In case you don’t know, hurricane season runs from June through November. This is for the Atlantic hurricane season–the Pacific Ocean has a hurricane season all its own, running May through November. This is according to the National Hurricane Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Preparing for Hurricane Season
Even though hurricane season runs just six months out of the year, when storms hit, they do significant damage–about $26 billion annually, according to researchers at MIT. We’re seeing this first-hand with the images coming from Hurricane Cindy.
When it comes to actual damage, two elements cause the most–water from storm surge or relentless rains and wind. Secondary to wind and water are the destruction both leave behind. Power outages. Flooding. Building destruction.
With all that in mind, I’ve put together six tips to help you prepare for hurricane season. I’m presenting these ideas on behalf of Cummins Inc., manufacturer of home standby generators, with whom I’ve partnered. Three of these tips are DIY — or do it yourself — things you can easily do yourself to help minimize or hopefully even prevent damage. You should definitely hire a professional to tackle the other three tips.
DIY Hurricane Prep
When it comes to do-it-yourself hurricane preparation, I suggest sticking with activities that are easy for you to do and which do not put you at risk of hurting yourself. For example, one tip requires you to go up on a ladder. If you are unsteady on your feet, by all means get someone else to go up on that ladder. Or hire a professional. When in doubt, don’t put yourself in danger.
The tips below all focus on keeping water away from your home’s foundation. That’s because water can do severe long-term damage to your home.
1. DIY Clean Your Gutters
You should clean your gutters twice a year. You do it once in fall, not only because it is hurricane season, but also to prepare for winter. You don’t want water gathering in your gutters and then freezing. That’s a great way to make your gutters rip away from your house. You clean your gutters again in spring because of those proverbial April showers. Again, you want your gutters clean and free of debris so water can move down and out. And speaking of out, make sure the down spouts are clear and aimed away from your house so water goes away, too.
2. DIY Prepare Your Landscaping
Another way to keep water from getting into your home’s foundation is through your landscaping. You want all soil and mulch to slope away from your home, not towards it. This keeps water moving in the right direction.
3. DIY Seal Foundation Cracks
Water is like a ninja when it comes to affecting a home’s foundation. It’s going to find a way, somehow, to get to it. Stop the ninja dead in its tracks by using foundation crack epoxy sealer. You can find it at your local hardware store.
Hire a Pro for Hurricane Season
Sometimes you’ve just got to hire a pro. It goes along with the notion of not being penny wise and pound-foolish. In times like this, it makes sense to spend the money to get a job done right, because DIY just won’t cut it.
Here are three hurricane season prep jobs for which you should bring in a professional to get your home ready for impending storms.
4. Pro to Trim High Branches
When I want to trim a few low-hanging branches here and there, I can easily get clippers from my shed and do the job myself. But when I have dead branches hanging high above my house, I hire a professional tree service to trim those and any other branches that might come lose in a storm. These folks know exactly how to trim a tree to keep your home safe and to keep the tree alive.
5. Pro to Install Sump Pump Alarm
The first summer we lived in our house, Hurricane Floyd hit. That was 1999. I’ll never forget looking out my back door and seeing my neighbor go by in a canoe. There was that much water in our backyard. Thankfully, our basement remained dry during the height of the storm, thanks to our sump pump. Unbeknownst to us, all of that pumping of water eventually knocked the sump pump off kilter. Shortly, thereafter it stopped working all together–even though we didn’t lose power. We were none the wiser, until I went downstairs the next day to do laundry and stepped into 12 inches of water.
If you live in a place where your basement floods, always have a pro install an alarm when installing a sump pump. If we’d had an alarm, we would have known right away that the sump pump had stopped working, and we could have stopped our basement from flooding.
6. Pro to Install Standby Generator
Around the same time as Superstorm Sandy in 2012, we got a portable, gas-powered generator for our four-bedroom home. We thought we were so smart. Problem is, we never stopped to consider two post-hurricane scenarios. One, we couldn’t leave our street to buy gas, because of downed trees and blocked roads. And, two, we couldn’t get gas at all, even if we could get out of our street. That’s because so many gas stations were without power and therefore couldn’t pump it.
In hindsight having a home standby generator to power our entire home would have made so much more sense. Unlike portable generators that can be noisy and require manual set-up, running cords and gasoline, standby generators restore automatically when the power goes out, even if you aren’t home. Standby generators are connected directly to your home’s electrical and natural gas/LP systems, so there are no trips to the gas station and no running out of gas.
To see if a standby generator is right for your family, visit homegenerators.cummins.com, where you can find details about the products, how they work and how you can prepare. There’s also a handy sizing calculator where you can estimate your power needs.
Final thought when hiring a pro: don’t wait until there is a hurricane in the weather forecast. You’ll likely never get someone in to take care of the job in time.
One last tip: you can save money on a generator and other hurricane preparedness supplies during certain states’ tax free shopping holidays.