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Protecting Your Home

Aired June 2, 2007 - 09:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we do have some severe weather to tell you about today. Bonnie Schneider's been watching all of it. Boy, what a mix out there.

NGUYEN: All right, Bonnie. We'll be following it as well.

Well, Gerri Willis in a special edition of OPEN HOUSE on storm preparations.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that starts right now.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to a special edition of OPEN HOUSE: Prepare and Protect. I'm Gerri Willis. We're in Miami, Florida, where the hurricane season is just under way. In the next 30 minutes, we'll show you how to protect your family and your home from dangerous storms.

Here to help me today is Mike Rimoldi from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Hi, Mike.


WILLIS: Good. So, let's talk about, what should people do to prepare their homes?

RIMOLDI: Folks need to look at everything from the basics, from picking up stuff in their yard: lawn furniture, decorations, trimming trees, to the protection of the building emblem: windows, garage doors, roofing materials, to even the structural items: connectors in walls, reinforcing the roof structure.

WILLIS: All right, Mike, those are all great ideas, and we'll talk about them more in the next 30 minutes.

But first, if you've never been through a hurricane, you don't know how devastating those winds can be. John Zarrella shows us why you might want to take action before the storms strike.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty feet up, a two by four impaled in a palm tree. This is one of the most telling images of Hurricane Andrew's power. When you look at this, it's pretty clear why Andrew's winds blew through thousands of homes, even many protected by shutters or plywood.

So just how good are those window coverings you bought going to hold up during a hurricane? We decided to find out. For folks here at this product testing laboratory in Hialeah, they agreed to help.


ZARRELLA: The Fenestration Laboratory tests products to see if they meet the requirements of the Miami-Dade building code, the toughest hurricane code in the nation. For one test, we brought plywood.

(on camera): Jose, we've got a half-inch plywood panel up here. Tell me what we're going to do.

JOSE SANCHEZ, FENESTRATION TESTING LABORATORY: Right now we're going to do a large missile test where we propel a two by four out of a cannon at 50 feet per second.

ZARRELLA: And what does that simulate?

SANCHEZ: That is simulating flying debris impacting the protective device, protecting the opening of your house.

ZARRELLA (voice-over: The technician loads the cannon with the two by four. The impact spot has been marked at the center of the plywood sheet.


ZARRELLA: The two by four has blown a hole clear through the half-inch thick plywood. You need at least five-eighths inch plywood to stop a projectile.

In slow motion, you can see just how easily our simulated flying debris penetrates the plywood.

Next, we tested a half-inch thick sheet of chip board or particle board. It's no match for the two by four. Keep in mind, during a hurricane event, it's not a concrete wall that's behind that piece of plywood.

(on camera): In other words, we've got to realize that this is covering a window.

SANCHEZ: Correct.

ZARRELLA: And that two by four would have gone through there, right through here.

SANCHEZ: It would have broken the glass, and then you would have had wind flying into your house.

ZARRELLA: And then once you have wind in your house.

SANCHEZ: Then you apply a negative pressure and that's when you start have windows blowing out.

ZARRELLA: And your roof comes off and that's when you have a real mess on your hands at that point, right?

SANCHEZ: Yes, you do.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): This animation from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes shows how it can happen when flying debris breaks a window and allows the wind into your home, creating uplift on your roof. Finally, we tested steel panels. We were pretty comfortable they would do the trick.


ZARRELLA (on camera): We finally found something that actually stopped the projectile, the steel shutters.

(voice-over): But steel or aluminum panels are not something you can install at the last minute.

(on camera): If you have no choice but to put up plywood, try to get five-eighths or three-quarters-inch thickness. If that's not available, go ahead and get what you can. Some form of protection at least gives you a chance to keep your home in one piece. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


WILLIS: So, Mike, we just saw how that wood penetrated that wall. What do we need to know as homeowners?

