Preparing for High Winds Part Three: Taking Shelter vs. Evacuating

Information provided by The Dekanski Home Selling Team and

Taking Shelter Indoors

Taking shelter indoors may be your only option in fast-moving storms like tornadoes. In hurricanes, where residents generally at least have a few days of warning, departing to a safer area may be the best option. In either case, the safest place in the home during a high wind event is generally the same; an interior room on the lowest level of a structure, away from windows and exterior doors. In some cases, this may be a basement or a first-floor interior closet or bathroom.

Be sure to take a battery operated radio or weather radio with you along with a flashlight. Blankets may offer additional protection and in severe cases, mattresses can be used to provide cover. If an interior bathroom is used, the tub can provide additional protection.

Understanding When It’s Best to Evacuate

Pacific hurricane season is from May 15 through the end of November while the Atlantic Hurricane season spans from June 1 through November 30th. Coastal areas suffer the highest impact, but hurricane force winds can still occur a hundred or more miles inland.

Residents who may be impacted by a hurricane generally have days or more to get ready. This is when plans and preparations should be made to secure your property, notify family and friends as to your intentions, and secure gasoline, cash, and needed foodstuff to make it through the storm and for at least three days beyond. If you are not in the immediate impact area for the most damaging winds, you may decide to “ride it out”. But when should you decide to evacuate?

Simply put, if you are told to leave or are in a mandatory evacuation zone you should leave. You should become familiar with planned evacuation routes for your area and depart within at least a day prior to the storms impact. Keep in mind hotel rooms will likely be at a premium, so leaving earlier will allow you to travel further from the storm’s impact area and may offer more options for accommodations.

Before leaving, do what you can to prevent damage to your home. Install shutters or plywood over windows and doors. Secure loose items in your yard. Make plans for the care of pets. Perhaps most importantly, let loved ones know of your plans and destination.

Leaving a property behind can be a difficult decision. But staying behind may be a frightening, life-threatening situation you should avoid.

Creating a Safe Room

People have varying definitions of a “Safe Room.” Some view it as a place to go in your home when there is an emergency. Others view it as something that should be constructed in the interior a home to serve as a refuge in a variety of calamities. For the purposes of this guide, we are assuming there is a specific area in your home that can serve as the safest place to be in a hurricane or tornado. This will likely be in an interior room on the lowest level of a home, away from windows.

Once you have determined where this space is, there are some preparations you can take to improve the safety of the space.

Ideally, the space should be at least as large as a walk-in closet. It should have a locking door that can be secured with a deadbolt and perhaps, reinforced with longer hinge screws. The room should have a battery operated flashlight or attached LED lighting, a battery operated weather radio, bottled water, and blankets. For our purposes, the safe room need only help you survive the peak winds of an approaching.

There is a newer product on the market that can also help you create a more impenetrable safe room. It is concrete cloth.

Concrete “Cloth”

Concrete cloth is a material that has already been proven effective in lining construction ditches to protect workers, as an easy to deploy fabric in building quick shelters for the military and in fortifying existing construction. Concrete cloth is fabric that is impregnated with cement. When wet, the material can be manipulated into a variety of shapes for up to two hours. It will completely harden in 24 hours, even if it is over-hydrated.

For purposes of a safe room, sheets of the concrete cloth could be attached to the wood studs of walls or the ceiling to be reinforced using common nails or screws. Once it begins to dry in just two hours, you have a concrete reinforced wall. Even a single layer of concrete cloth is said to be able to withstand winds in excess of 130 mph. At about $6 per square foot, concrete cloth would cost about $600 to cover a 10’x10′ walk-in closet.

Finding a Contractor

While some projects to make your home more wind and impact resistant can be handled on a do-it-yourself basis, there are some projects where you will need to secure the services of a professional. What should you consider when choosing a contactor? Here are some tips.

  • Make sure any contractor you use is licensed, bonded and insured. This protects you if the contractor damages your property or otherwise fails in his obligations.
  • Ask family and friends for referrals. This is particularly important if they have used the services of a contractor.
  • Get payment terms upfront, understand all details of what is included in the bid and never pay 100% of a contractor’s fee before work is completed.
  • Get a firm completion date from your contractor. There should be ramifications if that date is not met unless it is due to unforeseen circumstances like bad weather or a material supply issue.
  • Review online rating services. A quick internet search may reveal both negative and positive aspects of a contractor.
  • Ask for references from the contractor for similar projects he has completed.
  • Simply ask the contractor why you should choose his or her services.
  • Ask about any warranties and guarantees, including labor.

In some instances, manufacturer’s may recommend certain contractors as “certified” to install their products. Ask specifically what that means for the product and service you are looking for. Perform due diligence before securing a contractor and minimize problems after you’ve selected one.

Why Prepare

Why should you prepare for high winds, hurricanes, and tornados? The simple reason is to better protect you and your household and the investment you have made in your home.

This perhaps can best be driven home by statistics.

  • All but one of the ten costliest hurricanes have occurred since 2004.
  • 2012’s Hurricane Sandy severely impacted 16 different states.
  • Since the mid-1800s, 34 states have been impacted directly by a tropical storm or hurricane.
  • The United States records over 1,000 tornadoes each year.
  • Altogether, the costs of the 16 separate weather events in the U.S. in 2017 that exceeded $1 billion each added up to over $306 billion.
  • Hurricane force winds can impact an area for 12 to 18 hours but a slow-moving storm could leave hurricane force winds in place for 24 hours or more.
  • Hurricanes are ranked on the Saffir-Simpson Scale which places them in five categories. Category 1 is from 74-95 mph, Category 2 from 96-110 mph, Category 3 from 111-120 and Category 4 from 130-156. The most devastating Category 5 hurricanes range from 157 mph and above.
  • Tornadoes are rated on the Fajita Scale which determines an EF0 tornado to be “light” at 65 to 85 mph. An EF1 tornado is designated as one with winds from 86 mph to 110 and is “moderate”. A “considerable” tornado is an EF2 with winds ranging from 111 mp to 135 mph. An EF3 spans from 136 mph to 165 mph and is considered “severe”. At 166 mph to 200 mph an EF4 is referred to as “devastating” and an EF5 at 201 mph+ is determined to be “incredible”.

Tornadoes and hurricanes are a reality that should be accounted for. There are steps, however, that we can take to mitigate damage.

In many areas, the odds are pretty high that – at some point – a home will be subject to high winds. The winds may be from a hurricane, tornado or even a straight line or mountain wind. Some areas experience blizzard scale winds. Protecting a home starts with inspecting weak points and areas subject to damage like roofs, windows, doors and garage doors. Inspect siding more frequently and take care of our trees, trimming them when needed and removing them as necessary. Make sure your home is safe and have plans in place for severe weather events.