Every year, the Atlantic hurricane season in the U.S. runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. And during every hurricane season, people who live in hurricane-prone places like Florida and Louisiana worry about how to keep their belongings safe. By taking the following precautions, you can help ensure your possessions are protected if you live in a hurricane zone.

Safe or Sorry

Evaluate items in your household you can’t afford to lose in the event of storm damage. Are they irreplaceable? Do they carry monetary or sentimental meaning? Take special care when assessing any fragile or antique items, heirlooms or family photos that can easily be damaged if they’re unprotected. Keeping them stored in your own home is possible after taking the correct measures.

“It’s important to think about the damage from water and the damage from wind,” says Robin Ersing, a University of South Florida professor specializing in disaster preparedness. “Anything that’s going to be damaged by floodwaters or rising waters should be in some watertight containers.”

Keep copies of important documents in sealable, zip-locked, waterproof bags, and then place those in airtight, watertight containers, Ersing said. If you’re storing them in a basement, attic or garage, make sure they’ve been secured to the ground.

watertight storage container

You should keep important documents in a watertight container like this one.

“Anything you have in your shed that’s not bolted down has the potential to be a projectile,” she said. “So when that storm comes through, it can lift up the bird bath, the lawn chair, the trash can.”

Make sure garage and double doors are reinforced, and shutters are strengthened, to ward off wind and rain, said Rob Shelt, assistant manager of emergency management for Palm Beach County, FL.

“For any structure in a hurricane, what needs to be secured is the openings,” Shelt advised.

Shelter From the Storm

Depending on your home and the area you live, your property may be better protected by going the self-storage route. Choose your facility wisely; most are equipped to handle the force of a major storm.

“Many self-storage facilities in hurricane-prone areas make special preparations for tropical storms and hurricanes,” said Holly Robinson, a representative for Extra Space Storage, “including having backup generators on site, hurricane-impact windows and covered loading docks.”

Safeguard Self Storage, which is in the heart of New Orleans, is one of those facilities. Although it was strong enough to weather Hurricane Katrina, tenants are encouraged to take extra steps to protect they’re belongings.

storage unit

Make sure your storage unit can withstand hurricane-force wind and rain.

“We always tell customers to cover their items in plastic, particularly those on the top floor, to prevent against roof leaks,” says Rusty Bonin, assistant manager of Safeguard Self Storage.

Use your best judgment when choosing a facility. Look at its policies and prices, and consult a flood-zone map to see where the property is situated. Top-notch storage facilities often are built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. If you’re using storage at a multilevel facility, try to rent a unit on one of the middle floors. Top-floor units can be susceptible to rain damage, and bottom-level units can be susceptible to flooding.

“When people are looking for storage facilities, it’s important to check out the vulnerability of the facility itself,” said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute. “You need to make sure the storage facility is in a different risk level.”

Assurance Through Insurance

McChristian advises people to protect their belongings not just physically, but financially. “The first thing to think about is if an item is important enough to store, it’s important enough to insure,” she said.

“The same cautions you should take to protect your items in your home, the same diligence you should take for your storage facility,” McChristian added. “Maybe more so, because you’re not physically present, and you want to protect what you’re investing in.”

Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see how much coverage it provides. Many policies offer protection for items stored away from home, but that coverage may be limited to just 10 percent of an item’s value, McChristian said.

insurance policy

Check your homeowner’s or renter’s policy for coverage of stored items.

Also, investigate whether your storage facility offers its own insurance coverage. “The person who owns that storage facility is typically insured for the building itself, but not necessarily for your stuff,” McChristian said.

In many cases, you can buy what’s known as tenant insurance from your storage facility. At Safeguard in New Orleans, for example, a tenant can obtain $2,000 worth of coverage for $9 a month; $3,000 for $13 a month; and a $5,000 for $21 a month.

“If any customer wants more coverage, they have to fill out a special form that itemizes the contents of the unit,” Bonin said. The facility then arranges for its insurance underwriter to assess and valuate your stored belongings.

Although tenant insurance isn’t required by every storage facility, it is highly recommended. After all, you don’t want to be stuck paying to fix or replace uninsured items that have been damaged or destroyed in a hurricane.

“Can you worry about everything? Can you plan for everything? You can sure try,” McChristian said.

  • Samantha Klein

    In the United States, a Miami-Dade approval, considered by many to be the gold standard of hurricane testing, is almost laughable compared to testing standards in other countries.