RIMOLDI: Well, Gerri, that's one of the big things to look at, is we have such piece wood right here. It's used to prop up this tree, prop up this branch. And although seemingly light, it becomes that missile that goes through the wall.

WILLIS: And is this the kind of wall it would penetrate, go right through?

RIMOLDI: It could. Whether it's masonry or a wood wall, if it's not reinforced, it could go right through it.

WILLIS: All right, well, there are a few other things to worry about. I'm looking around this yard, some of this stuff could be missiles if there were high winds, right?

RIMOLDI: That's right. Even something as simple as a potted plant, a watering can, these chairs. A lot of folks will think, well, they're pretty decent weight, they're not.

WILLIS: They're light.

RIMOLDI: Exactly. They can be thrown around in the wind, and guess what? That's the thing that goes through the window.

WILLIS: That would be a disaster.

RIMOLDI: Yes, it would.

WILLIS: Obviously though, there are trees close to this house, too. That's got to be a concern as well.

RIMOLDI: We all love trees because they're close to the house, they provide shade, they're good for aesthetics. Unfortunately, in a high wind the trees will be whipped back and forth and if one of the branches is weak or rotten, it's going to end up on the house.

WILLIS: So you really want to trim those before storm season.

RIMOLDI: Sure, you don't wait until the last minute. You want to go through your yard, look at everything, trim them off as best you can. Whatever you think is going to be close to your house that could cause damage, it probably will.

WILLIS: One thing people don't think about, these stones - this is a disaster waiting to happen in high winds. This against your windows is a bad thing.

RIMOLDI: Yes, it is. Once again, people think they're stones, they're heavy, but some of these smaller ones can easily be picked up, and you see that window's not very high off the ground and through the window it goes.

WILLIS: Coming up next on this special edition of OPEN HOUSE, how to know if you have enough homeowners insurance. Plus, we'll take a look at a city some people are calling the next New Orleans. We'll see how residents there are preparing for the worst-case scenario.

Protecting your house is important, but protecting your loved ones is top priority. Every family should have a disaster plan that's easy to understand and easy to memorize.

DARLENE SPARKS WASHINGTON, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Individuals and families can get prepared by taking three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed. In that kit, people need food, water supplies for each individual for three days, a crank or battery- operated radio, a crank or battery-operated flashlight with extra batteries.

The plan should actually include two elements. One is a communications plan. In the communication plan, it should have all the important numbers in addition to families should have an evacuation plan, in case they need to get out of their home or in case they need to get out of the community.

WILLIS: That's your "Tip of the Day."


WILLIS: Welcome back to OPEN HOUSE. Mike, windows are a big vulnerability. What do you need to protect them in a hurricane?

RIMOLDI: Yeah, we need to protect the windows, Gerri, from that missile that we talked about before, anything that can penetrate the glass.

WILLIS: And obviously, you can protect them with wood, right?

RIMOLDI: Right, that's your most basic, making a plywood shutter. Obviously, we encourage something a little stronger than your standard OSB.

WILLIS: Yeah, this isn't going to hold up.

RIMOLDI: It's a little thin, a little too fragile. That's why most people recommend a five-eights piece of plywood. It's substantial and it's a little bit heavy to install, but it's going to withstand anything that hits it.

WILLIS: How am I fixing this to the window?

RIMOLDI: They make a special kit, different fasteners that will affix to the outside plywood. Usually you need at least a four-inch bearing area, and then the spacers will be spaced approximately 12 inches along the perimeter.

WILLIS: You know, you can buy special windows, special glass panes, right?

RIMOLDI: Sure. You can go with impact glass. It's like the highest end. The glass is actually made to withstand a direct hit from something and yet not be breached. However, it is a little bit expensive.

WILLIS: How expensive is it, Mike?

RIMOLDI: You're starting to talk several hundred dollars per window. So that can add up really quick. The good thing is it's passive. It's on the house. You don't have to worry about the shutters. Should a homeowner not be home, they're still going to be protected.

