six-tips-to-prepare-for-a-hurricaneHurricane season is in full swing, and if you’re in a coastal area, your property could be at risk. In the face of a storm, it’s important to prepare as best you can. Taking precautions beforehand may save you time and money after the storm makes a mess of your property.

Consider these six tips to help you prepare.

1. Ensure that you have the proper equipment.

Power outages can lead to spoiled food and dark nights, but a standby generator can keep your house energized for days. Stationary generators, which run off natural gas, start automatically when needed and offer an unlimited run time.

Before you rush out to purchase a generator, however, first designate a specific place on your property that will house it.

“Generators need to be located a safe distance from the house, and you certainly don’t want one running in the garage,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). That’s because generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless poisonous gas that can be deadly.

A chainsaw is another basic necessity for storm cleanup, Kiser says. There are two types of chainsaws: electric and gas-powered. Your access to a power source and the type of work you’ll be doing can help determine which type you will need. “If you are in a power-loss situation, you’ll need the gas model,” Kiser notes.

Kiser also suggests that you consider buying a battery-operated water pump in case of flooding.

Finally, if you purchase any new equipment, look for products that come with a warranty.

2. Make sure your equipment functions properly.

Whether you’re purchasing new equipment or taking it out of storage, you should test all your appliances to make sure they are working correctly.

“Familiarize yourself with the equipment and with its operation and, if applicable, make sure the blades are sharpened,” Kiser says. You should also review your owner’s manual so that you are able to operate the machines safely. Be sure to remove and replace old fuel where appropriate, as it could damage equipment and render it useless.

3. Review your insurance policy.

Review your homeowner’s insurance policy to be sure you have replacement cost coverage, loss of use coverage, and adequate dwelling coverage. If you’re in the path of a hurricane or in a high-flooding zone, you may want consider purchasing flood insurance.

A flood policy generally covers personal belongings that are located on the first floor or higher, including furniture, electronics, clothing, curtains, portable air conditioning units, washers and dryers, kitchen supplies, and area rugs. Bear in mind that flood insurance may cost more in a hurricane-prone area due to the increased risk of flooding.

4. Create an emergency plan.

Even if your insurance will pay for lodging if a storm strikes your home, you’ll need to fend for yourself at the outset. Consider assembling an emergency kit that includes food and water for several days, a first aid kit, lighting equipment such as a flashlight and flares, and cash to cover immediate expenses.

It’s also good practice for your family to assign a meeting place in the event that you are separated.

5. Inspect your property.

“If you are expecting bad weather, you should take a look around your property and cut away dead limbs that may cause destruction by the storm,” Kiser says. Use a chainsaw to the trim the trees, clear out clogged gutters and drains, and bring yard equipment and outdoor furniture inside.

“All outdoor equipment should be stored safely so that it’s not destroyed,” Kiser cautions.

6. Prepare a record of your home and belongings.

Make a record of your possessions in case the storm destroys your valuables. Create an inventory of your home’s contents, including electronics, jewelry, appliances, and clothing. If time allows, include detailed photos of the property and home contents and store these in safe place. Photo documentation will help if you have to file an insurance claim after the storm.

Finally, keep your insurance and estate documents in an easily accessible location. If you need to get out of your house quickly, you’ll want to be able to grab the important items and take them with you.

Camille Puschautz is a researcher, writer, and Web producer at Think Glink Media, with a background in print and digital media. Previously, Camille worked for Bloomberg News in New York and MediaTec Publishing in Chicago. She is a graduate of the University of Dallas and Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in journalism.