How to Prepare (and Recover) From Summer Storms for Less!
It’s basic science: Summer is the best.
Between the longer days, the warmer weather, the sunshine and the liberal usage of tiny drink umbrellas, there just isn’t a better season. But with all that warm air and spring moisture still hanging around, it’s also a recipe for summer storms.
If you’re earning a low-income, then you probably want to use your paychecks on something other than home and car repair this summer. So let’s help you out with some expert advice on how to prepare for (and recover from) a summer storm.
We talked to our favorite home, utility and financial experts to get some inside information on storm preparedness. So if you get some storm damage this season, don’t turn to a payday or dangerous bad credit loan, just follow these tips instead!
Before the Storm:
The weatherman says a storm, tornado or hurricane is hitting your area in the next 24–72 hours? What do you do?
Even if your homes has no history of issues, heavy rains take a toll. Some frequently overseen preventative measures homeowners can quickly implement to avoid issues include:
- Check for clogged or blocked gutters.
- Check for oversaturated soil around the foundation of your home.
- Clean your window wells to make sure the drain doesn’t clog.
- Make sure window wells are properly sealed shut.
- Extend downspouts at least six to 10 feet away from your foundation.
- Everything has an expiration—including sump pumps. Check them yearly.
- Most sump pumps only last five–ten years.
- Follow your nose: Mold and mildew odors may be the result of a foundation leak. Wet conditions + Basement leak = mold. It doesn’t take much: a little moisture, air, and darkness. That’s all it takes for mold to take root and spread like a wildfire. If this happens, seek a free estimate.
- Locate your emergency water shut-off valve and remove any shrubbery or obstructions. This valve may be located in the basement, crawl space or adjacent to the water heater. Test the water shut-off valve to be sure that it is operational. If the shut-off valve is not operational, have it repaired or replaced.
- Turn off the emergency water shut-off valve if you are leaving your residence prior to a storm. This will help minimize damage to your home’s interior should a pipe burst inside your home. If you turn off the emergency shut-off valve, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on turning off the electric for your tank-type. This is done through your main electric panel.
- If you have a natural gas or LP/Propane Gas tank-type water heater, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on turning off the emergency gas shut-off valve to disable the gas supply. Some water heaters may be damaged if the water supply is turned off for an extended period of time.
- Locate your sewer clean-out lid and remove any shrubbery or obstruction in case the clean-out needs to be located.
- High-impact glass is the most effective way to protect your windows and doors without affecting your home’s curb appeal; however, a less expensive option is to cover your existing windows with a clear plastic “hurricane film.” This helps prevent glass from shattering when impacted by flying debris. Another option is installing storm windows and doors. This type of glass protection involves installing a second window or door over the existing one. This is a good option if you can’t afford to replace your windows with high-impact glass, but you want more protection than hurricane film can offer.
- If you don’t have high-impact glass, hurricane film or storm shutters, you can call an emergency board-up company to cover the outside of your windows and glass doors with plywood when a storm is approaching. Then if debris goes flying, the glass is safe. While it’s certainly not an aesthetically pleasing method of protecting your windows, it’s cheaper than replacing broken glass.
- If you prefer to board up the windows yourself, you can follow these step-by-step directions (also called out below).
- Take window measurements: Using a tape measure, measure out the height and width of your window. For height, measure the window from top to bottom and subtract ¼ inch from this number. For width, measure the distance from one side of the window to the next, and again subtract ¼ inch from it. Make sure to label your measurements (eg. “master bedroom”) so that you will know exactly to which windows your measurements apply.
- Cover with Plywood: Purchase 1/2-inch thick plywood for each window. This is where your measurements come in handy. Use the measurements to approximate the dimensions of the plywood you’ll need. Always make sure the plywood you purchase complies with any state inspection standards. Once you have the plywood in hand, you’re ready to start boarding up your windows on the exterior side of your house. Place the plywood over your window; it should cover your window adequately.
- Secure with Steel Clips: Secure the plywood into place by using carbon steel clips, which fastens the plywood inside your window casing. Carbon steel clips are available at any hardware store and take less time than drilling holes and securing the plywood with nails and screws. Clips give you a snug, solid fit and allow you to take down the plywood for storage and reuse later. The most popular brand of steel clips is Plylox. Simply cover the window with plywood, and then clip the plywood into the window casing. For windows that are 24×24 inches or smaller, only two steel clips are necessary.
- Install a surge protector in your electrical panel that can protect your home’s appliances. This is a device intended to help protect electrical devices from voltage spikes caused by surges. These come in two main types:
- A box that plugs directly into a wall receptacle
- A strip with a power cord and multiple plug-in outlets. Using one of these devices is the most efficient option, and is more practical than trying to manually unplug all of your appliances ahead of the storm. Unplugging your appliances 24 to 72 hour in advance is not practical for all appliances, as the food in your refrigerator will likely spoil, and your frozen foods will thaw. In addition, dishwashers and ovens are often directly wired to the electrical supply, so a consumer may not be able to ‘unplug’ those devices.
