Thunderstorms can occur year-round, and we have started the first of the two seasons — spring and summer — that they are most likely to occur.
Amelia, Ohio-based specialty residential insurer American Modern Insurance Group, a subsidiary of Germany-based Munich Re, has some tips for homeowners to better protect their properties and families against these events.
“When it comes to thunderstorms, thoughtful planning and preparation are essential,” said American Modern’s Heather Bolyard, assistant vice president of claims support. “For example, one simple yet effective measure homeowners can take is to secure items found in the yard, like trampolines, which can become airborne and dangerous if not properly tied down or stored away.”
Severe thunderstorms accounted for 43% of insured property windstorm losses in the United States — in 2015 values — between 1980 and 2015, according to American Modern. The company reported that in 2011 alone, the United States suffered insured property losses of $27 billion because of tornados, hail, wind gusts and flash floods that accompanied severe thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms can be unpredictable, but American Modern says there are a number of ways homeowners can better prepare for them:
You can’t predict when a storm hits, so keep your disaster supply kit handy.
1. Prepare a supply kit
A basic disaster supply kit should include essential items such as water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and first-aid materials.
Because you can’t predict where you’ll be when a storm hits, it is important to have supplies where you are most often, such as at home or in your car.
Trim damaged branches from trees.
2. Trim trees
Remove or trim dead or damaged trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
You can check with your local city government about any guidelines or required consent applications and contact a qualified (and insured) arborist or tree surgeon for advice, if necessary.
Try to have a qualified arborist inspect trees every two to three years to identify any preventative action necessary. A major cause of tree failure is root damage, so be careful when digging or excavating around trees.
Don’t forget to park your car away from trees if strong winds and severe storms are predicted.
Secure loose siding, fences and objects that you normally keep outdoors.
3. Store items inside
When alerted of a thunderstorm, bring in anything from the outside that could become windborne debris (lawn furniture, bicycles, trash bins and trampolines, for example).
Also secure any loose siding or fence panels.
Strong winds can pick up even large items such as outdoor furniture, trampolines and roofing iron that could potentially damage windows, roofs and cars.
Identify things which you may need to secure and include this information in your plan. If you are going away on a holiday during a stormy season, consider securing these items and following other relevant steps before leaving.
Store food in refrigerator on the coldest setting.
4. Keep food cold
Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep it closed as much as possible so food will last longer should you lose power.
Rid gutters of anything that can cause blockage.
5. Check gutters
Clean gutters and downspouts so rain water can flow freely.
A plugged gutter or damaged drain pipe can create a dam and subsequent roof leak.
Keeping the drains around your property clear will help surface water move away and prevent water from pooling and entering your property.
Pot plants in courtyards and around houses are often used to hide drainage grates. Always remember to move these if there is a thunderstorm warning. Also, park away from low lying areas and drains.
Keep a portable generator handy in case there’s a power outage.
6. Purchase a portable generator
Although generators can be useful in the event of a power outage, remember to use them safely by keeping generators and other power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture.
Never try to power the house by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
Put together an evacuation plan and discuss it with family members.
7. Prepare for an evacuation
Discuss an evacuation plan with members of your household to minimize confusion that may result from the need to leave quickly.
Especially during peak storm season, it’s important to keep your car filled with at least a half tank of gas in case you need to evacuate or in the event of a power outage, as many gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
Plan where you’ll go and how you’ll get in contact with each other as well as any special circumstances or considerations for your household (including any member with chronic illnesses, disabilities, etc.).
Don’t forget that storms and other emergencies can happen at any time of the day, so think about where household members may be if and when the storm hits (school, work, commuting), how you’ll get in touch with them, and where you can meet up.
Try to identify how you will manage in these circumstances and who you may be able to get additional support from. Everyone should know what the plan is.
Robert J Russell Companies has one additional tip:
Check your insurance policy to make sure it’s current and that you have adequate coverage.
Consider things such as the type of coverage — building insurance for homeowners and mortgagees, contents insurance, etc.
Consider also your level of coverage and ensure that your insurance policy provides coverage for the types of events specific to your location. These may include: flash flood, storm water runoff, associated landslip (or landslide) and damage to properties by trees. Discuss this with your insurance agent.