How to Protect Your Home From Severe Weather
Advice on what to do before, during and after a storm.
No matter the season, there is the potential for severe—and damaging—weather. Minimize the risk to your home by taking these steps before and during a storm. Plus, learn what you should do after the storm passes if there is damage.
Before the storm: Make a plan for severe weather
No two households are the same. Use these questions to help craft a plan that meets your needs.
How will I know when severe weather is approaching?
Timely information about weather conditions can help you know when to take action to ensure your safety. As a member of AAA, you can get alerts about extreme weather for free.
It’s also important to understand what the weather alerts mean. For example, a watch means conditions are favorable for the development of a specific weather condition, such as a thunderstorm or flash flood. A warning means that a specific weather condition is occurring or is highly likely to occur.
How can I make my home safer?
High winds, lightning, rain and snow can all wreak havoc on your home. But there are things you can do now, well before there is bad weather in the forecast, that will help you later, when a storm is approaching. Walk through and around your house to identify things that might be affected by severe weather and consider ways to prevent problems. Make a to-do list. Here are a few specific things to look for.
Now, in good weather:
- Have a professional prune any weak branches or remove any weak trees in your yard so they won’t fall and damage your house, garage, cars or any outbuildings.
- Ask a qualified roofing professional to inspect your roof, especially if it’s an older roof.
- Identify shelters, pet-friendly hotels or an out-of-town friend’s or relative’s house where you can take your pets if you’re forced to evacuate.
Later, when a storm is approaching:
- Unplug electronics—they are vulnerable to lightning strikes. (And consider putting surge protectors in place before the next storm arrives.)
- Clear your yard of items that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks and building material inside or under shelter.
- Make sure your pets are in a safe location.
Also think about what you don’t know about your home. Do you know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water if there is damage to these systems (such as a burst water pipe) after a storm, or if you need to evacuate?
What emergency supplies do I need?
You’ll need enough food, water and other supplies to last for several days, in addition to a full tank of gas in your cars. Also consider where you should store your emergency kit—you’ll want to be able to reach it quickly and easily. Ready.gov has more advice, including a printable emergency supply list.
Where will I go in a storm?
The safest place inside your home will be away from windows—so you don’t get hurt by pieces of broken glass or flying debris during a storm. Look for a room with no windows, or consider a closet.
If authorities recommend that you evacuate, do you know where you will go? Identify several places, such as a family member’s home or a hotel in another town. If you have pets, make sure those places are pet-friendly. Choose destinations in different directions so you have options.
How will I communicate with family?
The ways you typically communicate with family members—phones and computers—could be unreliable during really bad storms. Planning helps ensure that members of your household know how to reach one another and where to meet in an emergency. Here is more information from Ready.gov, including a template for creating a family emergency communications plan.
What does my insurance cover?
Review your homeowners insurance policy to understand what it covers—and what it doesn’t. If you have questions or need better coverage, take your policy to an insurance agent for a comprehensive review (such as a AAA Triple Check). And make sure you have a separate flood insurance policy: Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage.
It’s also a good idea to document all your possessions and valuables. Take photos and/or video of them and store this documentation in an accessible, but off-premises, location. Digital photos and video can be stored on a cloud-based site, for example. A secure place such as a safe deposit box can be used for either hard copies or a drive with digital files.
During the storm: Put safety first
Follow authorities’ guidance on evacuation. If you must evacuate, get your emergency supply kit and take only what you need (for example, phone, chargers, medicines, identification, insurance policies and cash). Unplug your appliances. If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity and water. Use the evacuation routes that authorities recommend, even if there’s traffic.
If you stay home, follow storm updates. You can get these via radio, TV or your phone. Make sure you have a battery-powered radio and a charged external battery for your phone. Remember that to-do list that you created before the storm? Now is the time to use it.
Go to the safest place in the house. This is preferably a central room (or closet) with no windows or outside doors. Even if the weather looks calm, don’t go outside until you hear or see an official message that the storm has passed.
Be ready to leave. If an evacuation order is issued or if your home is damaged by the storm, you may need to head for a shelter or a neighbor’s house.
After the storm: Know the danger may not be over
When it’s safe to go outside, walk around your house and look for damage. Don’t forget to look at the roof (using binoculars) for subtle damage, such as missing shingles. If the damage is covered by your homeowners policy, contact your insurance company immediately to start the claims process.
Beware of hazards. Always heed warnings about flooded roads and even flooded areas outside your home. Stay clear of fallen power lines and watch out for overhead lines that may be hanging low. Call the electric company to report them.
If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles. If you must use candles, keep them away from anything that can catch fire. Always stay near lit candles and keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Let people know you’re safe. If it’s a major storm like a hurricane, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well page so family and friends can see that you checked in and know you are safe.
Be suspicious of offers that sound too good to be true. Strangers may come to your house claiming to be a contractor—or tell you they know a contractor—and offer to make repairs for far less than a contractor you might find on your own would charge. Before you hire someone to make repairs, check them out via the Better Business Bureau to make sure they’re legitimate and do quality work. And contact your insurance company before you make repairs to determine if the fix is covered (and to get authorization on next steps).