I Have Hurricane Shutters. Do I Still Need to Evacuate?

Many people choose to relocate during a hurricane for fear of their lives. While hurricane shutters can protect your home, the safest thing to do is evacuate during a hurricane if you are told to do so.

Why Should You Put Up Hurricane Shutters?

The most important reason to install hurricane shutters is to protect your home from potential storm damage. High winds can cause severe damage to your property, and debris propelled by the wind can cause destruction to screens, roofs, and windows. Broken windows may let high winds into your home, leading to changes in air pressure that create uplift forces and contribute to roof collapse. Additionally, the uplift forces generated by winds can blow out doors and knock down walls, causing further structural damage to your home.

Who Needs to Have Hurricane Shutters?

In a perfect world, every business and homeowner in a hurricane-prone area would have hurricane shutters already in storage or on their property. In the event of an evacuation, these shutters will protect the dwelling left behind. Hurricane shutters will help preserve the integrity of your home. When you return to the home, you will likely find the damage less than what it otherwise would be. Nevertheless, it is important to evacuate if mandated as the extent of damage, to property and life, cannot be predicted.

The Difference Between a Hurricane Warning and Hurricane Watch

If you understand the difference between a hurricane warning and watch, you’ll know whether or not you should evacuate an area.

A watch means that there are hurricane conditions, which include sustained winds of 74 mph or higher in the area. Watches are typically put into effect 48 hours before the winds reach their expected high speeds.

If a warning is issued, it is considered a more serious scenario. Hurricane-force winds, those above 75 mph and at times succeeding 157 mph, are forecasted to make landfall in a specific area. These warnings are issued only about 36 hours before the hurricane-force winds are expected in the area. While this provides ample time to evacuate in many cases, it’d behoove you to start preparing contingencies as soon as the hurricane watch is announced.

When to Put Up Your Hurricane Shutters

Some choose to leave their hurricane shutters up for the duration of hurricane season. Others choose to leave their shutters up all year round. While these options seem convenient, they also expose the hurricane shutters to weather damage. Hurricane shutters are, undoubtedly, equipped to deal with the battery of wind and rain present in a hurricane. Hurricane shutters are not equipped to handle prolonged exposure to the sun. Direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the shutters to crack and break up. For this reason, shutters should be stored away properly until such time that an incoming storm is forecasted. You should put up your hurricane shutters when alerted that there is a watch in effect in your area. Hurricane watches are usually announced 48 hours before the storm begins. This should give you ample time to deploy the shutters before the storm makes landfall.

Preparing for an Evacuation During a Hurricane

It’s important to have a plan before hurricane season starts. You and your family should have emergency phone numbers, an emergency supply kit, the location of the nearest shelter, and different routes to get there. If you are a pet owner, search for pet-friendly shelters or hotels. Likewise, an out-of-town friend may be able to accommodate your pet if you have to leave.
During a hurricane, it can be harder to get supplies. There is also the risk of your power or water supply getting cut off. Roads can be blocked or flooded and you may not be able to drive because of damage to your vehicle. This is why you need to have emergency supplies on hand, including a food and water supply, extra medicine, power sources, personal and safety items, and important documents.

Get your car ready. Make sure you have a full gas tank and an emergency tank in your car. Trucks and cars should be stored under cover or in your garage.

Before the storm arrives and you are made to evacuate, get your home as ready as possible. Clear your yard to make sure there isn’t anything that can blow around and damage your home. Items like grills, lawn furniture, bikes, and building materials should be under shelter or inside. Get your hurricane shutters up. Be ready to turn off the power. If you are leaving your home and see downed power lines or flooding, switch the power off. Before the storm, make sure your carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries to prevent CO poisoning.

When to Evacuate During a Hurricane

It can be difficult to know when it’s the right time to evacuate. The general rule of thumb is to leave when there is a major hurricane, considered a Category 3 or higher, approaching the coast. Some hurricanes, however, rapidly intensify which leaves little time to evacuate before the worst happens. This can make the decision to stay or leave much more complicated. The decision to evacuate should come down to what’s best for each family. Evacuating can be daunting and expensive.

Keep Track of Any Real Time Updates

Use the resources of the National Hurricane Center to learn more about arrival times of wind and rain as well as the cone of uncertainty. You can also sign up for emergency alerts in your area. City or county officials will deliver updates via press conferences, social media, and local news sources.

Mandatory vs. Voluntary Evacuation

When deciding on whether to stay or go, it’s helpful to know the difference between mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders. A voluntary order happens when the forecasted conditions are potentially dangerous. Officials will typically encourage you to move to a safe location but you don’t have to leave. A mandatory evacuation means that everyone in that area needs to leave and the forecasted conditions are too dangerous and will threaten property and endanger your life. You can never be forced to evacuate, but know that first responders won’t be able to reach you when conditions are dangerous and severe and other public services could be out of commission for a while.

Factor in Prior Damage

If your home has been damaged by a previous storm, it will be more susceptible to damage in the next storm. If you haven’t evacuated in the past, you may want to reconsider given previous damage to the area as you get deeper into hurricane season.

Know the Routes Out

If you choose to evacuate, leave as early as possible to get ahead in traffic and avoid any storm impacts on the road. Keep an eye on the path of the storm to determine where you will go. Before taking off, make sure you have a clear path of where you will go—be it a friend or family member’s home, a shelter, or a hotel.

Evacuating When You Don’t Have a Car

If you need to evacuate but don’t have a car, there are resources available. Ride-sharing services often grant free rides to and from state-approved evacuation shelters.

What to Do If You Stay Home

Not every storm is going to call for an evacuation but you should still stay as safe as possible during hurricane-force winds and conditions. If you are not evacuating, hurricane shutters can help make sure you are staying as safe as possible. Seek shelter in a small interior room, hallway, or closet on the lowest level of the home until the storm passes. Even with hurricane shutters, you are safer staying away from any windows.

Having the Right Hurricane Protection in Your Home

Whether you stay or leave can be a very hard decision to make. However, one thing you need to have before a hurricane, regardless of your decision to stay or go, is proper hurricane protection.

There are many different forms of hurricane shutters and they vary in terms of ease of installation and aesthetics. With so many options for hurricane shutters, you are sure to find the right choice for your home or business. If you need help finding the right hurricane shutters for your space, the professionals at Home Safety Solutions are here to help.