Prepare now – inside and out - for hurricane season
By Toni Miles
Hurricane season is just around the corner, beginning June 1 and running until November 30. While some severe weather pops up suddenly and unexpectedly, the good news is residents and businesses here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast usually have time to prepare for natural disasters before they even show up.
“Here in South Mississippi, our biggest threats, we normally have a lot of time to plan for,” says Elvis Gates, Jr., who owns and operates a State Farm Insurance agency office in Long Beach. “We know when a hurricane is coming usually several days out.”
“Having a plan means you’ve thought it out when there’s not a threat.”
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, and Gates says now is the time to put an emergency plan in place – or review and update an existing one - as well as designate a safe area for storing important documentation before a storm hits.
“Secure your important photos, documents - anything that you really just don’t want to lose in the event of a catastrophe - in whatever safety box or strong box you have. Put it in a safe place,” Gates says.
Gates says those who do decide to stick around during an approaching storm this hurricane season should let people know they are staying. Those who choose to evacuate should be sure to take all important documents with them and let loved ones have contact information as to where they will be.
Those who decide to “ride out the storm,” Gates says, should be sure to have essentials on hand - flashlights, water, non-perishable food stored in a secure area - and charge cell phones and all electronics before the storm arrives. Buying battery backup units is a good idea, too.
Gates also reminds residents to “know the different exposures you have to disaster. It’s not just your house. It could be your car. It could be your boat. There are so many facets of Coastal living that are exposed to that risk of disaster that sometimes people just don’t think about.”
“A very important thing about boats - a boat can be sunk in your front yard. People bring their boat to their house, and they can take all the precautions in the world - park it between the house, garage, or somewhere that’s not under a tree that may fall on it – and that boat fills up with water, because they forgot to pull the drain plug. A boat hull that fills up with water, weighing approximately eight pounds per gallon, results in several thousand pounds of water that will just destroy the hull of a boat, warp the boat, sink the boat, completely deform the trailer. It’s sunk in your yard.”
Gates also recommends removing limbs that hang close to a house and removing or securing items that could ultimately pose a danger to residents and neighbors.
“The number of times I’ve seen bikes and garbage cans through windows is just amazing,” Gates said. “If it’s laying in your yard, it’s a missile. Wind can pick it up. If wind has ever blown over your garbage can, imagine what it does when that wind is 100 miles an hour, and that garbage can is going into the side of your house. That’s a big deal.”
As for the interior of a home, Gates advises everyone to turn off their electricity to all non-essential appliances and to close all the blinds and shades throughout the home.
“Close your blinds, because a lot of rocks and things that get thrown up could hit your windows. If your shades are open, then that glass is going to penetrate all the way into that living space,” Gates says.
Another preparation tip before the storm - photograph, video and document everything of value before a storm. This includes photographing and writing down any identifiable serial numbers on property, as well as keeping receipts that serve as proof of an insured item’s value and date of purchase.
“One of the toughest times customers have after a claim is explaining what they had before the loss,” Gates said. “Katrina taught us something. Houses were completely gone. How do you now itemize and show us what you had in that house? We’re really big fans of video inventories. Nowadays with cell phones, you can just go through your house, room-by-room, just pan around, and get video footage of what you’ve got.
“After the loss, you are traumatized,” Gates said. “You’re going to try to remember what you had. It’s the worst time to be pulling on your memory if you have to go through that. Having that video inventory that you can sit there and watch and look at on your phone and remember-there’s nothing that beats that.”