We’ve been fortunate recently that hurricane season was a start and end date on the calendar like the spring and fall equinox. A milestone, but little else. Some of you may have moved to the area since we had a bad storm season and you may have found yourself totally unprepared when Matthew rolled in.

I hope you, your family and your property weathered the proverbial storm.

I thought I’d reflect on some lessons from Matthew in the hopes of helping everybody to be better prepared in the future. While this storm was a unique experience for each of us, there were some obvious things many can improve on in the future.

First, let me observe that any service provider’s primary interest is the wellbeing of his or her staff (or it should be). Yes, they want to help you, it’s the nature of being a service provider, but they are unlikely to risk the wellbeing of their staff to do that.

So, carrying sheets of plywood or storm shutters up a ladder to secure a home really needs to be done days before the storm is projected to strike. Once the wind and rain start blowing, it simply isn’t safe to do this. Ladders get slick when wet and anything that can catch the wind is a risk when going up a ladder.

Also understand that at some point, a service provider is going to send their employees home to look after their own homes and families. Calling a few hours before the projected strike looking for board-up help is likely to leave you feeling frustrated and helpless.

Finally, If you have hurricane shutters that come off the home (not the roll up kind), or previously had plywood cut for each window of your home, know where these are before the service provider that you’ve called arrives to install them.

With those lessons now noted, let’s look forward.

If you made the decision during this storm to have plywood cut or hurricane shutters installed before the next storm, now is the time to act. Do not wait until the next storm is upon us.

Give yourself a deadline. Human nature is to wait and be ‘sure’ a storm is going to strike before requesting a board-up, and that’s simply too late. I suggest 4 days before the projected strike that you make any calls for board-up help. Understand that the wind and rain arrive 24-36 hours ahead of the worst of the storm. If you wait until the evacuation order to start considering boarding up, understand that service providers have begun to think about their own family and property and it’s simply too late.

So, get prepared now, develop a plan, give yourself a deadline, and for the next storm your home can be secure and you can evacuate in plenty of time to keep your family safe.