Getting ready for a hurricane is not something you can do in a hurry; at least you cannot do a good job of it. Since 1967, Florida has been my home. Hurricanes are a way of life. There are some things that you can do yourself, if given enough time. Getting a head start is important. First, organize priorities in your mind. Make a list of things to be done. Following a logical sequence helps. If unsure, seek answers from qualified individuals or organizations. When a storm is approaching and you are trying to find someone for shutters and heavy yard work, you will either have to pay quite a bit of money, or go without. Shutters come in all sizes and your size may not be available. Over the years you have to update your protection, keep learning better ways to stay safe and secure.
Off season planning:
During the months of December through April, take a good look around the outside of your home? Have you checked the shrubbery that is up against the house? Are you aware of the trees that have dead branches or branches that extend over the house? Do some of the shrubs extend up to the eaves of the roof overhang? They may need cutting back, unless you do not mind the paint rubbed off or damage to the eaves.
If you need any major tree removal or heavy pruning, do it in the early spring. Not only is it better for the shrubbery to be pruned at that time, but also you won’t have any problem getting someone to do the work. The price given for the job will be better also. Be gentle when having your palm trees pruned. So often they are left with just a few fronds sticking straight up and that is not good for the palm. Just have the dead fronds removed.
Most local waste management companies state that they will not be picking up any large piles of garden debris the week before a storm, so your pile, if sitting on the curb when a storm hits, will only become dangerous flying objects propelled during the storm. They will most likely cause damage, not only to your home, but possibly to your neighbor’s homes.
During off-season, you may be able to get discount prices on hurricane shutters. Shutters are a must. There are many types that can fit different budgets. On the lower end, but still considered good, are 5/8 thickness plywood sheets that can be mounted by various means. They can cut larger than the size of the windows and mounted on the exterior of the house, or if you have recessed windows, you can mount the plywood within the recess with a special clip. The wood should be painted, including the edges for waterproofing. Keep in mind that these can be heavy when cut for a large size window and it may take two people to put them in place.
Another alternative is the ridged aluminum shutters. You permanently mount a track that is the width of the window, above and below the window. When the storm comes, you have 12” wide sections, the height of your window, that slide into place in front of the window. Both these and the plywood shutters require storage space and are the most time consuming to put up.
The more expensive variety must be professionally installed. These include; Bahama shutters, Colonial shutters, accordion shutters, and roll down shutters.
Garden furniture and more
When you are taking that look around the exterior of your house, pay attention to the loose items such as lawn chairs, outside dining sets, swing sets and any permanent outside toys if you have children. Plan ahead in regard to where these items must go so you will not be rushing around trying to figure it out at the last minute. Garden sheds are good for this, but note that these same sheds must have some sort of anchoring system to hold them down, especially if they are the lightweight versions.
Gazebos are another structure that must be considered. Since wind can blow through the open style, they may be OK. Hurricane straps can be used to make sure the roof is secure as that would be the most likely part of the structure to be damaged. There are companies that offer gazebos, in kit form or pre-assembled, able to withstand hurricane strength winds. If having a gazebo is in your future plans, keep this in mind.
Check your roof for loose or missing shingles. It only takes one section of shingles to start the lifting of a larger group of shingles. Your roof should be attached with hurricane straps to the trusses. New homes will have these as they are a part of the building code, but if you live in an older home and are not sure; it would be good to get it checked out by a professional.
As you can see, this is all preparation that can be done ahead. It must be done ahead. Having your house ready for a hurricane makes facing one much easier. It also can bring a sense of security in knowing that you have done all you can do and that you have a plan for securing what needs to be secured when the time comes.