It’s important to keep your home safe as we enter storm season. Check out these tips from East End experts on how to prepare for rough weather.
—Home Security Systems—
Curtis Cole, Systems Design Co.
Jeffrey W. Hausner, Intelli-Tec Security Services, LLC
What preparations should a homeowner make to mitigate risk when it comes to home security systems during storms?
Curtis Cole: Make sure your alarm has a cellular communication backup in the event that your phone lines and/or your internet goes out during the storm. That will ensure the alarm system can still communicate to your alarm company’s central station and that you will be notified. Test your alarm system’s backup battery to make sure it can keep your system working during a power outage. Most alarm panels have a seven-hour backup battery. Those batteries should be tested and replaced periodically. Make sure any exterior mounted cameras are securely installed and don’t become flying missiles during a storm. Install water sensors near all basement doors, window wells, dry wells and conduit penetrations going to the outside. They will notify you if water is getting into your basement.
Jeffrey W. Hausner: Prior to a storm/power outage, the most important part are the main batteries of the system. These batteries are typically rated to last between three and five years. They need to be replaced. If your area loses power often, those batteries will have a shorter rated life.
What are some of the biggest concerns and most overlooked problems/dangers, regarding a home’s security systems during and immediately following a hurricane or storm?
Curtis Cole: Make sure all doors and window are secure. Strong winds blowing on doors and windows can create false alarms that can overwhelm alarm company central stations and law enforcement response during storms.
Jeffrey W. Hausner: Homeowners need to understand that the system will not stay working through a major power outage, so after several hours on battery backup the system will stop working. When the power is restored, the system will take several hours before the batteries get fully recharged. If this is a major event we suggest that you disconnect the transformer on the panel and battery. Once the power returns in a day or two (hopefully) then you can re-power the system. Battery backups are that: a backup. They are not designed to run your system for days. Most will run for ten to twelve hours when new. A system running on a very weak battery will not operate correctly. You may not be able to disarm because the system is underpowered. Again, if you know that power will be out for a day or more, disconnect you system.
What type of damage assessment should be done during a storm, if any, and then once the storm passes?
Curtis Cole: Clean off debris from any exterior cameras. Check to make sure your alarm system is able to communicate with the central station. Door and window contacts may need to be adjusted for any doors and windows that were damaged during the storm. Check the battery on your alarm system if the power was out for a long time. It may need to be replaced. If it is a winter storm and you will be away from your home, make sure you have low temperature sensors installed on an exterior wall in every heating zone. Install water sensors near all basement doors.
Jeffrey W. Hausner: I don’t think an assessment can be logically made if the system isn’t functioning. Wait until utility power is restored and test your system. If the power was out for days you may need to replace the panel battery. Another piece is the communications path. Does your system use the phone line or is it a network and/or cell path-based connection? If those parts are knocked out, your reporting to the call center will not work. All new systems should use a cellular path and/or network type path. The older systems that use phone line type paths are slowly being phased out. Finally, test your system and USE your system. Don’t wait until you go away to arm the alarm. Like anything, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Be proactive, and this system will help protect your home and loved ones.
—Heating and Cooling—
Gary Shoemaker, Hardy Plumbing & Heating
How should a homeowner prepare heating and cooling systems before storm season?
Gary Shoemaker: The high winds of a tropical storm or hurricane can turn loose objects into projectiles that can collide with your outdoor air conditioning unit, possibly piercing the coils or damaging the fins. All the dirt, leaves and debris flying around can become caked on the condenser and dramatically impede airflow. Make sure you remove any loose objects in the area that could be blown around and damage your unit.
What are some of the biggest concerns, and most overlooked problems/dangers, regarding a home’s heating and/or cooling systems during and immediately following a hurricane or similar storm?
Gary Shoemaker: If your equipment gets wet, especially with saltwater, valves, wiring and controls can quickly become corroded. You could even have a fire hazard on your hands if the valve that controls the gas flow to your furnace becomes corroded and fails to shut off.
How can one assess damage during or after a storm?
Gary Shoemaker: When there is a possibility of a power outage, it’s important to completely turn off the power to the system. That means both at the circuit breaker and at all thermostats. This simple action prevents damage to the compressor and other components from power surges during the storm and when power comes back on. You also prevent risk of fire or electric shock.
DO NOT turn the HVAC system back on right after the hurricane has passed. Exposure to even a small amount of water can cause corrosion and damage, even if the unit’s exterior looks dry. Your system could fail weeks later from damage caused by a storm, even if it seems to come back up with no problem. Have your system checked by an HVAC professional to be sure it’s safe to operate. Before powering up again, call in your HVAC service company to inspect it for any signs of electrical or water damage. This is critical when there has been any flooding, especially from salt water. Don’t skip this step!
Melinda Schaefer, Hardy Plumbing & Heating
What type of hurricane/storm preparation should a homeowner make to mitigate risk when it comes to plumbing and/or septic systems?
Melinda Schaefer: Check sump pumps in the basement, if applicable. If water is supplied by a well, fill up tubs for water needed to flush toilets.
What are some of the biggest concerns, and most overlooked problems/dangers, regarding a home’s plumbing and/or septic systems during and immediately following a hurricane or similar storm?
Melinda Schaefer: Turn off the power supply to your residence until the storm has passed. Today’s high efficiency pro logic boilers have very sensitive controls that can possibly go off on lockout during a power surge.
What type of damage assessment should be during a storm, if any, and then done once the storm passes?
Melinda Schaefer: Do a visual inspection on the exterior of your chimney. Make sure no broken branches are blocking up the chimney. Also do a visual inspection in the basement to ensure that no water made its way inside as it may have damaged the plumbing and heating equipment.