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Bracing for Impact: 7 Tips to Prepare for Tornado and Hurricane Season

By Kristin Emery

  • With storm season in full swing, are you prepared to keep your family and home safe?

    While many Americans mark the coming of summer by hauling out lawn furniture or firing up the grill, remember that this time of year also brings the higher potential for devastating storms. It's peak tornado season, and Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1. If a big storm hits, are you ready?

    It's smart to follow this basic checklist before typical winds and rain turn into something stronger:

    • Make an emergency plan. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, know the evacuation routes. For tornadoes, identify shelter areas for home, school or the workplace. Your family may not be together when a storm hits, so make sure everyone knows where to meet or how to contact one another. Assign a secondary meeting place, such as the home of a friend, in case your home is damaged or inaccessible.
    • Designate emergency contacts. It's sometimes easier to reach friends and family outside the area during and after a storm. Designate someone out of town as an emergency contact and distribute their number. Make sure all family members have access to a texting device, as texting might be available when voice phone service is not.
    • Build your storm kit. Store three gallons of water per family member, as well as a three-day supply of nonperishable food such as canned meats, nuts and crackers. Include a week's supply of medications, toiletries, a first-aid kit, car and house keys, clothes, flashlights and batteries, insurance contact numbers and copies of important documents. Remember extra supplies for the elderly, infants and your pets. Have a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, as well as duct tape, plastic sheeting and a dust mask, in case you need to seal off your home to protect from contaminants.
    • Stay informed. Buy a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) emergency weather radio that broadcasts emergency weather messages around the clock, or download weather apps to your smartphone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a free app that lists open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers for after the storm.
    • Do a wind survey. Walk around your house and look for possible projectiles. Check that gutters are secure, prune dead tree branches, and anchor down grills and heavy yard furniture. Before a hurricane, bring objects inside, such as patio furniture, trash cans and planters. If you're under a tornado "warning," when a tornado has actually been spotted, stay inside.
    • Protect your windows. Flying debris can shatter your windows and allow greater wind damage inside your home. Taping windows does not prevent them from breaking. Measure your windows for temporary emergency shutters — have marine plywood cut to fit and ready to install.
    • Document your possessions. Before storm season, make a detailed inventory of your possessions and take pictures of the interior and exterior of your home. Doing so will help ease the claims process.
    Follow these tips now to decrease damage — and stress — down the line.

    *Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency, http://www.fema.gov/ and http://www.ready.gov/.