These 4 Phony Tips Won’t Protect You From Hurricane Irma’s Wrath

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A man tapes windows of a home to protect against a hurricane
Lisa F. Young /

Hurricane Irma is threatening residents of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and possibly elsewhere. If you are a homeowner in these states, don’t fall for these four dangerous myths about storm preparation:

Myth No. 1: Taping windows prevents breakage

Windows and glass doors crisscrossed with electrical tape or duct tape are a familiar sight when a hurricane is coming. But tape doesn’t protect glass.

“The problem of taping windows is that instead of little pieces you get big shards of glass,” says Tommy Patterson. He is a technical expert who trains glass repairers at Glass Doctor franchises across the United States.

People sometimes use tape because it’s what they can afford. But if you plan ahead, you can buy or scrounge cheap 5/8-inch plywood for the job.

Boarding up windows only works, though, if the boards are attached to the window frame. Otherwise, a boarded window can fall out.

“Look at storm shutters,” Patterson says. “They are designed to be attached to the frame of the window, not just the glass.”

A better plan:

  • Prepare boards in advance whenever possible. As people in Florida are learning right now, in an emergency, supplies will be scarce or overpriced and you’ll be under pressure. Follow directions in this South Florida Sun Sentinel guide to hurricane protection for windows.
  • Measure windows separately and accurately, recording the measurements.
  • Next, cut 5/8-inch plywood into coverings that protect the window and overlap at least part of the window frame.
  • Store the coverings in an easy-to-reach, clean, dry spot with the tools and supplies you’ll need for quick installation.
  • Replacing windows with hurricane-proof glass is another option. Average cost: $35 to $50 a square foot, including new window frames and layered hurricane glass, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Myth No. 2: Cracking windows keeps them from imploding

Another popular myth advises opening a window or two just a crack when a storm is coming, to equalize inside and outside air pressure and prevent windows from imploding.

It’s true that air pressure can be low in a hurricane. “The atmospheric pressure is so low that it can suck the windows into the house,” Patterson says. Still, cracking a window won’t prevent that when winds are also a factor. He explains:

“The wind is going to be 100 miles an hour. Think about something 100 miles per hour going into your house. Cracking a window is not going to make a hill of beans difference.”

A better plan: If you have the funds, install steel or aluminum storm panel shutters on the exterior of your home’s windows. Average cost: $7 to $8 per square foot, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Myth No. 3: Leaning against glass prevents breaking

You probably don’t need me to explain why leaning against glass in a storm is a really dumb idea. But just in case: Low pressure could blow broken glass into the home, and high winds turn ordinary objects into flying weapons that can penetrate a window, injuring you.

A better plan: Another type of window protection uses panels of super-tough, translucent fabrics. The Sun Sentinel says one brand, Armor Screen, costs about $15 a square foot but must be installed by a dealer. See photos of installed fabric panels on the website of another brand, Hurricane Fabric.

Myth No. 4. Protecting yourself from high winds guarantees safety

Storm-force winds seem scariest and most dramatic. The fact is, though, that inland flooding is responsible for most deaths in hurricanes, says the National Weather Service.

Either is a bad way to die, though. Hurricanes are seriously dangerous. Only fools ignore evacuation warnings.

A better plan: Heed such warnings. No amount of home preparation will save you if you don’t leave when you should.

Patterson, whose uncle died in Hurricane Katrina, says:

“His neighbors, everybody, they did all the normal stuff they’re supposed to do to protect their property and their homes but they neglected to protect their lives. He lived there for 40 years and he’d been through so many hurricane seasons and he thought, ‘Oh, I can wait it out.'”

Looking for more hurricane planning tips? You’ll find them here:

What’s the state of your preparations for hurricane season? Share it with us by posting a comment below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.

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