Nova Scotia

Get your generators, bring in your trampolines: hurricane tips from experts

With Hurricane Fiona set to hit the Atlantic provinces this weekend, some experts with years of experience are sharing tips on how to stay safe and protect your home.

Insurance industry 'preparing for the worst and hoping for the best'

Fallen power lines and debris are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Dorian arrived in the region as a Category 2 hurricane and was downgraded to a post-tropical storm when it made landfall near Halifax. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

After weathering more than a few hurricane seasons, people across Atlantic Canada know the common storm preparedness tips — collect batteries, stock up on bottled water and non-perishable food.

But there are some lesser known pieces of advice experts swear by — take note, trampoline owners. 

Hurricane Fiona is expected to make landfall in Atlantic Canada late Friday and Saturday as it transitions to a post-tropical storm, bringing strong winds, heavy rain and storm surges that could result in power outages and flooding.

"We're certainly preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Amanda Dean, the Insurance Bureau of Canada's vice-president for the Atlantic region.

Dean said the industry prepares for a steep increase in claims after a storm such as Fiona, and the bureau's member companies see two common types of claims: wind damage from flying debris, and water damage from issues like sewer backups or rain entering the house through the roof. 

Gather important documents

Dean said to mitigate flood damage, it's smart to bring valuables out of your basement and keep important documents, including home and car insurance policies, together in a safe place. 

"We don't know what's going to happen after this type of an event blowing through our region, so there could be extended power outages," Dean said. 

"Collecting your important documents in advance of the storm, having them all in one place that you can get to if it's at night and you do need to leave your home for whatever reason."

Hurricane Maria in 2011 sent this trampoline soaring before it landed in a neighbour's tree in Upper Island Cove, N.L. Maria was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone a few hours after it landed in Newfoundland. (Courtesy of Kim Newman)

She also said it's important to check for precarious tree limbs near your home or vehicle, and bring outdoor items like garbage cans and patio furniture indoors.

But there's one thing people often don't think to bring inside. 

"Every time we have a hurricane blow through the region, we always have stories about trampolines, and they're always the most bizarre stories possible," she said. 

"Even if a trampoline is tethered in the backyard, it can still fly through the air because a lot of wind can gather underneath and lift it up."

If damage does occur due to wind, rain or flooding, Dean said it's important to document everything with photographs or videos and detailed notes. 

A record rainfall on Thanksgiving Day 2016 brought a torrent of water that flooded hundreds of homes and businesses in Cape Breton. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

Halifax Fire and Emergency is also preparing for a high volume of calls as a result of the upcoming storm. 

Pat Kline, acting district chief, said they often get calls during storms resulting from people trying to heat or light their home with no power. 

He said people should never use barbecues or generators in their homes, and things like space heaters and candles can be dangerous if used improperly.

"Be incredibly careful with candles. If you're using them for lighting, don't leave them near windows," Kline said. "A good spot for a candle is on a cookie sheet on your stovetop, for lighting and for heat if needed."

WATCH | Halifax Fire on how to prepare for Hurricane Fiona

Halifax prepares for Hurricane Fiona

2 months ago
Duration 5:05
Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Chief Erica Fleck gives an update on how Atlantic Canadians should prepare as Hurricane Fiona grows into a Category 4 hurricane heading to the Maritimes.

Generator safety

Chris McSweeney, general manager of Bay Equipment Rentals in Tantallon, N.S., said he is already seeing a higher demand for generator and pump rentals, and expects to sell out once the storm hits.

"Things are booking up already, so the earlier, the better for sure," McSweeney said. "In the past we've had days ...  where we've had absolutely nothing left."

Halifax Fire and Emergency says it's important to be aware of safety issues when using generators. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Kline said if people are using a generator, they should be careful to avoid common safety issues. Generators emit deadly carbon monoxide, so they should be six metres away from a home and away from any open windows or ventilation that could let the gas into the home. 

Carbon monoxide "is a very insidious type of gas because there's no odour to it, so you don't know it's in your house," Kline said.

He also said not to use generators in a garage attached to your home or in any poorly ventilated shed. Gasoline should be stored in a well-ventilated area in an approved container and not poured into a generator when it's hot. 

For people who have a generator hooked up to their home, Kline said there's a proper way to do it. 

"Make sure they have an electrician properly install a hookup into their house so they're not jerry-rigging wiring in their house, which is an electrical hazard," he said. "It's also dangerous to linemen that are working on the lines near their house."

Cars lined up waiting to get to a gas pump.
People filling up their cars on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at a gas station in Halifax. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola Seguin is a TV, radio, and online journalist with CBC Nova Scotia, based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). If you have a story idea, email her at nicola.seguin@cbc.ca or find her on twitter @nicseg95.

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