Tips to prepare your home for hurricane season

(BPT) – NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms in 2016 with four to eight potentially becoming hurricanes. However, while weather experts monitor storm patterns, homeowners don’t have to sit idly by and wait for disaster to strike.

“Getting your home prepared before a hurricane hits can help prevent damage,” says Jim Clifford, director of underwriting at United Service Automobile Association and its affiliates (USAA). “While you can’t prevent the storm, knowing you did everything possible to help protect your assets can help with this emotional experience.”

Clifford explains what steps to take now, before a storm hits and after it passes.

What to do now:

Tame Mother Nature. Trim trees to reduce potential damage from falling limbs.

Clear out gutters. Clean rain gutters and keep them free of debris. You could create your own flood with clogged drains and gutters.

Get rid of clutter. Pick up things around your yard that you are no longer using, such as empty plant pots, etc.

Shield glass. Purchase storm shutters or 5/8-inch marine plywood and have it cut to fit and ready to install to help protect windows, glass doors and skylights in the event of a storm.

Make a plan. Develop a family communication plan and practice your evacuation.

What to do before the storm hits:

Move belongings. Keep valuable items away from windows.

Bring the outdoors inside. Bring lighter-weight outdoor items indoors, such as trash cans, patio furniture, plants and toys. Secure other objects that could be picked up by the wind.

Shelter your car. If you have to evacuate and plan to leave a vehicle behind, put it in the garage or on higher ground. Avoid parking it under a tree or on a low-lying street where it could be damaged by water.

Secure heavy-duty items. Make sure to properly store items such as boats or motorcycles, following the same general guidelines as with your car. If your boat will stay in the water, tie it down securely and remove the motor and any small objects.

Unplug electronics. To prevent damage from an electrical surge, unplug electronics and household appliances. Don’t rely on surge protectors to save them.

Create an emergency kit. In the event of evacuation, be ready to go. Pack medication, nonperishable food, water (1 gallon per person per day), first aid kit, flashlight and batteries.

Evacuate. Leave the area if necessary to protect yourself and your family. Always comply with mandatory evacuations.

What to do after the storm:

Wait until the coast is clear. If you are forced to evacuate, listen to the radio or TV news stations and wait until the area is declared safe before returning.

Don’t flip the switch. Once you return home, don’t turn on the power right away if the area or your home is flooded. Have an electrician inspect your home first. You should also have your gas lines inspected – avoid open flames or candles until you do. Have your plumbing checked out as well.

Create a documentary. Record or photograph any damage to your home and belongings – before repairs are made or claims are filed with your insurance company. Help protect your property from further damage and keep all receipts for these costs.

For more information regarding USAA’s hurricane loss mitigation and flood insurance, visit and search “hurricane.”