Stock Up on Safety & Protective Gear

A Seat Belt for Your House: Back in 2004, while passing flatbed trucks on the freeway near Orlando, Florida, structural engineer Frank Bennardo marveled at how well mesh tarps held down the big rigs' loads. "Why not do the same thing for houses?" he wondered. And so he did. Teaming up with shutter manufacturer Michael Madden, Bennardo coinvented the Cat 5 Hurricane Netting System. Throw a few 10-foot-wide bolts of the PVC-coated polyester over your house, hook it to anchors sunk into the ground, tighten the straps, and you effectively batten down the whole homestead. "It literally Saran-Wraps your house together," says Bennardo. "It deflects the wind and diverts it over the whole structure." Consider it a supplement to storm shutters or impact windows. But at just about 85 cents a square foot, plus $2.50 or so per tie-down, it sure costs less than a new roof.

Basement Bunker: Folks in tornado country know all about storm shelters. But after last year, some people in hurricane-prone regions are seeking a more secure place to hunker down than the "windowless interior room" recommended by emergency agencies. Those people might want to check out DuPont's Kevlar-reinforced StormRoom. The prefab shelter comes in sizes from 4 by 6 feet to 12 by 12 feet (around $6,000 to $12,000, installed). Once bolted and epoxied to a house's concrete foundation, it withstands winds in excess of 250 mph. But make sure to assess your flood risk first. "Storm shelters might provide protection from flying debris and wind," deadpans Mark Smith, of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "But they don't float."

Portable Power: It could take a week or more for utilities to restore power to storm-lashed neighborhoods. Here, a trio of solutions to keep you rolling through the blackout.

1. Fridge and Freezer: The Yamaha EF3000iSE portable gas generator pumps out enough juice to power your fridge, freezer, and a few lights for as long as 20 hours per 3.4 gallons of regular unleaded. The built-in power inverter means that the engine output increases as power needs do, which conserves fuel and reduces noise. Approximately $2,099.

2. Mobile Phone: Your cell phone may be your lifeline to the outside world. Keep it going with little more than sunshine and the Brunton Solaris 6. Just unfold the 29-by-9-inch panel in the sun, plug in your phone, and the unit will charge it in about one to three hours. Approximately $129.

3. Weather Radio: The Freeplay EyeMax will give you the latest news, but it also receives continuous advisories from NOAA Weather Radio. Don't worry about batteries—it's powered by a hand crank that folds out of the housing. Thirty seconds of cranking keeps it going for a half hour. Approximately $70.
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