Prepare your basement for the possibility of water by removing any extension cords you have on the floor. Raise up any valuables or furniture that would be damaged by a flood. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The phones at the Columbia, Md., Mid-Atlantic Waterproofing started ringing off the hook a few days ago when the words Hurricane Joaquin were first uttered by local weather forecasters. Owners of vulnerable basements in homes from Petworth to Alexandria are dreading the possible eight inches of rain that the Northeast might endure into this weekend.

According to Dangelo Dasilva, production manager for the office that services Maryland and Washington, predictions of major rains send consumers into panic mode. “People don’t think about their basements when it’s dry and sunny outside and you don’t see much water around,” says Dasilva.

It’s too late to install a major waterproofing system, but consider going to the hardware store for a wet vac before it’s too late. Dasilva recommends a six-gallon model that sells for about $40 to $60; the larger sizes are harder to handle.

This weekend, wet vacs are sure to be as scarce as snow shovels or toilet paper during a January dusting.

Pedestrians pass through downtown Silver Spring as a wave of rain passes on Wednesday. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

We asked Dasilva for some tips on how to prepare now to help secure your basement before it starts seriously storming.

1. If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s functioning. Unplug your sump pump and then plug it in again to make sure it’s connected. If you can, do a water test and make sure the pump is properly processing the water.

2. Prepare your basement for the possibility of water. Remove any extension cords you have on the floor. Raise up any valuables or furniture that would be damaged by a flood.

3. Walk around the outside of your house and check it. If you have window wells, it’s preferable to have hard plastic covers to avoid them filling up with water. If you don’t have covers, you can install temporary rain covers using trash bags and duct tape to keep standing water away from the window and foundation.

4. Examine your basement steps and drain. If you have a stairwell leading down to a basement door, sweep and remove all the leaves and debris. Clean the drain itself as best you can. If there is no drain or your drain is old, stack sandbags or bricks in front of your basement door to create a barrier to help prevent water from getting inside.

5. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean. A blockage in a downspout can cause water to back up and start dumping next to your foundation. Standing water near the house may seep inside. If your downspouts empty too close to your foundation, buy extenders to keep water farther away from your house.