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How homeowners should prepare for Hurricane Irma

Florida Keys prepare

We've all seen TV footage of homeowners in Florida barricading their doors with sandbags and screwing sheets of plywood onto their windows as Hurricane Irma's 185-mile-per-hour winds barrel down on them.

But here's another important suggestion from the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Don't neglect the inside of your home.

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"Close all the interior doors, as well as windows and exterior doors," said Julie Rochman, head of the IBHS, which purposely destroys vacant houses at its research center in South Carolina to analyze the effects of high winds and storm surge like Irma's, which has already pummeled Puerto Rico, as well as Hurricane Harvey, which devastated South Texas and Louisiana.

IBHS just completed an "intensive summer study which examined how a single-family home performed in scientific wind testing," said Rochman. "Debris flies in a hurricane, and if a window is broken or the seals fail, wind pressure can build inside the home and press upward on a roof that is already stressed by external forces like wind, rain and debris."

Closing interior doors can "compartmentalize" the pressure and reduce upward force on the roof. It's a simple step that could make a big difference in how the roof performs, the IBHS said.

Miami Beach gears up for Irma

Even for homeowners who've waited to fix the roof until now when it's raining and the winds are blowing, it still may not be too late to check for loose shingles or flashing that could be fixed with a staple gun. Trees overhanging the roof, particularly with dead limbs, should be taken down or cut back. Gutters should also be checked for blockages, and before the storm hits, look for any holes in the roof through which the sun can shine into the attic.

If you have installed solar panels to save on electricity, bear in mind they could turn into sails. And protect skylights any way you can. They're the most vulnerable entry way for Irma to get in.  For more advice on protecting your home -- now and after the storm, log onto the IBHS website.

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