Helping Clients Protect Themselves From Storms

Show them what to do before, during and after disaster strikes with this checklist.

With consumer awareness of dangerous weather heightened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, contractors would do well to serve as resources to their customers. "If you can provide consumers with information that will help them before, during and after a storm, you'll be seen as a valued person by homeowners," says Bill Lazor, senior product manager for Simonton windows. "By positioning yourself as a caring professional, you're sure to win their confidence and business."

Lazor suggests that builders and remodelers customize and print the following list of tips to help potential clients and the public make wise decisions about protecting their homes.

Before the Storm

1. Make a home disaster kit. Buy a watertight container and put the following items in it:

  • A disposable camera

  • Tarps

  • Bungee cords

  • Duct tape

  • Waterproof markers

  • Heavy plastic garbage bags

  • Fresh batteries and a flashlight

  • Copies of insurance papers

  • Other items that can help secure your home and personal items immediately after a storm.

2. If you're remodeling or building, research storm-enhanced building products and upgrade the building products in your home to secure it against future storms. Investigate building products that offer protection from storms, such as impact-resistant hurricane windows. Using these enhanced products may even lower your insurance rates because you’re going above and beyond to create a storm-safe home. An example of such products is an impact-resistant window featuring tempered and laminated glass, which has a thick plastic interlayer like a car windshield.

3. Build a "safe room" reinforced to withstand severe weather. Consult Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room inside Your Home, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Visit www.fema.gov for more information.

4. Make a video recording of your home and its contents. Go slowly through each room, documenting the construction of the house and interior objects. When finished, make several copies. Store one in a safety deposit box, another with a family member outside your area and one at your home.

During the Storm

  1. Always follow the instructions given by local authorities. Don't second-guess officials; if they tell you to seek shelter, evacuate or stay put, follow their advice.

  2. If you have to evacuate, keep valuable information with you (such as insurance papers, passports, credit cards and drivers' licenses).

After the Storm

  1. Take pictures of your damaged home immediately after the storm and contact your insurance company. Leave your home "as is" until your insurance representative assesses the damage and gives you the go-ahead on repairs.

  2. Get contractor references and written job quotes before selecting a contractor to do any repairs. While the desire to get back to normal quickly is great, don't jump at the first contractor who offers his services. Make certain the contractor you hire is licensed in your state and has a staggered payment plan for services so that you don't complete payment until the project is done.

  3. Check with your insurance company to determine its requirements and involvement before you start rebuilding. And if you think you've been gouged by a contractor, report it immediately to state officials.

  4. Check your local building codes, which can change rapidly. It's not simply a matter of reconstructing the home you had. The law requires you and your contractor to abide by current codes when rebuilding after the storm.

  5. When rebuilding, choose energy-efficient products that can save on your long-term heating and cooling bills. Select windows with vinyl frames, which are excellent insulators. Think about lowering your monthly energy bills by specifying Energy Star windows with double-pane insulated glass units with argon-filled low-emissivity glass. Visit www.energystar.gov for more details.

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