WILLIS: But there are other kinds of shutters over here, we've got one right over here.

RIMOLDI: Sure, this is an accordian style, and something like this is meant to permanently be affixed at home. It's always in place. It opens up. It retracts against there. Storm season comes, storm's around the corner. You close it, you're all set. These are particularly helpful for second and third floor applications where you don't have to carry a shutter up on that window.

WILLIS: Good ideas, Mike.

Now we look to Tampa, a city that's also preparing for storms. Rob Marciano explains why this city may be the next New Orleans.


LARRY GISPERT, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: I can't guarantee it's going to be this year. It may be next year. It may be five years from now, but it's going to happen. It has to happen.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Larry Gispert is a lifelong resident of Tampa and the city's emergency operations director. He has spent much of his career planning for a hurricane-related disaster.

GISPERT: You want to know who the guy is in the fox holes with you and you want to know if he tells you he's going to do something, he's going to do it.

MARCIANO: Gispert and his team are conducting an annual exercise, what to do if a monster storm tracks their way. It hasn't happened since 1921.

This time of year, coastal cities like Tampa plan for the worst. So if the big one hits, they'll be ready. During a storm, emergency managers will be right back here at the operations center, well above sea level, high and dry. But if Tampa takes a direct hit from a hurricane, much of the city will be under water.

BOB WEISBERG, UNIV. OF SOUTH FLORIDA: If the wrong storm comes here from the wrong direction at the wrong speed and makes landfall in the wrong place, there could be a disaster here.

MARCIANO: Local professor Bob Weisberg has developed sophisticated computer models to simulate what a direct hit would do. From the gulf, hurricane winds would push a surge of water up the long, shallow bay. And at the northern most point where the water is piled highest, lies the city of Tampa.

WEISBERG: If we look now at a uniform 20-foot rise of sea level, we see that there is a lot of land that's inundated.

MARCIANO: Back downtown, Gispert brings the model to life. How far up the hospital is that water going to get?

GISPERT: Up to the third set of windows. They could have 24, 22 feet of water, and as you can see over here, these two spans of bridges are even lower than that.

MARCIANO: So the hospital could be stranded for months?

GISPERT: That hospital could be stranded for months.

MARCIANO: Worst case, most of downtown will be flooded. Neighborhoods near the bay wiped clean like southern Mississippi after Katrina. And like New Orleans, there are only three long low roads for evacuation.

GISPERT: The water's going to overlap the road and cut it off. That's why if the people in Pine Ellis wait too late and the onset of those winds come, they're not going to have a way out. MARCIANO: Rob Marciano, CNN, Tampa.


WILLIS: The best way to prepare and protect your home is to make sure you have the right insurance coverage. Joining me now is Alex Soto from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. Alex, I think what most people want to know is how much coverage do I have? But nobody ever really looks at their policy.

ALEX SOTO, INDEPENDENT INSURANCE AGENTS AND BROKERS OF AMERICA: Sure. Well, you know, this is a perfect time of the year, the beginning of hurricane season, to do an audit or an analysis of your coverage. My number one advice is call your agent, call your company. And then, first of all, determine, do I have the right policies? Do I have the right coverage?

WILLIS: Alex, it's easy enough to say that, but what's the best way to know that I've got enough to cover my house if the worst happens?

SOTO: Get in a conversation with your agent or your company. And you really need to make sure that you have a homeowner's policy, that if the homeowner's excludes wind storm, that you have a wind storm policy to cover the hurricanes, and then finally, find out if you need a flood policy. And if you need it, buy it.

WILLIS: Well, let's talk about that for a minute, because most people don't. Only 40 percent of the people who need it have it. Flood insurance is critical, because the coverage for these disasters -- well, look, you could end up having a big problem and no way to pay for it. How do you get flood insurance and who do you buy it from?

SOTO: Sure. You buy it from the same people that sell you your homeowner's policy. And here's how it breaks down. The wind storm policy, the hurricane policy will cover you if your house is blown over. But if it rains for 40 days and 40 nights...

