Learn How to Weather a Storm

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Something Stormy This Way Comes!
How to Make Sure Your Home and Family Properly Weather a Storm

With winter here many of us are bracing ourselves for (and dreading) the worst weather of the year. It's time to pull out the ice scraper, shovel and stock up on sand for the walkways. An average snowstorm or a heavy downpour of rain can be handled pretty easily, but many of us are probably not prepared for a major storm. It's not until a major storm front is approaching do we realize that we are lacking many of the essential tools and know-how.

Be prepared this wet winter season. A few simple steps will keep your home and family safe. Let us show you how to weather the storm the next time one hits.

Preparing for a Winter Storm

Sure, we all love snow-in moderation. If you city is slated for a big blizzard, there is more to do than just stock up on food and DVDs! The biggest risk is a power or gas outage, so it's vital to be prepared. Stock up on firewood if you have a fireplace. If you don't, invest in a small camping stove that runs on propane. This will allow you to cook basic food and keep warm. Some cities allow the use of kerosene, so you may want to consider that as an option too, just be sure you have the right fuel and burning device.

If you suspect your home isn't properly insulated, have it inspected by a professional. A little insulation makes a big difference. Extra insulation can come in the form of your storm doors and windows, so if you haven't installed them yet, now is a great time to do so!

With winter storms comes frigidly cold weather, and with that comes frozen pipes. It's way easier to prevent pipes from freezing than to thaw them, so here's the lowdown:

Exposed pipes, such as those under and in the attic of your home, should be properly insulated in cold weather. Insulating tape, fiberglass and pipe sleeves are available at your local home improvement store for just a few dollars. If the storm is approaching and time is scarce, wrap the pipes in newspaper, plastic, old t-shirts and/or rags.

If your home's indoor and outdoor shut-off valves are separate, turn off the outdoor water. Remove all hoses and attachments and wrap up the faucets.

If it's not too cold, caulk or re-caulk the areas around where the pipes enter the house. (Caulk generally doesn't work in temperatures below 40 degrees). Look for small holes to the outside that let cold wind blow directly on the pipe. Use expanding foam caulking for the best results.

As the temperature drops, open all cabinet doors to let the heat in your home penetrate the pipes underneath. If it's zero or below, turn all faucet taps (both hot and cold) slightly until a small stream of water comes out; moving water will prevent the pipes from freezing over. Leave them on like this through the duration of the storm if possible.

Be aware that pipes may burst if frozen. If this happens, turn the main water valve and the water heater off immediately and call a professional. If your pipes do wind up freezing and haven't burst, wrap them if you haven't already. You'll want to inspect them first to be sure there are no obvious cracks. If you notice a broken section of pipe, turn off the water at the main valve and call in the pro - you'll need to replace this section asap. Be patient however as plumbers are often quite busy on the coldest days of the year.

If nothing seems damaged, turn off the water at the main valve and then using a hair dryer or other forms of electric heat to thaw them under constant supervision. Never leave a space heater on (or hair dryer) without you in the room. Try slowly turning the water back on to make sure there is no other damage. One important thing to point out here is to never use any sort of fire (blow torch, etc.) as this can be extremely dangerous.

Winter Storm Checklist

Bottled water
Canned and dried food/baby formula
Manual can opener
Flashlights
Batteries
Battery-powered radio
First aid kit
Extra medication
Wall mounted phone (not a cordless or cell phone - you want one that works when the power is out)
Fully Charged Cell Phone
Cash and/or credit cards
Rock salt and/or kitty litter for outdoor traction

Preparing for a Tropical Storm

If you are bracing for a tropical storm or hurricane, you will want to prepare your home accordingly. Most of us know to board up our windows when a tropical storm is approaching, which is a great first step. This will hopefully prevent breakage as winds kick up debris.

Depending on how much time you have, identify your most important documents and cherished items and place them in a waterproof container. Your family's insurance and identity information, plus any deeds is what you are looking to protect here. If you can't find all of this stuff, collect what you can and move on to other tasks. Then, come back to it if you have time left over.

You will want to collect as much clean water as you can. If you have time, hit the local grocery store and stock up. If this isn't an option, sterilize your tap water by boiling it and then fill all empty water containers (don't use old milk or juice bottles) as well as all of your bathtubs and sinks. You will want to have as much water on hand, as you will eventually cut the main water and gas valves to your home, and later, the electricity.

Remember to lock all of your doors and windows and close all of the drapes and curtains and if you have them, lower your awnings and take down any antennas on your roof. If you are going to wait the storm out, the best place to be is in the middle of the room somewhere in the center of your home.

Check your roof to make sure there are no obvious leaks or damage. If you notice any problems in advance of the storm season, get these fixed asap. Scheduling these fixes in the off-season is not only often a lot cheaper, it'll definitely put you more at ease. After all, your roof is the last thing you'll want to have to worry about as the storm passes through.

Be sure to arrange a call with a relative or friend who resides outside the storm area that will happen after the storm hits. They'll know that if they don't hear from you within a certain time range that you might be in trouble and to send for help.

Tropical Storm Checklist:

Bottled water
Canned and dried food/baby formula
Manual can opener
Flashlights
Batteries
Battery-powered radio
First aid kit
Extra medications
Cash and/or credit cards
Fire extinguisher
Raingear

Chances are, your family or home will not be severely damaged by a storm in your lifetime, but that's no excuse not to be prepared! Stock up on all of the supplies you need now and keep them in a safe yet accessible place. If a storm does blow through, there will be no need to scramble around last minute or run to the store in search of materials. Being prepared means that you and your family will be calmer, safer and ready if the big one does indeed hit.

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