More than 50 tornadoes have swept across parts of the U.S. this year—Ohio alone has experienced 9 twisters so far, at least one of them deadly. While storm season is winding down, there’s no reason to put off preparing for next year. Here’s how:
Fully Stock Your Safe Room
Even if you don’t have a concrete, reinforced safe room, the basement or an interior room without windows can be a safe place to hunker down during a storm. Stock it with the following supplies to ensure you’re prepared to go without running water and fresh food for a little while.
Food and water: Store a week’s supply of nonperishable food, plus a gallon of water per day per person.
Camping gear: If you wouldn’t go camping without it, keep it in your safe room, such as your flashlight and lantern with extra batteries, sleeping bags, and waterproof matches.
A safe: Without electricity, ATMs will be down and convenience stores will not accept plastic, so keep cash in a safe. You should also store important documents, such as the home deed, insurance records, passports, social security cards, birth certificates, tax, and banking information.
Medical supplies: Have a first-aid kit containing bandages, ointment and disinfectant wipes. If you store prescription medication, check the expiration dates and change them out if necessary.
Battery-powered radio: Even though we all have cell phones, radio is still the best way to receive emergency broadcasts. Ideally, you should have both an AM/FM radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather radio. The agency broadcasts “warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information,” 24/7.
Building supplies: Have a toolbox ready, plus plywood, tarps, and nails ready to patch up any storm damage. You’ll want to cover broken windows and holes in the roof as soon as the storm passes to protect your belongings in case of heavy rains.
Sandbags: Tornados are only half the problem of storm season. Brace yourself for floods, too. Have sandbags on hand to help divert water away from your home.
Portable generator: You can keep a portable generator in your safe room, so long as it does not contain gas. Gas for both your generator and your car should be stored in a safe location away from your home.
Clothing: Store extra changes of clothing in plastic bags. Include rain gear, sturdy shoes, work gloves, hats, and jackets.
Fortify Your Home
You already have a designated safe place to ride out the storm, but how safe is your home overall? Can it withstand 300 mph winds? If you’re uncertain, follow these tips to prevent costly storm damage.
Protect your windows
Windows are your home’s greatest vulnerability during a storm. Storm shutters are economical and safeguard against flying debris. They should be installed up to code, preferably by a licensed contractor. A pricier option is replacing them with impact-resistant windows, which are engineered to withstand the force of a 9-pound piece of lumber striking the window end-on at 50 feet per second.
Secure outdoor items
During a storm warning, bring in the patio furniture, grill, and other outdoor accessories, or secure them to the ground. While you’re at it, trim back tree branches hanging over your house.
Secure your HVAC unit
Hail typically accompanies a tornado. Hail can do major damage, especially to the condensing unit. Install a hail guard over the condenser to protect sensitive components such as the evaporator coils.
Install a Surge Protector
Lightning is a common occurrence during storm season. If lightning strikes your home, the surge of power can fry all of your plugged-in appliances. Having a licensed electrician install a surge protector at the breaker box will prevent a sudden influx of electricity, sparing your refrigerator and HVAC system.