Installing a backup generator, whether standby or portable, can help...

Installing a backup generator, whether standby or portable, can help cope with prolonged outages. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Lex20

The New York metro area was spared Hurricane Dorian’s recent wrath, and although it’s been a relatively quiet storm season for the region so far, this is no time to let your guard down. The official hurricane season extends through the end of November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Plus, there are plenty of other threats lurking, from flash floods to blackout-inducing thunderstorms to even the odd tornado.

Safeguarding your home from severe weather comes down to proper planning and preparation.

Step 1: Check your insurance coverage

When a coastal storm surge is bearing down or a nearby river is ready to crest, it’s too late to add extra coverage to a homeowner’s insurance policy. And the truth is, standard policies rarely cover damage caused by flooding.

Ask insurance providers about any policy limits and exclusions and consider adding separate coverage for high-risk disasters. On average, homeowners pay $700 per year for additional flood insurance, reports the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal government's flood insurance program.           

Step 2: Ensure backup power

Power failures tend to follow severe weather, including the nor’easters that often wreak havoc this time of year. Besides the inconvenience, blackouts can set off a chain reaction of disasters. For example, house fires are a common result since homeowners often resort to burning candles. No power to a sump pump can lead to a flooded basement. Installing a backup generator, whether standby or portable, can defend against prolonged outages.

Step 3: Devise a family plan

A fast-moving coastal storm can strike while family members are separated. For young children, create a paper copy of contact information, maybe on a wallet-sized card that they keep in their backpack, safety experts recommend. Their other advice: Be clear on the school’s emergency response plan and designate a safe, familiar place where family members can meet if they’re separated, such as a neighbor’s house, say in the event of a fire, or the local library, where you might gather after being separated during a flash flood.

Homeowners living on the coast or in low-lying areas subject to flooding should also have an evacuation plan in place. This includes identifying the nearest safe house (such as a friend’s or relative’s home on higher ground) or public shelter, advises the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Step 4: Stock up on essentials

Every home should have an emergency kit with supplies for at least 72 hours, according to the Homeland Security department. The kit should include water (3 gallons per person), nonperishable food, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, dust masks, a whistle to signal for help, and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

To assemble the kit, store the items in airtight plastic bags and then put everything in a duffel bag or plastic bin, kept in a central location familiar to all members of the household, federal officials recommend. 

Step Five: Protect your property

Water is the biggest threat, so start by checking that the home’s gutter system is in good working order to channel heavy rains away from the house. Inspect gutters for clogs and signs of rust or corrosion, as well as places where they’re pulling away from the house.

Hurricane-force winds can rip the roof right off a home, so if the house is older or near the coast, it may be worth strengthening the roof structure. The process, which can be done to existing structures, involves connecting the roof to the wall with metal ties.    

As a storm is approaching, keep windows closed, along with blinds or curtains. Applying heavy-duty tape to windows will help prevent shards from flying if they’re broken. Store lawn furniture and other outdoor equipment in a garage or shed.

Move any valuable items, such as artwork, to an upper floor of the home. Create an inventory of all valuable items in the home, maybe in the form a video, since an insurance provider will likely need to see proof of possessions before paying out a claim.

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