RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Central Virginia could see the remnants of Hurricane Irma by late Monday and lasting until Wednesday. Although it’s too early to tell the severity of the impact, the time to prepare is now.
AAA Mid-Atlantic provided the following tips on what you can do to prepare before and after a storm.
BEFORE THE STORM:
While making sure your home is covered for storm damage is important, keeping yourself and your family safe during a storm is more important.
The following emergency supplies should always be kept on hand:
- Canned food items and bottled water
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- A battery-operated radio
- Essential prescription medications
- Emergency cash
- Stock a cooler with ice
- Keep the freezer door closed as long as possible
- Keep what cold air you have inside the freezer – do not open the door any more than necessary. A full freezer should stay at freezing temperatures about two days; a half-full freezer about one day.
An emergency evacuation plan should be in place for every member of the household. Identify the nearest storm shelter, and suggest a meeting point should family members get separated.
Brace your home for storm damage
There are some basic things you can do to protect your home from storm damage:
- Install storm shutters or cover windows to prevent window breakage.
- Check for loose siding on your home and secure it if necessary.
- If you need to evacuate, turn off all your utilities and disconnect any electrical item in your home.
- Water and electricity don’t mix, so any device left connected is a potential fire hazard.
Take a home inventory
- While the outside of your home might be most prone to storm damage, your personal belongings are also at risk in a storm. Because of this, documenting your personal possessions with a home inventory is highly recommended. Having a home inventory makes filing a home insurance claim simpler, and can help expedite the claims process.
- If you don’t have a complete home inventory including receipts and model numbers, you can still make one using your smart phone or camera. Take photographs or video of your personal possessions, open closets, drawers and cupboards and get photos of every room. A home inventory can include clothing, jewelry, furniture, personal computers and other personal property. It is a good idea to keep a copy of your home inventory in an outside location, like a safe deposit box or trusted family member’s home.
Photograph and document the damage
- With storm damage to your home you will need to file a claim with your insurance company — do so as soon as possible. The earlier you file a home insurance claim, the faster it will be processed. Also, you may be required to file your claim within a certain timeframe, so don’t delay. Incomplete or inaccurate information can result in a delayed claim, so make sure you have all necessary paperwork in-hand when contacting your home insurance company.
- You may need to make minor repairs to storm damage that will prevent further damage to your home, like fixing broken windows or make temporary repairs to protect your property if possible. For permanent storm damage repairs, wait until your insurance company has examined the property. If you have storm damaged property, do not throw it away until the claims adjuster inspects it.
- If the temporary repairs are made prior to a claims adjuster inspecting your home, be sure to save your receipts and keep a record of all of your temporary repair expenses.
- If possible, move your property to protect it from further damage. If you are unable to move large belongings, try to protect them from the elements using a tarp or plastic.
Bracing your car before the storm
- Gas up your car.
- Clear your windshield and windows on the inside and outside, and ensure that your window wipers are in good shape.
- Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Check that all your lights are working properly.
- Remove excess items from the car and trunk, and replace them with an emergency road service kit. Some important items to carry in the emergency kit include: flashlight with extra batteries; reflective triangles; fire extinguisher; jumper cables; first aid kit; rain gear or and/or extra clothing. On long trips, pack a few non-perishable foods and drink items like granola bars, cans of juice, etc.
- Review maps and plan an evacuation route, if needed, including an alternate, Plan B. Keep them together with important contacts, and include someone outside the region who can serve as a central information gatherer for family members in the hurricane zone. Charge up cell phones and walkie-talkies, and buy any extra batteries needed.
DURING THE STORM:
- Heed the warnings of emergency officials and observe road closure signs – do not attempt to drive on closed roads or into evacuated areas. Stay tuned to local news alerts and government agency updates regarding road closures/restrictions, storm damage, emergency relief efforts, etc.
- Turn on windshield wipers and head lights (not just daytime running lights) as soon as rain begins to fall. If intermittent wipers are used, be certain they are set to a speed that will clear the windshield before visibility is compromised.
- Slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. Rain decreases visibility and increases braking distances.
- Increase following distances. Normal dry pavement following distance (3 seconds) should be increased to 8 seconds or more when driving on slippery surfaces. While driving, train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you’ll be able to anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
- Wet surfaces require careful and precise steering movements. Skids can be avoided by anticipating lane changes, turns and curves; slowing down in advance; and by making smooth, exact steering movements. Driving in other vehicle’s tracks can improve traction and help you avoid hydroplaning.
- Drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles must remember they are not immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Four-wheel drive cars are just as likely to lose traction on wet roads as any other vehicle.
- Be wary of high wind conditions. Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.
- Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways as a result of the high winds. If in a vehicle or on a piece of equipment that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle or equipment so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.
- Do not attempt to cross any standing water on the road that looks too deep. Just six inches can make you lose control of your car and two feet of water will carry away most cars. Nearly half of the people who die in flash floods are in automobiles, because they underestimate water’s power or don’t act quickly enough to escape.
- Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood.
- If visibility is limited to the edge of the road and other vehicles cannot be seen, pull over and wait for the rain to let up.
- If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately and pull as far off the road as possible.
AFTER THE STORM:
- If your car has been damaged, take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.
- If power lines are on your vehicle, do not attempt to remove them nor touch the vehicle. Contact the local power company for assistance.
- If the vehicle has been flooded, contact a qualified automotive technician before attempting to start a flood-damaged car.
- Have the technician inspect all mechanical components including the engine, transmission, steering system, axles, and fuel system for water contamination.