If you live in a windstorm-prone area, you should find out if your home's attic contains shiners— and I don't mean the frisky baitfish used to catch large-mouth bass. In homebuilding, shiner is a term used for exposed nails along the wood structure of the roof. If you have them, chances are the roof above them is improperly attached. How do you find shiners? If you have safe attic access, use a flashlight to look along the framing members in your attic. If you see shiny objects along the edges of the framing members, you've got shiners. That's bad news because the nails should be hidden inside the wood supports of the roof. If they are exposed, it may mean that your roof is more likely to come off in high winds. The good news is that a roof with shiners can be strengthened—so check for them now before it's too late. What if you don't live in an area prone to high winds? Homes nationwide are vulnerable to windstorms, whether from hurricanes, Nor'easters, straight-line winds, downslope winds, or tornadoes. Don't assume that because you don't live on the coast your home is immune from windstorms or shiners. Do a quick check now to avoid damage later.
As a long-time Florida resident, I am very familiar with lightning. However, I was shocked (no pun intended) to return to my neighborhood recently to find five fire trucks parked in front of my neighbor’s two-story home. The thunderstorm I followed home from the beach apparently had wreaked havoc. Firefighters had hacked their way through the side of her house to get into the smoky attic where thick framing members were smoldering due to a lightning strike. They quickly doused the smoldering wood, and cut out the worst section to ensure it wouldn’t reignite. While my neighbor’s home was now safe from fire, she still had a lot of damage to her walls, roof, and 2nd floor interior. Fortunately, there are steps you can take toward avoiding my neighbor’s experience. First, you can have a Lightning Protection System installed. These systems provide a direct path for lightning to follow to the ground rather than through the house and its wiring. Of course, consult a qualified contractor for installation. Because a Lightning Protection System won’t protect your home from fire or electrical damage if lightning enters through the telephone, cable, or electrical lines, you should also install a Whole House Surge Protection device. Contact you local electric company for installation information. If they don’t offer the service, a qualified electrician can install the device at your electrical panel.
Those of us in hurricane-prone regions are all too aware that June 1 was the official start of hurricane season. Many of us have stocked our disaster supply kits and prepared our family emergency plans. However, a lot of people are still stumped when it comes to boarding up their windows and doors. If you find your home in the path of a hurricane this season and don't have impact-resistant windows and doors or impact-resistant shutters or panels to protect from windborne debris, consider building your own temporary emergency shutters. Fortunately, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes website can help with complete instructions and an easy-to-follow animation. Some steps you can take now, well before your home is threatened. Don't wait, get started by clicking the link below.
If you’ve seen the news, you know about the incredible flooding in the Northeast, proof that damaging floods can occur year ‘round. Maybe you’ve even thought about buying flood insurance for your home from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Don’t take too long to ponder the idea. Why? Because there is typically a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy takes effect. A lot can happen in that 30 days. For example, the official start of hurricane season is June 1, and we all know that floods are especially prevalent during hurricane season. The longer you wait to buy flood insurance, the further into hurricane season you’ll be before your policy kicks in. Take time today to learn more about flood insurance by checking out FloodSmart.
If there’s one thing we harp about here at FLASH, it’s the importance of protecting your home’s windows and doors from severe winds. Why? Because these openings are easily penetrated by wind-borne debris often generated by windstorms. And once those high winds are inside your house, your chances of extreme roof damage or even roof loss quickly rise. While we’ve already discussed your options for protecting your home’s openings from severe winds in this blog (see 2/8/06 and 6/26/07 entries), and the importance of choosing only tested and approved products, today I want to explain those test standards a bit more. For the best protection, your choices are to choose products that have been tested and approved to:
•SSTD 12, ASTM E 1886 and ASTME E 1996, which are testing standards for impact-resistant glass and shutters;
•OR you can choose products tested and approved to Miami-Dade Protocols TAS 201, TAS 202, and TAS 203, which are the most stringent testing standards in the nation for impact-resistant glass and shutters.
Look for these standards on the labels of the products you choose to ensure you’ve got the best protection available.
Last week the National Weather Service launched its new scale for measuring tornado wind speed and damage. Good timing, I thought, as torrential rain and wind pummeled our area here in North Florida. Friday the new Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale got its first workout in Central Florida where suspected tornadoes from the same storm system killed at least 14 and destroyed dozens of homes overnight. Why the new scale? Seems the old scale was solely based on damage caused by a tornado, didn't take into account different types of structures, and overestimated the wind speeds of tornadoes. A lot has been learned since the old scale was devised. The new EF Scale, while still rating tornadoes on a scale from zero to five, now takes into account additional variables to provide a more accurate indication of tornado strength. That means the scale is less subjective and will allow for better wind-speed estimates. To learn more about the new EF Scale, click the link below.
Sultan, Washington -- A resident pumps water from the basement of his home, which he had just had raised to protect it from flooding. Record rains caused severe flooding across the state in November 2006. Marvin Nauman/FEMA photo
While we didn't have any major hurricanes, 2006 still held plenty of other natural disasters. Pick any month and you’ll find a federal disaster declaration, probably several. In all, 50 events were severe enough to earn a declaration. And the disaster that topped the list? Flooding wins with 64% of all 2006 declarations. Where did these disasters occur? In 34 states and all four regions of the country including Hawaii, for an earthquake, and Alaska, for wildfire. Rounding out the federal disaster list for 2006 were severe winds, tornadoes, and winter storms. Interestingly, wildfire accounted for only two federal disaster declarations, but don’t be deceived. We had a record-setting wildfire season this year, with nearly 10 million acres burned in the Lower 48 states. If you learn anything from the above information it should be that disasters happen all over the nation, at all times of the year, to people just like you. The good news is that many people are learning about the disaster risks they face and taking steps to better protect their families and homes. For 2007 resolve to be one of them!