Homeowners and visitors alike love the laid back lifestyle of the South Strand – that’s what keeps folks coming back year after year, and why savvy investors purchase residential and vacation rental property here.
But the biggest downside to owning property at the beach is the looming threat of Mother Nature’s volatility. Protecting your investment during Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, is essential.
You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can have a gameplan for when natural disasters strike.
The first step to getting organized is putting together a hurricane kit, which can include everything from a flashlight and fire extinguisher to a week’s worth of non-perishable food. Check out the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s comprehensive guide to stocking an emergency survival kit here.
But you’ll need more than a survival kit to make sure your property is adequately protected. Here are some tips to get you started.
First off, make sure your homeowner insurance policy is up to date, especially considering the recent rise in home values across the South Strand. Does it reflect the current value of your home? As a home’s value increases, so do the costs associated with repairs. Check your deductible as well.
Basically, you need to know what your homeowner’s insurance covers and what it doesn’t.
Here are other questions to consider:
– Does your policy cover your belongings inside the home?
– Do you have flood insurance? “Just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage,” according to FEMA.
– Do you have hail/wind insurance?
The bottom line: contact your insurance provider immediately to address these concerns. Your agent will be happy to help line up the coverage you need.
If the governor issues an evacuation order for the coast, what are you going to do?
The answer: have a plan.
You must decide whether you are leaving or staying and set your target departure time.
This plan includes mapping out your evacuation route in advance and committing it to memory. Print out a copy of your escape route and keep it in your vehicle.
Also, know your zone. The South Strand is divided among Zones A, B and C and you must know your zone because state and local authorities will announce evacuations by these designated areas. If you are unsure, you can use the “Know Your Zone” tool on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website.
It is also important to distinguish between a voluntary evacuation and a mandatory evacuation.
A mandatory evacuation order means you should leave your residence and head for an area not threatened by a storm. You most likely will not be cited for disregarding a mandatory evacuation order, but if you – or your guests – remain in the home, be prepared to be self-sufficient because utilities such as electricity or water/sewer service could be interrupted, and police and emergency services may not be able to respond as quickly as usual.
Prior to the storm’s arrival it is also imperative to take an accurate inventory of items inside of your property in case anything goes missing or is damaged or destroyed by the hurricane.
And speaking of household inventory, if you have items outside of your home as well, such as outdoor furniture, grills, bird feeders or potted plants, have a plan for securing them or bringing them inside your home, garage or utility shed.
Outdoor furniture can be secured to railings or brought inside if you have space. Patio or deck furniture can be weighted down with sandbags and pool furniture should be placed at the bottom of the pool. Anything that could become a dangerous projectile during high winds, should not be left outside or unsecured.
What if your property loses power leading up to or during the storm? No coastal home is complete without a gasoline-or-propane-powered portable generator, which can be had for less than $400 depending upon the wattage needed for your property.
Boarded up windows and doors are a common site when a tropical storm or hurricane is threatening the South Strand. Although you’ve seen your neighbors and businesses duct tape a large X on their windows and glass doors – don’t do it, trust us.
Instead, it is better to invest up front in a long-term solution for protecting windows and glass doors. Storm windows and hurricane shutters are the more expensive option, but plywood also is effective. After you have measured and fit the plywood to all of your windows, be sure to label them for next time around. To minimize the damage from re-nailing or re-screwing your plywood in place every time a storm comes, various fasteners are available to hold plywood in place, like these.
Exterior doors can also be vulnerable when high winds arrive, especially if yours have glass panels. Familyhandyman.com recommends strengthening hinges and door frames, seal gaps with weather stripping, and installing a door sweep or adjustable threshold to prevent storm water from coming in. All types of door protectors can be installed as well, from folding accordion-style coverings to roll-down options.
It is also wise to inspect your roofing and the general structure of your property prior to a hurricane bearing down. This is done to troubleshoot any immediate potential weaknesses and to serve as a point of reference if roofing or structures are damaged by a storm. Yearly roof inspection by professionals is highly recommended.
Protecting your roof and gutters can mean trimming back trees close to the house or unit as well. Also, make sure your gutters and drainpipes are clear of debris.
Plan for Pets
Making hurricane plans means having a contingency for your four-legged family members as well.
Make sure there’s enough food and water stocked for your pets, any medications are up-to-date and you have an extra supply, copies of veterinary records are available (keep in a waterproof container), identification tags are on your pets’ collars, and that carriers and leashes are at your easy disposal.
Like your general hurricane preparedness kit, The American Red Cross recommends also creating a hurricane kit for your pets. Pet kits should include the aforementioned items, along with a first aid kit specifically for animals, current photos of each pet (in case they get lost), information about any medical conditions, feeding schedules, and contact info for your vet’s office. Can include ped beds and toys if easy to transport.
If you’re evacuating to a public shelter facility, check ahead to confirm that it can accommodate pets, and if you’re sheltering with friends or family, make sure your hosts are also comfortable with having your furry crew members around for a few days.
Know thy neighbor
The benefit of knowing your neighbors is multifaceted, but especially valuable in the event of a natural disaster. Good neighbors watch out for each other and keep an eye on each other’s properties. This can come in particularly handy if you’re out of town and away from your South Strand property when a tropical cyclone is forecast for the area.
Neighbors lend a hand, and in turn you are there to help them when they need it.
When considering your hurricane plan, think about neighbors that might need help, such as older folks that live alone, single parents with young ones, and people with sensory or physical disabilities.
Be sure to meet and communicate with guests staying in your neighborhood as well.
Depending upon whether your neighborhood has an active HOA (Homeowners Association), you and your neighbors may be asked to contribute to or follow a neighborhood hurricane preparedness plan.
Neighbors can keep each other informed and work together to help protect your property and the community you live in.Lastly but certainly not least, please make sure your hurricane plans are updated with the latest COVID-19 guidance in mind to reduce your risk of exposure; get the latest South Carolina information about the coronavirus as it relates to hurricanes here.
By Kent Kimes for Garden City Realty