ORLANDO, Fla. -- In preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Florida's State Emergency Response Team (SERT) urge residents to take steps to make their homes safer. Getting a home disaster-ready is a key component for a faster recovery from a hurricane or other disaster.
Hurricanes produce two primary damaging forces: high winds and flooding. Some measures to reduce the damage resulting from water and high winds are fairly simple and inexpensive; others will require a professional contractor licensed to work in a state, county or city.
It is important to ensure that any work meets current state and local building codes. Exceeding the requirements of the building code with a "code-plus" approach to rebuilding increases the disaster resistance of a house and decreases the chance of major structural damage from wind or water. For more detailed information, homeowners should talk to a professional home builder, architect, contractor or building-supply retailer.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes - FLASH, Inc. - is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting disaster safety, property protection and economic well being by strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. Its Web site, www.flash.org, features animations that guide a homeowner or builder step-by-step through the latest tested and approved home mitigation techniques, including improvements to the roof, walls and windows; FLASH Cards, that provide disaster-safety information covering 20 topics (including hurricanes and flooding safety) and ordering information for the FLASH One-Stop Resource Guide, which provides concise information on strengthening a home.
FEMA's How To mitigation series features illustrated guides about mitigation topics. The series can be viewed, downloaded and printed by logging onto www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/howto/index or copies ordered by calling 1-800-480-2520.
Residents living in storm-damaged homes may need to evacuate should a hurricane threaten the area; riding out a hurricane in a weakened structure is dangerous. Strengthening measures still are no guarantee that a home will not be damaged or even destroyed by a hurricane. Residents should evacuate immediately if told to do so by local authorities.
The following are some general suggestions for rebuilding safer and stronger:
PROTECTING PROPERTY FROM WIND
One of the most effective ways to reduce damage to a home is to install protection on the home's openings (windows, skylights and doors), such as impact-resistant windows and doors and/or storm shutters. Homeowners should purchase or make shutters for all exposed windows, glass surfaces, French doors, sliding glass doors and skylights. Typical types of manufactured storm shutters include wood, aluminum and steel. Shutters should be installed following the manufacturer's guidelines.
Roof failures, especially in unbraced gable roofs, are a common cause of major damage to houses and their contents in high winds. Homeowners should ensure the roof framing is braced. Check with the local building department for code requirements and with a professional about installation.
Exterior doors should be wind and impact resistant or protected with an impact-resistant covering. Many houses are equipped with double-entry doors. Because double-entry doors span a wider opening than a single door, they usually are not as strong as a single door and more susceptible to wind damage. Homeowners should add a heavy-duty deadbolt or replace the existing deadbolt with a stronger one, add sl...