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Preparing for a Hurricane in Hawaii: A Checklist with Top 10 Tips

You may have heard on the news about Hurricane Lane. We were spared on Oahu, thankfully. The Category 4 hurricane broke up before it came close to us. However, parts of the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui were inundated with heavy rain and devastating flooding. It was a hurricane trial run for those of us here, on Oahu, and a good opportunity to start thinking about preparing for hurricanes in Hawaii. After all, hurricane season runs through the end of November. We do not know what is in store for the next several months, or next year for that matter. Below are my Top 10 Tips for Preparing for a Hurricane in Hawaii. Please, start thinking about and doing these things if you haven't already. They can make a difference in both the safety of you and your family, and the damage to your home.

Top 10 Tips for Preparing for a Hurricane in Hawaii

1. Get Hurricane AND Flood Insurance Coverage for Your Home Before a Hurricane is on its Way

Many people in Hawaii have hurricane insurance for their homes. It is strongly recommended. But did you know that hurricane insurance is actually only WIND insurance. Whether or not you are in a flood zone requiring mandatory flood insurance, it is also a good idea to also have FLOOD insurance. This can help protect you from the water damage caused by a hurricane. Water damage can be immense in a hurricane, but also in other events such a tropical storms and tsunamis. BOTH hurricane and flood insurance are important items to consider when preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii. To read more about appropriate insurance coverages, see this article. Please note that insurance carriers will not write new policies at the time a hurricane is already on its way. The time to look into these policies is before hurricane season or when there is no current threat. You should also evaluate your coverage annually, to ensure your limits are appropriate.

2. Consider Hurricane Ties/Straps/Clips for Your House

Hurricane ties, clips, or straps are relatively inexpensive metal brackets. When properly installed, hurricane straps tie your roof to the supporting framing members of your home and help distribute the "load" or stress to the roof and framing members from a hurricane. Hurricane ties are best installed by licensed contractors, but it is my understanding that this project is simple enough for an experienced and knowledgeable do-it-yourself-er also. Most modern homes are built with hurricane ties, as this is now part of the building code. However, it is wise to check your building plans (often available from the DPP, if you don't have them) to make sure. Older homes may not have hurricane ties. Having a licensed contractor examine your home for soundness and safety, before a hurricane, is an essential element to preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii.

3. Declutter Your Yard & Garage, Trim Your Trees

During this recent hurricane threat, we and many of our friends and neighbors worked in our yards for a day or more preparing for Hurricane Lane. It is recommended to remove lawn furniture, potted plants, decor, patio umbrellas, etc. that may become projectiles which break and fly through your windows. These can harm both people and property. You are advised to bring these items inside where they won't cause harm. But do you have room for all these items? Consider getting rid of unused items and old junk that may be in your yard before hurricane season or now, if you haven't already. At the same time, declutter your shed, garage or carport, so that you have room to put all these items when preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii. Apparently, many people had this idea, but too late, as the lines at the dumps on Oahu were reportedly very long, the day after Hurricane Lane's demise. Prior to hurricane season is also a very good time to trim your trees of dead or leggy branches and to get rid of the coconuts on your palms. A flying coconut in a hurricane is much like a canon-ball. Make sure that all potential projectiles are eliminated, if possible.

4. Pre-Cut and Store Lumber to Board up Windows & Inspect Your House

Don't rush out to buy lumber, and hunt for your saw and other tools the day before a hurricane is coming! Have lumber to cover your windows prepared in advance. Measure and cut lumber to cover your windows prior to the hurricane warning. Have the screws or other fasteners ready with your hurricane supplies. If you are not handy, have a contractor or handyman do this for you. Label and store these in your garage or shed, so you are ready. Declutter (as noted above) and find the room to store your lumber. Perhaps, store the sheets against the walls, or against the ceiling, or from the rafters with hanging storage. If you can't do all the windows, consider doing the largest windows and glass doors, and any picture windows, which are often the most vulnerable. While you are at this, inspect your home for clogged drains and gutters, drainage issues, loose roof shingles, and other safety and maintenance items which may impact you in a hurricane. A contractor or home inspection can help with this. Please let me know if you need some names — I know many.