    The Miami-Dade testing requirement for a large missile impact test, consists of 9 lb, 2×4 timber, shot from an air canon, at a velocity of 35 mph. While in cyclone prone regions of Australia, impact tests, require the same 9 lb timber, but at a velocity of 62 mph, and in some areas as high as 74 mph. To give an example of how different the U.S. and Australia standards are, many products used in the U.S. and Mexico, are not permitted for sale in Australia and other countries. Products, such as most single pane hurricane windows, cannot meet the higher testing requirements.

    But, If wind is blowing or gusting to 150 mph, many objects would certainly be carried at a rate of velocity of half that wind speed, and many certainly above the 35 mph U.S. test.

    Hurricane resistant glass, constructed of a single glass pane, regularly fails on impact tests over 50 mph, and always when the impact is at 74 mph or more. Much of this single pane impact resistant glass, failed when Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005, and Wilma was not a major hurricane.

    U.S. large missile hurricane impact testing standards have not been raised since the changes Hurricane Andrew prompted in 1992.

    The hurricane glass manufacturers, as well as manufacturers of other products, are also afforded dubious help during the testing process. For example, hurricane glass manufacturers, are allowed to leave additional caulking all around the glass, where it is held in the frame. The extra calk, referred to internally by hurricane window companies, as “clean up”, aids in passing the impact test, and the follow up wind test.

    This “clean up” caulk is not on windows delivered to customers, so the strength of the product tested, is stronger than what a customer is delivered. No hurricane window manufacturer, contacted about this article, would comment on this additional caulk.

    The testing standards in the U.S. also allow for products to pass a test a single time for approval. It’s not uncommon for a hurricane window manufacturer or manufacturers of other products, to send 10 windows or specimens, of identical size to a lab, and simply test each specimen, until one passes the test.

    So under U.S. testing standards, products can fail 9 out of 10 times during testing, and be approved for sale to the public. The largest problems arise upon installation of these windows. When a window, especially a replacement window is screwed into the existing opening, the window itself is pulled in 4 directions when screwed into place, thus further weakening the frame which holds the glass in place. This explains why many failures of hurricane windows resulted in the glass being sucked out of the window frame, leaving the frame solidly in place.

    Since the hurricane glass manufacturers make up almost 70% of the revenue for the testing labs, the labs, ignore the extra caulking, and the number of times it takes for a specimen of any manufacturer to pass. More tests equal more dollars.

    Objections to raising the testing standards in the US have been successfully made with the argument of cost and benefit. The increased cost to the general public, in their ability to afford products that could meet higher standards, would be to great. The cost/benefit argument is completely inaccurate and without merit as many products that cost as little as $5.00 per square foot (DIY) and about $9/ft installed that are capable of passing impacts as high as 100 mph, and wind tests that are on par with an F5 tornado.

    In addition, there are many products from: reinforced roll down shutters, stainless steel screens, reinforced bahama shutters, double pane hurricane resistant glass windows (with a fabric inner layer), to next generation hurricane fabrics, that meet much higher testing standards without design changes to their products.

    The real risk to the consumer is simple. If you buy a product that barely passes a 35 mph impact, and the standard is raised in the future, it’s highly unlikely that the manufacturer of the product, will retest old products to the higher standard. So if you receive an insurance benefit, or may receive a hurricane insurance discount in the future, It’s only smart to purchase products that already meet higher impact standards and design pressures. Not to mention that this is a good idea for anyone who wants to remain safe during a hurricane.

    If Florida, and many areas of the U.S. and Mexico, were held to Australia’s standards, most of S. FL along the coast, would require a large missile impact test of at least 62 mph, and some areas an impact test of 74 mph would be required.

    So what can a consumer do to protect their home, since almost every hurricane protection product manufacturer claims their products can withstand a Category 5 hurricane? It’s a good idea to ask for data proving that the product actually does pass an impact above 50 or even 60 mph and have the documentation to give you. If not, it’s highly likely that just about the time that everyone in Florida, and the rest of the U.S. and Mexico, has purchased protection for their homes, these manufacturers will then lobby for a higher standard to create a whole new potential customer base.

    The risk to consumers is 2 fold. Many are made to feel safe when they are not, and the U.S. has effectively locked in these standards as raising them would mean people would need to buy new protection products.

  • Alufab USA

    Interesting article, I had never thought of going to a self storage place for protection. I have always thought about proofing your home and protecting valuables. When it comes to protecting your home hurricane windows are a big improvement and with help your home beat the storm!

  • Guardian Hurricane Protection

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