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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Friday, May 31, 2013

Protect this house: Keeping your home safe during hurricane season

Damage from Beryl
Corey Jones
Thanks to WOKV listener Corey Jones for this damage at his house.

By Matt Augustine

Protecting your home can be a task outside of hurricane season, let alone when it starts up June 1.  With the NOAA predicting up to 20 named storms this year if you haven't gotten your house ready for hurricane season yet, you might want to get a jump on it sooner rather than later.

"The nice thing about hurricane season, it reminds us it's time to get it done," says Wally Conway, host of The Home and Garden Show Saturdays from 7-9 a.m. on WOKV.

Conway says it pays to cover all your bases BEFORE the storm moves into town and offers a checklist of five different aspects of hurricane prep that could prevent your home from being damaged and your wallet being emptied trying to fix it.

1. Check your gutters.

"Most of the water that ends up in your home during a storm started out on your roof," says Conway.

He says making sure your gutters are clean and discharging away from your home will ensure that water doesn't find its way into your home. Checking for cracks and damage before hurricane season gets here is also recommended so your gutters are at peak performance.

2. Monitor trees and debris, because although that massive oak tree in your front yard probably would make great furniture, it really has no place laying in your living room.

"If we keep the trash debris and the trees away from the windows, trim them back,  it looks good, you can see out, far less chance of the hurricane coming into your home," says Conway.

But maybe you're scratching your head wondering whether that tree is too close or if you'll be OK just leaving it like it is. Conway says you'll want to make absolutely sure it's far enough away from your home.

"If you could imagine a big, hairy wind blowing that tree to its furthest extension without falling, blowing it sideways, blowing it all over the place, if it would snap or smack or damage your roof shingles or your windows, trim it back," Conway says.

3. Backup power. No one likes to be in a dark house, especially when your iPad or smartphone is dead. A small, portable generator should be more than enough for a storm. It's important to make sure it's hooked up properly for everyone's safety.

"It's essential, not necessarily that you have the biggest generator, but that everything has been safely and professionally connected," says Conway.

For more guidelines on generator safety you can visit the FAQ page of JEA's website.

4. Wind mitigation. Conway says the state of Florida mandates you get insurance discounts and all you have to do is show you can comply.

"That's done by the wind mitigation form, very simple to comply, you want to get that submitted to drive down your insurance costs."

5. Flood insurance.

"Did you know that everyone in the state of Florida lives in a flood zone? The question is which one?"

Wally Conway says it's fairly cheap, like $10-$12 a month, so it's totally worth it.

"Every single time we have a big rain, someone is heartbroken and often at great financial devastation because they didn't have flood insurance," says Conway.

So you prepped your home for hurricane season, the storm passed, and hopefully your house is still mostly intact. Now what?

"The most important thing after the storm has passed is your personal safety, so you want to take a peek about to make sure there's no downed wires, no trees and other debris," Conway says.

If you're thinking about boarding up your windows, Conway says it's not as easy as just throwing some plywood on there. He says homeowners need to think about simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and how it's going to make your house look and feel.

"Look to spend your time and to spend your money on things that will add value, add beauty, and add protection to your home every single day of the year."

But even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and even if you spend months prepping there's no way to ensure 100% that nothing will happen to your house. Conway says if you follow these simple rules for keeping your home safe then there's no reason you should be second-guessing yourself when hurricane season is finally over.

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