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October 27, 2012 AsktheBuilder Hurricane Alert

If you're a new subscriber in the past three days, this is NOT a typical newsletter. This is a Special Alert newsletter to help you.

This alert is primarily for all of those that live on the East Coast of the USA north of North Carolina. If you don't live there, you may have friends or relatives who do that may benefit from some of the following tips. FORWARD this email to them.


Now is the Time to Act

Believe it or not, I'm not in New Hampshire as I write this. I'm in Cincinnati, OH for a brief time visiting with my father-in-law. I'll be driving back to New Hampshire on Monday - right into the gaping maw of Sandy.

I've been getting a flood of emails from subscribers like you asking me what they can do to help their houses survive. Well, look into the history books about the famous Long Island Express hurricane of 1938 and it can be overwhelming as to what to do. It laid waste to New Hampshire and other parts of New England.

Five weeks ago I started taking CERT training. You need to know this right now:

If Tropical Storm Sandy turns out to be like what the forecast is saying, you will NOT get help from your fire or police department.

READ THAT AGAIN. You will NOT get help. They don't have enough resources and they will be charged with saving the MOST VALUABLE things in your community. Your house, you and your family are the LEAST VALUABLE things in the community as far as they're concerned.

Here's the truth in my own town. The area around my house in New Hampshire (say a radius of 15 miles) has maybe 500 firefighters and perhaps 100 total fire trucks. Yet perhaps 25,000 people live in that same circle. If just 10 percent need help they will be overwhelmed. Get it? Do the math in YOUR town.

Don't take any of the above personally. Just understand you could be on your own for days or weeks. It's not that the professionals don't want to help you, they may not be able to help you.



CALL your insurance agent RIGHT NOW and get the skinny on whether or not you're covered. You may THINK you're covered for water damage, but you might not be. You may only be covered for water damage IF the water is brought into your home by the wind.

I'm NOT an insurance expert. At the very least, get out your policy NOW and read it. If you don't have flood insurance, see if that rider can be added this weekend.



Gather things of value now that could be hurt by water, wind or trees crashing down onto your home. Get valuable away from windows or glass doors.

Park your cars and vehicles away from trees that could fall on them. Park AWAY from where water can rise and flood the car.


Basements - Crawlspaces:

Get anything of value up off the floor now. Get it to high ground. About ten years ago, friends of mine who lived on what they thought was high ground had their basement completely fill with water in about 20 minutes during a fierce thunderstorm.

The side of their yard all of a sudden became a small river with water running 1-foot deep. The water came up against their foundation and BROKE a flimsy basement window. Water POURED through this window and filled the basement.

Other friends of mine had their cottages wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene last August. They had about 8 hours of warning to prepare. It was not enough time for them.

You have at least two days. GET WORKING NOW to move things to high ground and where you know water will not reach.

Can water flood your basement or house? If so, react now.



You could be out of electricity for days. Your sump pump will not work. Gas stations may not be able to pump gas.

Get your car/truck filled with gas now. Have enough gasoline to operate chain saws / generators / pumps, etc. on hand now.

After the storm there WILL BE GIANT LINES of people trying to get gas from the FEW stations that MIGHT BE OPEN. GET YOUR GASOLINE NOW.

What can you do now to survive that? Flashlights, batteries, etc. I'm sure it's possibly too late. The stores could be sold out by now.



Be SURE you know how they work and don't use one in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide from generators KILLS people all the time.



Think now about what you will / can do if the wind blows out windows or doors. What about wind-driven rain leakage? How will you deal with it?

Is anything of value outside that can be blown away?

Do you need to clean out gutters now to handle the heavy rain?

You should have gotten those fantastic gutter guards I talked about two weeks ago. Too late now, but you can get them to be ready for the NEXT storm.

Water will leak through brick walls and chimneys. I've written extensively about wind-driven rain, brick walls and mortar joints. It's TOO LATE to prepare now for that. Just understand water can pour through brick walls.

Wind can topple brick chimneys. If it does, where will it fall on your house? Stay away from that part of the house during the storm.


Friends and Neighbors:

Now is the time to assess what the combined resources are of you and your neighbors. You're going to have to possibly RELY on each other for a while. Who has what tools? How can you work together?

That argument about the fence, bushes, etc. seems pretty petty now doesn't it? It's times like this where you wish you bent over backwards to be a great neighbor.

If you get into trouble, you better hope that your neighbors will have the right attitude to help you.


Common Sense:

It's time for you to use common sense and start to prioritize what you're going to do.

What can you do now? What will you do during the storm and what will you do AFTER the storm if no help comes?

Get a plan together now.

Wish me luck driving across I-90 from Cincinnati, OH to NH. I'll be making my way past Buffalo, NY Monday about 7 pm or so. I'm trying to get to Utica, NY by 9 pm.

If you have other great tips to share BEFORE the storm that I missed, get them to me. I'll create a bullet point list and send it out later today or tomorrow.


3 Responses to October 27, 2012 AsktheBuilder Hurricane Alert

  1. Great tips. Unfortunately with flood insurance, there is a wait period to prevent people from abstaining from insurance and then signing up right before a storm to get protected on the cheap.

    If you don't already have flood insurance (or even if you do!), your best bet is to take precautions and prepare as well as possible to come out out safe and minimize potential losses. In addition to Tim's great advice, here are some smaller scale but relevant tips to help.

    * If you have any of those portable battery powered phone boosters, be sure to charge them up before the storm hits. If you don't have any of these, consider buying a couple to have on hand.

    * Test flashlights and make sure any rechargeable lights are charged up. Same for any cordless power tools!

    * If you have a generator, make sure it's working. If it has fuel in it from months or years ago, it will need service.

    * Get some big ziploc type bags to store valuables, paperwork and small electronics in. If you are in a low lying area, consider getting some space saver type bags (the kind you vacuum seal with your vacuum cleaner) to put clothes and other items in. Be sure to seal these up before the power goes out.

    * Check around the house for any loose siding or tree branches that might be touching the roof or walls as those could cause damage if it gets windy.

    * Make sure you have gloves, boots and other safety items handy so you can find them quickly after the storm.

    * Make note of the location of gas, water and electrical shut offs. If the power starts to flash during the storm, unplug non-essential electronics to protect against surges.

    Hope this helps-stay safe!

  2. Tim, you have provided some of the best advice I've seen from an emergency management and preparedness point in a long time. That first call to your insurance agent is a must. Many homeowners don't realize they need all the riders for flood and also sewer backup to help protect themselves.

    Homeowners will need flood insurance to protect themselves from any water source that flows into the house. We've seen many storms that have dumped huge amounts of rain that cause flooding for a short term in areas that have not seen any type of flooding before.

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