Protecting Your Property From Hurricanes
$100 billion. That’s approximately what Americans have lost in damages to Hurricane Harvey, which is arguably one of the costliest hurricanes in recent history. Now let that sink in for a minute- $100 billion is equivalent to more than 200 million square foot of prime real estate in Los Angeles.
If you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse than that, let’s wind back to 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit Miami and Louisiana, resulting in more than 1,200 deaths, and $108 billion worth of damage. While Harvey was a Category 4, Katrina struck as a Category 5 in Miami, before making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Other costly hurricanes include Sandy in 2012, which caused $71.4 billion worth of damage; Ike in 2008, with $29.5 billion; and Andrew, with $26.5 billion worth of damage in 1992.
While it’s a good idea to insure properties in hurricane-prone areas, it’s also advisable to go a step further and storm-proof both commercial and residential properties. In addition to safeguarding your investments, implementing protective measures would also substantially reduce your overall property insurance premiums. Plus, of course, you definitely would want to feel safe when the evening news announces that a hurricane could be heading your way.
Doors and Windows Are Most Vulnerable
If you’ve shared your neighborhood with kids, you probably know the damage an errant ball can do to a building’s unprotected glass windows and doors. Now imagine something harder like a rock, propelled at 160 mph by powerful hurricane winds. If your property has two windows facing each other, the force alone is capable of smashing both, and throwing glass missiles around at lethal force.
Sadly, that’s just the beginning. After the winds comes the flood, and broken windows and doors would do little to resist it. Consequent damages would continue to pile up with every inch of flood water. A mere inch is enough to destroy your flooring, furniture and carpet, resulting in $7800 worth of damage. That’s more than 10 times the average cost of property flood insurance in the U.S.
Additional flooding, coupled with increased pressure due to flow of wind through the openings further compromises the structure by destabilizing the roof and walls. Ultimately, you end up losing both, which is pretty much complete property destruction.
So, doors and windows are not only the most vulnerable, but also the backbone of your property when it comes to hurricane resistance. That’s why insurance companies are giving huge premium discounts tn property owners who reinforce their doors and windows. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County for instance, the average annual insurance for properties worth $150,000 with reinforced windows and doors is $1000-$3500. Compare that to 3000-8000 dollar premiums for properties without.
One of the cheapest and most convenient ways to protect your windows is installing a clear, plastic film over the glass. Property owners and managers are particularly in love with this option because it’s applicable year-round, unobtrusive, and also doubles up as anti-ultraviolet. At a cost of a about $25 per linear foot of film, you can install it without consulting a professional.
The only downside to window film, unfortunately, is that while it may hold glass particles together to prevent dangerous projectiles, it does almost nothing to resist powerful winds from blowing away the entire window frame. If you need tougher protection, you may combine film with storm shutters, or replace the entire window with high-impact glass or plywood.
While windows and doors are the most vulnerable, having your roof blown off or collapsed is possibly the most catastrophic hit a hurricane can deliver to your property, besides leveling the entire house. Without a roof, the entire building is exposed to debris, rain and winds. It pretty much ceases to be a house.
To prevent such a scenario, protect your roof by installing special tie downs and anchors. The ideal type, size and number, of course, are dependent not only on your roof, but also the soil type and wind zone. It’s advisable to consult a roofing expert to advise you on these parameters.
If that proves to be too cumbersome, you can also use construction adhesive to glue the roof down within the support beams. This can also be extended to the shingles, especially if they are weak and poorly attached. Take note however, that this would only be effectual in low pressure wind zones. In other areas, you should supplement the adhesive with additional beam support, by tying them together, and fastening attic wall anchors.
Due to their wide surface area, garage doors are particularly susceptible to high pressure winds. The best defense, of course, is replacing standard flush garage doors with reinforced steel models. If you have the right tools, you could alternatively opt to do the reinforcement yourself, by installing steel braces laterally, longitudinally and diagonally.
After protecting your garage door, other external doors should take priority over internal doors because they’ll be the first line of defense. Thankfully, there’s a wide range of bracing kits in the market today, mostly developed to secure properties against burglars. If a specific reinforcement is good enough to resist a burglar’s sledgehammer, you might as well trust it to be stable enough against high pressure winds.
Protecting Property Against Trees
It’d definitely be a shame if you heavily invested in hurricane proofing your property only to have it crushed by tree. One of the costliest mistakes property owners make is ignoring potential disasters that could emanate from trees during storms.
One effective way to deal with such a hazard, of course, is cutting all trees within and around your property. However, that would be not only be extremely irrational and detrimental to your property’s overall aesthetics, but also illegal, considering state environmental legislation. That leaves you with only one option- identifying hazardous trees, and cutting them off before the eventually cut you off from your property. Some of the common danger signs in trees include noticeable leans, severed or broken roots, huge cracks on the trunk, leaking sap, hollowing inside the tree, insect infections and dead branches.
Finally, as you continue reviewing your property for additional potential hurricane weak points, the best way to protect yourself from a storm, even when your property is adequately fortified, is evacuating.