5. Figure Out a Water Storage Plan When Preparing for a Hurricane in Hawaii

Don't run out and buy cases of bottled water (unless that is your only alternative). It is not only expensive, but the bottles are harmful to the environment. Plan ahead and use water from the tap. Hawaii water is safe to drink from the tap and is important in preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii. In this recent hurricane, I heard several creative ideas on how to store tap water. A few of our neighbors purchased a large (100 gallon) bladder that can be filled from the tap and stored in the bathtub. It comes complete with a pump. We don't have a bathtub to fill in our home, but purchased some food-safe garbage cans which held 32 gallons each and were filled from the tap. One fit perfectly in our shower. Stored water is necessary for both drinking and cooking, and for hygiene, bathing, and flushing toilets, if the water supply is compromised. If you have a swimming pool, you have another potential source of water for hygiene purposes. Make sure you also have liquid bleach available and add a drop or two to your water, as necessary. No need to buy ice either. If you have room in your freezer, bag water in ziplocks and freeze. Don't fill too full! One friend suggested laying them flat and separating layers of water bags with cookie sheets. Use these in your fridge or cooler, if the power goes off. You can also drink the water when it melts.

6. Prepare and Safeguard Your Important Documents

Gather important documents you might need. Place them in a waterproof ziplock or another water-tight bag. If you don't already have a waterproof and fireproof safe consider one for important items, you may not want to take with you. Make it easy to retrieve these items and put in your emergency "Go Bag" (see below), if you have to evacuate. But also, consider scanning and putting copies of these important documents in the Cloud. If you can encrypt these documents, to help protect against identity theft, all the better. Examples of items to safeguard:
  • Drivers license, passport, and SS cards.
  • Deeds to home and title to cars and boats.
  • Copies of credit cards and bank account numbers.
  • Health, auto, home, and life insurance policy numbers.
Keeping important documents safe and accessible is critical to preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii.

7. Video Your Home and Belongings

Take videos and/or photos of your home, your yard, and your belongings. Document the condition of your home prior to the hurricane. Update this annually. Upload this to the cloud. In the event of a loss, it will be easier to prepare and prove your claim.

8. Designate a Safe Room in Your Home

Ideally, every Hawaii home would have its own high-tech panic room to help with preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii. Unfortunately, most of us are not living the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" and will have to find an alternate safe room. Try to select a safe room that is in the interior of your house with no or minimal glass doors or windows. Have a contractor go through your house with you, if you are unsure, and try to locate the most structurally sound room. Consider retrofitting a room, if you are able to do so. Your safe room may be your CMU laundry room. It may be your bathroom or a closet. Ideally, you will have a room that has some storage space for supplies and that is large enough to comfortably accommodate your family and your pets. Bathrooms are ideal in that they have both a toilet and a water supply. Bring your water and hurricane supplies in with you. If a hurricane is coming and you are told to shelter in place, this is the room you should be in when it hits. Please note that you may be very unsafe in a "safe room" if you are in a flood zone. Please follow the instructions of emergency management professionals, for your specific location, and evacuate or shelter in place as instructed.

9. Pack a Hurricane/Emergency "Go Bag"

In the event you must evacuate in preparing for a hurricane in Hawaii, you should have a "Go Bag" packed and ready. Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has prepared a suggested checklist for this, which includes items such as flashlights, batteries, food, water, first aid supplies, important documents, hygiene supplies, etc. You should find the lightest weight (but sturdy) bag possible, and also, consider rolling storage for these items, since you will need to carry them, and food and water can be heavy. A waterproof bag would not be a bad idea either. More information on being prepared can be found online.

10. Schedule an Annual Hurricane Safety Checkup

Last, but not least, I would recommend an annual checkup for hurricane safety. Put this on your calendar and do it every year before the start of hurricane season, which starts June 1. Start at the top if the list and ensure that your insurance is adequate, check your home and supplies, update your videos, get your documents in order. Make sure your loved ones all understand and are familiar with your hurricane disaster plan. Know how you will communicate and meet up, as well. Being prepared will not only help you weather the storm, it will help with peace of mind in the event of a natural disaster. If you have other ideas, please post below! Other articles regarding preparing for hurricanes in Hawaii which may be of interest to you: