Let’s face it – none of us like to hear our local meteorologist mention severe weather in the forecast, besides maybe those who make a living chasing severe weather. But it’s something that all of us have to deal with no matter where we live.
During the last week of August, Hurricane Laura battered the southern United States, leaving behind a swath of destruction. Making landfall as a Category 4 storm, Laura ravaged homes, businesses, and everything in between, leaving residents picking up the pieces for the many weeks, months, and likely years to come. Unfortunately, the storm also claimed several lives.
While we won’t take a direct hit from a hurricane here in Greater Lafayette, we’re certainly not excluded from severe weather events. Flooding, windstorms, hailstorms, tornados, and brutal winter storms have all been known to wreak havoc here in the Midwest and cause their fair share of damage.
While we can’t stop these acts of God from happening, there are steps that we can take before a storm makes its way through the area to protect not only our valuables, but most importantly, ourselves.
What to do before a storm hits
Your home is likely your most valuable asset, and you want to make sure that it is protected.
“Properly maintaining your home will likely lessen damage during a storm,” said Kurt Watt, an agent with Reliable Insurance Solutions in West Lafayette.
Watt suggests homeowners keep trees around your home well maintained, including trimming dead branches and branches near the home.
If severe weather is predicted for your area, there are certain steps you’ll want to take. “Preparing before the storm should include putting away patio furniture and umbrellas/canopies,” Watt said. “Assess your home for loose items and tighten gutters, shutters, railings, etc. If you have a trampoline, anchor it to the ground.”
You’re also encouraged to create an emergency kit. If your town or city sustains widespread damage, it may be difficult obtaining what we consider everyday items.
When stocking your emergency kits, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Emergency radio
- First aid kit
- N95 masks
- Thermal blankets
- Moist towelettes/toilet paper
- Basic tools
- Portable battery for cell phone and other electronics
Also, premade emergency kits are readily available at retailers or online.
In addition to having emergency supplies on hand, it’s recommended that you familiarize yourself with your homeowner’s insurance policy. “If there is a sump pump in the home, you’ll want to ensure your policy includes “sewer & drain back-up” coverage,” Watt said. Other coverages not typically included in the basic policy that you may want to consider include earthquake and flood coverage.
Watt also encourages homeowners to practice good risk management. “Think through what you may do differently if a storm damaged your home,” said Watt. “What if your basement flooded due to loss of power and your sump pump stopped working? Good risk management may include putting belongings in plastic storage bins and keeping them off the floor.”
After a storm hits
Once the storm passes and conditions are safe, the next step is to evaluate any damages.
If there is damage to your home, you’ll want to evaluate whether it’s safe to stay there. “If power lines are down, call the utility company immediately and stay away from the downed lines,” said Watt. “If safe, take reasonable actions, such as covering broken windows or putting tarp over a hole in your roof, to prevent further damage.”
As soon as it’s safe to do so, call your insurance agent and notify them of any damage. After that, make arrangements to find alternative housing if your home is not safe to stay in.
Severe weather can occur any time during the year here in Indiana. While damage from a storm can be devastating, it’s important to keep in mind that homes and other property can be replaced, human lives cannot.