Windstorms such as hurricanes and tropical storms can damage homes in any coastal location on the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. While the Gulf and southeastern states are the most vulnerable, hurricanes have made direct landfall as far north as the coast of Maine. Damage is caused not only by the wind itself, but also by water that enters a structure that has been compromised by wind.

How can homeowners safeguard their homes from windstorms?

The single most important measure you can take is to protect exterior openings such as windows and doors. Without adequate protection, wind-driven debris can easily penetrate these openings, allowing rain to enter your home. Winds also create high and low pressure areas on the home’s exterior; when the “envelope” of the house is opened, pressures are multiplied and the chance of structural failure greatly increases.

Windows can be protected by a variety of permanently attached or removable storm shutter systems, which can be positioned in front of windows prior to a storm’s arrival. An alternative is to replace windows and their frames with impact-resistant glass systems, which have laminated glass that is designed to remain intact even if shattered.

Similarly, exterior doors can be protected by storm shutters or replaced with wind- and impact-resistant doors. Overhead garage doors are particularly susceptible to wind damage due to their large size and limited points of support.

The best commercial shutters and doors sold nationally will have met rigid test standards for wind and impact resistance. Look for a label on the product with either a Miami-Dade Notice of Approval number (NOA), or a Florida Building Commission approval number (FBC). Similar test standards are applied by the Texas Department of Insurance. To find out if a product has been evaluated or approved, refer to the Miami-Dade Product Control Search, Florida Building Commission product index or the Texas Department of Insurance Product Evaluation Index.

Local dealers and installers of storm shutters and impact-resistant windows and doors can recommend the most appropriate options for your home and location. To locate dealers and installers in your area, search online for “Hurricane Shutters,” “Impact Resistant Windows” or “Impact Resistant Doors.”

One final note:

Covering windows and doors with “homemade” protection such as plywood panels can be better than no protection at all. However, homemade shutter materials and methods of attachment may not provide sufficient protection against wind and wind-driven debris, and do not meet building codes in areas where shutters are required.

Barry Davis is the Process Optimization Manager for Chubb Personal Risk Services’ Risk Consulting Group. He also is a Florida Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector.

This article originally appeared as “Hurricane Protection for Your Home” on the Risk Conversation blog on Aug. 5, 2016.

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