- Check doors, windows, and walls, such as areas where cables and pipes enter, for openings that could allow water to penetrate.
- Trim back any branches touching your home. If they rub your roof, they could pull parts of it off in a storm. Keep trees well pruned to allow wind to pass through with minimal damage and debris. Consider re-grading around trees to strengthen the ground and give roots something to cling to.
- Clear clutter and get rid of items you are no longer using, which can turn into projectiles. Bring lightweight outdoor items such as patio furniture, plants, toys, and trash cans inside.
For small business owners, one of the simplest ways to get ahead of the potential costs associated with a storm is through appropriate insurance. There are a few key coverages to consider. Commercial property and business interruption policies provide coverage for the costs of damages associated with a storm, and will help you to cover costs such as lost income and relocation should you be impacted. A business owners policy actually combines these coverages, plus general liability protection, into a single package. However, you need to understand that insurance comes with certain exclusions, and will often not cover earthquakes, floods or loss of electricity. If these are potential causes of loss for your business, generally dependent on if they’re common risks for your location, you’ll want to ask about a rider or additional coverage.
Bill Begal of Begal Enterprises (@Begalenterprise) also has some interesting, business-specific, storm preparedness advice:
What suppliers are used regularly? How they will or will they not be able to service your needs to keep you in business. Take the time now to set up alternative contacts and sources to keep your pipeline full.
- Where are the digital media, licenses and backups kept? If kept on site in a fire proof safe, they may not be safe. The fire proof safe will be rated to keep items inside safe from fire, even up to an hour, but not necessarily protect those items from heat. You need a media cooler. Think of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, paper self-combusts once it reaches 451 degrees. If your vital documents, software licenses, CDs or thumb drives with important information are in a media cooler, in a fire proof safe, then you will be taking proper measure to truly protect yourself.
- Use off-site alternative office space. Some of my clients have back up and emergency space 40&ndash60 miles from their current offices. It is an additional cost, but some feel it is worth while “just in case.” At the “flip of a switch” email, phone and other communications can be re-routed to go through the emergency space if needed.
- If you have a home business, consider:
- Special insurance to cover your business and business personal property—it most likely is not covered by your homeowners insurance, and if it is, it will be a minimal amount, at most.
- Check and read your insurance policy—what IS and IS NOT covered?
- Keep good records and separate records. Prevent any reason for an insurer to deny a claim.
- Keep electronics off the floor. They need to breathe. Also keep them away from animals and water.
- Don’t overload circuitry as you grow. If you’re almost big enough to get a bigger space, but not quite ready to take the leap—don’t overload the circuits, or over use extension cords or outlet splitters.
- Many offices are in basements—check the drain or stairs often especially as seasons pass and storms are predicted.
During the Storm:
Okay, it’s here, and it’s really bad. Now you’re not just thinking about your home, you’re also thinking about your safety.
- Build an emergency kit: You need food, water, and basic disaster supplies, which include water, non-perishable food, a battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, and a first-aid kit, to last 72 hours. Assemble your emergency kit well before severe weather strikes. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice, so keep your emergency kit in an easy-to-access place.
- Create a family communication plan: Your family may be scattered around town at school, work and daycare when a storm hits. That’s why you should create a family communication plan now. Establish how you’ll get in touch, reunite and handle different situations. Make sure every family member has their parents’ and siblings’ cell phone numbers memorized.
Peter Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore says:
- Consider building a FEMA safe room that provides near-absolute protection from hurricanes, or find out if anyone in your community has built one.
- Stay informed. Listening for timely information can make all the difference when preparing for a hurricane. Be on the lookout for National Weather Service (NWS) broadcast alerts for watches and warnings in your area, and sign up for your community’s text or email alert systems for emergency notifications.
- Rehearse taking shelter and practice how you will communicate with family members. It can also be in your best interest to take first aid training and emergency response classes so you can help in emergency situations.
After the Storm:
So you prepped as best you could, but once that storm passes, there is still damage. And you have, like, no money for repairs. Now what?
- If your windows are damaged in severe weather, board up services cover the gaping hole so your home is protected from further storm damage, as well as burglary and vandalism. Whether used as a preventative or recovery method, board up services help prevent property damage, reduce the risk of liability and improve your chances of insurance coverage.
- After a storm has hit, it’s important to start the rebuilding and recovery process quickly, especially if flooding has occurred. Seeping water is progressive, pervasive and can mean valuable objects may become permanently damaged if there’s no action in the first 48 hours.
- Stay tuned to your TV or radio during recovery for information on assistance available in your area through government.
- Contact your insurance agent to discuss any claims you need to make. Be prepared that typical homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
- Hire only professional contractors for cleanup and repair needs. Avoid any “drive-by” contractors that may try to scam you. It best to hire a reputable restoration company like Rainbow International.
