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Tips to prepare your home for the big storm

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Jill Chodorov, an associate broker with Long & Foster, writes an occasional column about local market trends and housing issues.

We have a short window of time to prepare for the fast approaching and unwelcome visitor, Hurricane Joaquin.

In addition to ensuring you have backup lighting in case your power goes out, you should be checking your homeowners insurance policy and doing preventative maintenance to minimize damage from wind and rain.

Many homeowners are preparing for the worst.

“Fifty percent of our customers today came to buy flashlights, batteries, sand and sand bags, and candles,” said Andrew Chestnut, store manager of Strosniders ACE Hardware in Bethesda.  “I expect we will be a lot busier tomorrow.”

Strosniders has ordered a surplus of sandbags, portable stoves, shop vacs, flashlights and batteries for delivery on Friday. “We will definitely be prepared,” said Chestnut.

Here are some quick no-brainer steps to prepare your home for the heavy rain and wind:

 Clean leaves and debris from gutters. Make sure downspouts are moving water away from the foundation of the house.

 Trim dead branches from trees that could become dangerous projectiles and cause severe damage or injury.

 Bring inside or secure outdoor belongings, such as furniture, grills, sheds, potted plants and trash cans.

 Make sure your sump pump is working. Carlos Gomez of CR Home Improvements suggested that you install a battery backup if you don’t have one.

Here’s a checklist of things to know ahead of time in case the worst happens:

What happens if your home is damaged from the storm despite your best efforts to prevent it?, the Web site of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), suggests that homeowners “review their current homeowners insurance policy and become familiar with what is and is not covered, as damage due to flooding is typically not covered.”

What if a tree hits your house? Are you covered?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, if a tree hits your home or other insured structure, such as a detached garage, standard homeowners insurance policies will provide coverage. This includes trees felled by wind, lightning or hail.

[Who’s responsible when a tree falls?]

What other coverage is important to have during a storm?

“I highly suggest adding sewer water back up coverage to your homeowners’ policy. It is a must,” said John Moore, regional team leader of Long & Foster Insurance.

Heavy rain and floods can cause sewage from sewer lines to back up into houses through drainpipes – a messy proposition.

Sewer water back up coverage is available from most insurers at a nominal cost, approximately $40 to $50 extra per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

So, should you rush to call your insurance agent? Not so fast.

“Coverage additions or alterations prior to a known storm approaching can be halted by an insurance company. So knowing and having the proper coverage ahead of time is key,” Moore said.

My last suggestion — get the selfie stick out and photograph yourself sitting on the new sofa and watching the football game on the 50-inch flat-panel TV. Itemize and photograph all your possessions so you have a record of all your belongings, in case you need to prove any losses to the insurance adjuster.

Stay dry and safe.

Jill Chodorov can be reached at

Catch up on Jill’s latest columns:

Lenders are cracking down on homes with termite infestation

New apps give you dashboard warning light for home fixes

Basement flooding may put a damper on your home sale