The impact of Hurricane Irene marked the beginning of peak hurricane season on the East Coast and reminded us that tropical storm season and vacation season overlap considerably. President Obama experienced this coincidence firsthand, cutting his Martha’s Vineyard vacation short in order to return to Washington before Irene hit Massachusetts. Other travelers (self included) experienced the storm’s impact from a distance, as many flights to the Eastern Seaboard were cancelled over the weekend.
Irene is just the beginning of a hurricane season that could last through November, during which time the National Hurricane Center predicts several severe storms will hit the United States. Nevertheless, autumn is a great time to travel! Here are eight tips from FlipKey to help you prepare for the unexpected and weather the storm in your vacation rental...
1. Get Covered with Vacation Rental Insurance
If you’re planning to travel during hurricane season, then you should look into renter’s insurance policies. Vacation rental insurance is a form of travel insurance that can cover everything from cancelled flights to damaged property. Learn more about vacation rental insurance from Flipkey. Vacation home owners should also have insurance policies that cover storm damage.
2. Contact the Homeowner
Talk to the vacation rental owner or property manager about your resources and responsibilities during a severe storm. Make sure that you discuss a cancellation and refund policy before signing a rental agreement - you don’t want to eat the cost of a vacation that suddenly becomes unavailable. Property owners should leave a comprehensive list of contact information for local services from police and EMS to trusted maintenance companies and include it in their welcome book. It’s also a good idea to have a local emergency contact if the property owner lives far away.
3. Tune in to Weather Alerts
If a storm is on the radar in your area, then listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio to stay on top of storm warnings. You can get weather information online, but if you are staying in a home that does not have Internet or television then you should make sure there is a radio available to listen to important news such as evacuation orders.
4. Take Stock of Your Supplies
Check to make sure that your rental home has emergency essentials. In the event of a serious storm warning, you may need to purchase non-perishable food and store clean drinking water, but every home should be equipped with the following:
- Battery-operated radio
- First aid kit
- Warm blankets
Check with the property owner or manager if you can’t find any of the above items.
5. Charge Up
When you hear that a storm is coming your way, make sure you are prepared by charging important batteries and filling the tank of your car. If you lose power in your area, then you will want to be able to reach the outside world. Here are some important devices to have ready:
- Cell phones
6. Batten Down the Hatches
Whether you plan to weather the storm or evacuate the area, you should make sure that the house is secure before it gets hit by high winds and heavy rain. The owner should explain in advance any specific emergency procedures, such as boarding up windows, but here are some guidelines of what to look for on your own:
- Put away or tie down any outdoor furniture and toys that could be lifted by strong winds.
- If there are boats, find out the safest place to keep them during a storm to avoid damage.
- Unplug small electrical appliances.
- Disconnect propane tanks and make sure that they are secured.
- Close windows and storm shutters before a storm hits, making sure that basement windows are sealed to minimize flooding.
- Check with the owner to find out if there are any pumps or procedures to keep flooding under control.
- Find a safe internal room in which to wait out the storm. Stay away from windows and doors if there are dangerous winds in your area. Evacuate high-rises and mobile homes.
7. Plan an Exit Strategy
Before a storm reaches you, you should have an evacuation plan in place. If you have plenty of advance warning, then you may choose to follow the president’s example and cut your vacation short. If you can’t get out of town, then at least determine the best way to get yourself and your family to safety. It’s a good idea to plan a meeting place well in advance, and remember to make a plan for pets. If an evacuation order is issued, then make sure you follow your plan and get to safety as efficiently as possible.
8. Be Prepared
Hopefully your fall vacation will go smoothly and have only good weather, but it’s important to prepare for the unexpected. A little research can go a long way to making safe decisions about dealing with extreme weather. For further hurricane resources, we recommend checking out the National Weather Service’s Tropical Cyclones preparedness guide and hurricane safety pamphlet.