Evaluate your home, gather documents before storms


n Store important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, property records and birth certificates in a safe-deposit box. Store copies in a disaster-supplies kit.

n Keep a stash of cash or traveler’s checks where you can quickly get them in case of evacuation.


n Know how to shut off water lines in case of a leak in the house. Label the shut-off valve clearly; it’s the first valve where water enters the house.

n Strap your water heater (gas and electric ones) to studs in the wall or to the floor with heavy-duty metal strips to prevent gas leaks and possible fires from broken pipes. You can find strapping kits at home improvement stores.


n Buy a portable, gas-powered generator for emergency electricity. Only appliances that can use extension cords should be attached to a generator. A 2,200-watt unit can power a refrigerator and several lamps. Keep fuel in a safe, protected container.

n Learn how to shut off the electricity: Turn off single breakers first, then switch off the main breaker.

To turn back on, switch the main breaker first, then the single breakers. On older panels, pull the main fuse blocks.


n All occupants should also know how and when to turn off the gas. If you smell gas after a storm or other emergency, shut off the meter valve found at the first fitting on the supply pipe coming out of the ground. Use a wrench to turn the valve either way until it is perpendicular to the pipe. Keep a wrench attached to the gas meter with a wire. Call the gas company to get service restored.

Structural safety

n Make sure your home is bolted to the foundation and the structure is properly reinforced.

n Check the roof, foundation, chimney and walls for cracks and overall condition. Contact trained contractors in your area for information on retrofitting.

n If you live in an apartment, know where your building’s utility controls are and how to use them.

Household items

n Place flashlights in hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms. Keep a flashlight, spare batteries and sturdy shoes under the bed. (Shoes will protect you from broken glass and other debris on the floor.)

n Evaluate each room. Ask yourself: If the home begins shaking, what would fall? Secure appliances, bookshelves and hutches to wall studs. Mirrors should be hung on double hooks; do not lean them against the wall.

n Place heavy objects and electronic equipment on lower shelves.

Use large Velcro patches or nonskid rubber shelf liners to help keep items in place.

n Place sand in the bottom of vases and other breakable items to help hold them down.

n Use plastic, not porcelain hanging planters.

n Store household chemicals safely, preferably near the floor.

n Secure light objects, such as lawn chairs, to prevent them from becoming flying missiles.

n Fill bathtubs and sinks with water in case water supply is interrupted or contaminated.

Outside your home

n Close shutters and lash down awnings.

n Bring in anything that could blow around: bicycles, garbage cans, patio furniture, gas grills.

n Lower your TV antenna, but first unplug the television.

n Turn off power to the pool pump, lights and chlorinator. If pump is exposed, wrap with a waterproof cover and tie securely.

n Do not empty the pool of water; add additional chlorine.

n Trim dead branches from trees.

— Herald staff reports