WILLIS: ... You mean, if the worst happens?

SOTO: The worst happens. On top of the wind, it rains for a long time or there is a tidal wave that comes across.

WILLIS: Oh, god, forbid.

SOTO: Yes, and that is excluded by the homeowner's policy, but would be picked up by the flood policy.

WILLIS: OK. Well, obviously, there are a lot of people out there who need the flood policy and need to figure out if they're on that short list.

Let's talk about what happened in the wake of Katrina, because I know a lot of people are thinking about it right now. So many lawsuits in the wake of that. How do I make sure that I've really got the coverage I need and enough could to cover not just the exterior of my home, but also the contents inside it?

SOTO: Sure. Well, they thought they had flood, and a lot of them did not have flood. Number two, you want to make sure that you have enough insurance to replace or repair your home.

WILLIS: Replacement value coverage. That's really what you're shopping for, right?

SOTO: Very important. And you want to make sure that you have that coverage, and then the limit is sufficient. What's happening in the last few years is there's been a tremendous increase in the cost of construction. So if you don't have enough, you are going to be sorry.

WILLIS: Thank you, Alex.

SOTO: You're welcome.

WILLIS: Up next, how to prepare and protect your roof.


WILLIS: Welcome back to a special edition of OPEN HOUSE: Prepare and Protect. Mike Rimoldi is joining us again from Mike, thank you.


WILLIS: We're standing in front of what is probably your home's biggest vulnerability when it comes to storms.

RIMOLDI: That's right, Gerri. The garage door is like a sail on a ship. It's a large, open area. The wind hits it, it wants to take it in. And once the air has got inside the home, it pressurizes the home and expands the walls, possibly taking off the roof. Most of the time, it's more cost effective to just replace the door.

WILLIS: How much does it cost?

RIMOLDI: Say between $1,500 and $2,000 for a wind-rated door. You figure that door, the existing one's been there for a couple years, it's made several up and down cycles, by now it's probably time to be replaced anyway.

WILLIS: And they're wind rated. That's good to snow. And the danger is the wind rushes into your house and pops your roof like a cork, right?

RIMOLDI: Yes, as we said, once the wind gets inside, it pressurizes it, it has no place to go but out or up and most of the time, going up is the easier path for it.

WILLIS: Let's go up.


WILLIS: Let's take a look at the roof. Mike, the roof is critical, too, and you say this flat roof has some problems.

RIMOLDI: Right. On a flat roof like this, they have what's called ponding, and you can see this is evidence where its standing water after a rain will accumulate and that's what leaks.

WILLIS: You brought us some good shingles here. Why are these any different from what people typically have?

RIMOLDI: Right, these are the new style shingles, Gerri, which they're rated for wind resistance. One of the leading indicators is the Miami-Dade acceptance. That means they're approved for Miami-Dade usage.

WILLIS: How are they different though from regular shingles?

RIMOLDI: The adhesive, the resistance to tearing, the resistance to tear off or sheer in a wind. You have to figure shingles...

WILLIS: ... They're stronger.

RIMOLDI: Exactly. And you have your nail points, but it still has to resist a certain amount, because we've all seen the pictures OF in the wind, it will flap up the edges and if it tears, it's the zipper effect. When you lose one shingle, you're going to lose many.

WILLIS: Wow. So is there anything different about the way they're affixed to the roof?

RIMOLDI: The big thing folks need to remember is these are fixed following the manufacturer's installation instructions, which now often require two nails at these points. Years ago we'd get away with putting many a nail, maybe three nails on the whole shingle and now the installation instructions require more nails per shingle.

WILLIS: If you'd like to see our weekend project again, go to our Web site,

Up next, how one community dealt with a devastating hurricane, and we'll recap all the tips from today's show.