And finally, Peter Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore offers this good sense:
- Download the American Red Cross Emergency app for more information and tips on what to do after a hurricane so you can be as prepared as possible. To download, text “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999, search “American Red Cross” in the app store, or go to redcross.org/apps.
- Continue listening to the local radio station and checking local news apps and outlets for the latest updates and instructions for your area.
- Reach out. Find a way to contact your friends and family to tell them where you are and what you need.
- Once authorities declare that it’s safe to go home, you may return. Do not try to return home before authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Safety first. Avoid driving or even walking in flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and rapidly-moving waters can sweep your vehicle away. Furthermore, flood water might be electrically charged by downed power lines. If you see any fallen power lines, call your utility company immediately. Do not assume someone else has already contacted them.
- Check the power. When you return home, turn off the power to your house if you are able to reach the breaker box safely, or ask your power company to cut power remotely. Standing water inside your home can create an electrical shock hazard.
- Check the structure. If your home’s structure or foundation appears unstable, do not attempt to go inside. Instead, immediately call for professional help and get a thorough assessment of the damage. Water damage after a hurricane can cause walls, ceilings and floors to swell, decay or collapse.
- Take inventory. Photograph and document all damages to your home and belongings to support any future insurance claims. After documenting the extent of the damage, you can begin cleanup and extract, dry and attempt to restore as many items as you can safely reach.
- Contact your insurance agent. As soon as possible after a storm, contact your insurance company or representative to check your coverage and start the process of filing a claim.
- Partner with professionals. Professional restoration companies like ServiceMaster Restore® offer 24-hour emergency assistance to minimize the immediate and extended impact that a hurricane can have on your home. Our water damage restoration experts come equipped with the best practices and tools to extract water, dry your home and belongings, restore damaged items and prevent the development of mold so you can get back to normal as soon as possible after a hurricane.
Have your own tips for dealing with storm damage for less? Let us know! You can find us on Twitter at @OppLoans.
|Bill Begal (@Begalenterprise) is the founder & President of Begal Enterprises, Inc. a Disaster Restoration Company based in Rockville, MD serving clients nationwide. He led major projects and teams of up to 150 people after Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Katrina, Wilma & Ike. Industries served include Hospitality, Industrial, Retail, Manufacturing, Healthcare & Class “A” Office and Real Estate. In 2007, Begal Enterprises was awarded The Restoration Industry Association’s “Phoenix Award.” Bill often authors, contributes and speaks to a variety of related periodicals, media outlets and trade groups on disaster preparedness, clean up, insurance, mold & MRSA and has been relied upon over 100 times.|
|Peter Duncanson is the Director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore and Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Peter holds many certifications and his expert knowledge on all things home-related helps readers take simple, yet highly effective steps to safeguard their home and their family.|
|Glenn Gallas (@therightroad) is the Vice President of operations for Mr.Rooter Plumbing. Glenn began his career at Mr. Rooter Plumbing beginning in Feb. 2000, as a franchisee in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Because of his success and achievements, he was offered the opportunity to become a Franchise Consultant before being promoted to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, Vice-President of Operations.|
|Larry Patterson (@GlassDoctor1) is the owner of Glass Doctor in Dallas, Texas. Glass Doctor is a global franchise company providing home and auto glass repair, maintenance and installation. Larry has been a franchisee/business owner of Glass Doctor since 2003, served on the company’s leadership council and was named Franchisee of the Year in 2011.|
|Maxime Rieman (@CoverWallet) spend her time educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Maxime Rieman’s focus, which led her to joining CoverWallet, a startup dedicated to simplifying insurance for small businesses. Previously, she launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet, and helped create an innovative brokerage comparison product.|
|Doug Rogers (@MrApplianceCorp) is the president of Mr. Appliance has been on the frontline of efforts at Dwyer Group® to maximize the efficiency of its franchisees. He also focuses on continuously improving internal and external customer satisfaction. Doug joined Mr. Appliance in March 2004 as the vice president of operations and was named president of Mr. Appliance in June 2006 and president of ZorWare, also known as Z-Ware, in February 2007. Doug was twice awarded Outstanding Contributor at Whirlpool Corporation and was also awarded the Presidents’ Choice Award at Dwyer Group in 2007.|
|Matt Stock (@USWaterpoofing) is a third-generation family member in the basement waterproofing business, Matt began assisting his family in all things basements when he was 12 years old. He officially began working for U.S. Waterproofing as a teenager, learning the ropes and proving himself before officially taking the company reigns in 2014.|
|Mark Welstead (@RainbowIntl) is the president of Rainbow International and is responsible for the overall leadership, initiative and growth of the thirty-year-old company, including sales and operational support. His previous roles include Chief Financial Officer, Board of Directors, and Vice President of Finance for several manufacturing, construction and service companies in the southwest. In addition to Mark’s corporate experience, he has also worked for a number of businesses on a management consultant basis. These include commercial roofing, commercial and residential HVAC, franchise pest control, warehousing, distribution and third party logistics, as well as small manufacturing startups. Mark earned his BBA in Accounting from Baylor University.|
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