxide poisoning and it won’t fly or float away,” he said.
Burt said generators are important for the elderly and for people with special needs who may have trouble leaving their homes and who depend on air conditioning or power to stay healthy.
These generators are not as expensive as many people think, he said, but they do take time for permitting and upgrading and inspecting your natural gas system. So, if you are interested, now is the best time to investigate.
For other tips on planning and preparing for an emergency, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service at www.weather.gov
Todd Kronshage, agent
Four Seasons Tree Service
Generators of Houston
Rolltex Shutters LLC