WILLIS: Learning from past mistakes has special meaning for the people of Punta Gorda. Their community was devastated by Hurricane Charley less than three years ago. Chad Myers takes a look at their recovery and how they're planning for the next storm.


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Hurricane Charley made a direct hit on Charlotte County in 2004.

SHARON DYBLE, PORT CHARLOTTE HOMEOWNER: It literally looked like somebody had dropped the bomb.

BARRY DYBLE, PORT CHARLOTTE HOMEOWNER: That was 19 homes all told destroyed on the street out of 31.

MYERS: Sharon and Barry Dyble rebuilt and moved back in just three weeks ago.

B. DYBLE: That was mass confusion here within the insurance companies, within the homeowners, with the displaced homeowners, and that had to be sorted out.

MYERS: While the Dybles got a full insurance settlement, prices had skyrocketed and code requirements beefed up.

B. DYBLE: After getting about five or six bids from other contractors, we looked each other in the eye, said hey, we can save substantially if we contract this ourselves, and we took the chance, and this is our end result.

S. DYBLE: Meadowbrook seemed to have faired much better during that storm than did the tile roofs, the old tile roofs, so we did that. There is added insulation, there is extra tie-downs. There is more concrete cores, more rebar, just all kinds of stuff.

JIM EVETTS, CHARLOTTE CO. BUILDING SERVICES: The strap is bolted into a concrete beam that goes all the way around the top of the house.

MYERS: Jim Evetts oversees new construction in the country, the latest building code upgrade.

EVETTS: You will shutter it or you will put hurricane glass on the house, you don't have a choice anymore. Which was a good move for Florida, it was a good move to protect the citizens of Florida and their investment.

MYERS: But there is no such thing as a hurricane-proof house.

B. DYBLE: Even though we've built up to "the new building code," we don't have a contract with Mother Nature.

MYERS: Chad Myers, CNN, Charlotte County, Florida.


WILLIS: Shows you how important it is to prepare and protect.

Mike Rimoldi is joining us again from Let's just go over what we talked about in today's show. We have a lot of great ideas, starting with cleaning up your yard and getting rid of everything that could be a missile.

RIMOLDI: Right Gerri, yard items, patio furniture, small potted plants, anything around the ground, around your yard that can be picked up and thrown into your house or one down the street.

WILLIS: Breaks windows, could even break a wall. Let's talk about the garage door, that's an important thing. RIMOLDI: Once again, the garage door, a large surface area that catches a lot of wind. When it gets breached, wind gets into the house, it pressurizes the house and the wind wants to escape somewhere.

WILLIS: And it can escape through the roof, which is also important. You had a lot to say about shingles on the roof.

RIMOLDI: Right. That wind can go up through the roof or the shingles themselves can be sheared off from the outside by high winds. So we want to look at either replacing a faulty or an old roof, maybe shingles that have curled.

We want to use an improved material, hopefully with the Miami- Dade specifications. If not, at least a specification that meets the needs for your specific area, and that it's installed properly, the right number of nails and the right installation procedure.

WILLIS: It's always great to have somebody do all of his work for you that knows what they're doing if you don't. And of course let's talk just for a minute about windows. They're so important. Of course, the old-fashioned way is to simply board them up. And you say don't use OSB.

RIMOLDI: Right, you don't want to use the OSB, the oriented strand board, it's just not strong enough. We recommend going with a 5/8-inch thick piece of CDX-rated plywood.

WILLIS: All right. And so you can buy really expensive windows, also.

RIMOLDI: Right. You can go with the impact glass, something that's passive that's always going to be there. You don't have to worry about it getting hit. If it does get hit, it's going to break, but it won't allow the wind in your house. The flip side is those can be costly.

WILLIS: OK, they're expensive, but they can be well worth the money. Thanks so much, Mike Rimoldi. You can catch more tips at Thanks for joining us for this special edition of CNN's OPEN HOUSE: Prepare and Protect. You can catch us every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN and 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Headline News.

Don't go anywhere, your top stories are next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


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