For homeowners, a common risk that is often overlooked is the damage that can be caused from severe thunderstorms.
Severe thunderstorms are one of the most common natural catastrophes and these weather systems are also the most damaging based on insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. On average there are around 100,000 thunderstorms in the United States each year and approximately 10% of these reach a severe level. These storms bring the potential for tornadoes, lightning, straight-line winds and hail. Over the past couple decades, hail alone from thunderstorms has caused an average of $8-14 billion a year in insured losses.
There are a few ways to prepare your home for the next thunderstorm, both before a storm arrives and when building or renovating your home, to minimize damage.
Before a thunderstorm
- Maintain your trees and yard regularly: remove any branches that overhang the roof. Consider removing trees within striking distance of your home if they were to fall. Maintaining your yard regularly will help eliminate flying debris. It is also recommended to relocate outdoor furniture if a severe storm is in the forecast.
- Park your car in the garage: keep your garage organized so when a storm is in the forecast, you can easily park your car in the garage.
- Close all doors and windows: closing the exterior doors and windows are obvious steps but closing interior doors can help as well. If a window breaks or a door blows open, pressure fills the house and can cause roof uplift from within. When interior doors are closed, the pressure can be kept in separate areas and can reduce the overall force if the home envelope is compromised.
- Close all window treatments: if windows break, having blinds, drapes and shades closed offers some protection against wind and broken glass.
- Have your roof inspected regularly by a licensed contractor: maintaining your roof and replacing it as needed will help reduce damage to your home. Ensuring proper flashing is in place also will help prevent water intrusion from rain.
When building or renovating your home
- Choose a steep sloped roof: the steeper the roof, the less the potential impact of hail damage.
- Install impact-resistant siding: fiber-cement or engineered wood is more resilient to damage.
- Install a lightning protection system and surge protector: these devices can help prevent a power surge to the electrical system inside the home in the event of a lightning strike.
- Install a back-up generator: this ensures regular functionality of essential systems, such as HVAC equipment, security systems and sump pumps, during a power outage.
- Use wind- and impact-rated materials: for the roof, look for materials with these standards for best protection: Class 4 UL 2218 Impact Resistance Test, ASTM E108 Class A Fire Resistance, and Miami-Dade Product Control Approved.
- Install protective guards/screens for HVAC units: these will help protect HVAC units from hail and flying debris.
- Install steel gutters: steel will outlast the storm better than aluminum or plastic.
- Install storm shutters: this helps protect windows from hail and flying debris.
- Select a wind-rated garage door: this helps prevent the envelope of the home from being compromised during high winds.
Lastly, be sure to hire a licensed contractor when installing any products or materials. It is also important to inform your insurance agent or broker when making any substantial upgrades to ensure you have the proper insurance coverage and to determine if you qualify for potential premium discounts.
Tommy Lubrano is a risk consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services