How to storm-proof your home

With storms likely to blow in with little notice, getting your yard in order ahead of time means avoiding extreme damage.

While incoming heavy storms are often flagged, there are times we have little notice to prepare our homes – or we may not be close enough to home to get things storm-proofed before the chaos hits. Taking care of the big jobs throughout winter means not having to panic when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Here are five simple steps to protecting your home this storm season.

1: Download weather warning apps - and other helpful emergency go-tos

Plenty of app services offer free weather warnings via SMS, for example Weatherzone, Early Warning Network, Accuweather and of course the Bureau of Meteorology. You can also sign up for warning through your State Main Roads Department website. These alerts can be issued days or hours in advance, and give you warning time to get prepared.  While you’re searching the app store, download your power, gas and water providers apps and phone numbers in case you need to report an emergency during a blackout and you have no internet coverage.

2. Trim trees and bushes

Heavy branches, damaged trees and plants too close to the windows or powerlines can all become a danger during storms (think roof and window damage) and are generally too big a job to tackle when you’ve been sent an alert a few hours in advance. Keep them well trimmed and checked throughout winter and cut any potential problems back sooner rather than later.

3. Clear your yard

During a storm, any loose debris has the potential to become a missile, so it’s a good idea to not only do a thorough clean of your yard at the start of winter but to spend 15 minutes or so every few days cleaning away anything that’s been left lying around like children's toys.

The same goes for anything loose on the house. Gutters, windows, screens, shed roofs or doors can not only be ripped free by the wind, they can go through windows, causing glass to spray everywhere and the weather to come on in.  And while you’re checking the condition of your gutters, have a quick look for blocked drain pipes – heavy rains and blocked gutters and drains can cause water to flood back under the roof and into your ceiling, causing expensive repairs. 

And if you have outdoor settings or other outdoor furniture or equipment that are on the lighter side (ie: they can become airborne), consider securing them to the ground  - some table legs have small holes at the base of the legs to put screws through into the flooring. If this is not practical, have a plan for where you will put them in case of a storm warning or how you can secure them quickly (plastic bags pre-filled with sand can be tied on in a hurry and are less likely to become a weapon in the wind.).

4. Prepare for the worst

Ensure you have a first aid kit prepared just in case and know where your candles, torches, batteries and lighters are kept – ensure they can be reached in the event of a blackout. It’s a great idea to have a small stash of food and water handy (if you’re a camper, your gas camping stove could make you very popular come dinner time provided you’ve stocked up on butane cans!)
Winter is also a great time to recheck your home and contents insurance. If you have any concerns, call your insurer to talk through various events to ensure you understand your coverage and that it is adequate.

5. When a storm is coming

Are you all prepared, but with mere hours left until a storm hits? Make sure your emergency kit is up to date, your insurance policy is paid (and you’ve triple checked it covers what you think it does – including electrical damage). It’s also time to charge everything you own so you have as much battery life as possible should the power go out and get your candles and torches into an easy to find spot. Take your pets out to go to the toilet, as they're likely to be in for the night. Move your cars into a safe place and scan the yard for any potential projectiles. Have a few meals ready that don’t require power, pop out a few board games and rugs and prepare to settle in – away from windows and blinds!

Have you ever suffered severe weather damage at your house? What have you learned to do differently?

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