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Hurricane season is upon is ? drenching coastal areas from early June until November's end ? and, as always, preparation is key to surviving the storms and keeping your belongings safe. Since automobiles are often the largest investment an individual makes, it's important to make sure that they'll be safe should the time come for you to evacuate your home.

One insurance company, American Collectors Insurance, noted several tips that were effective during the devastating 2005 hurricane season and is passing along word to all vehicle owners. Use these nuggets of knowledge for storing your primary transportation (and prized collectibles!) in your garage during this year's potentially nasty season.

1. Use a waterproof/padded tarp on the vehicle to protect against saturated drywall and debris falling onto the vehicle.

2. Remove heavy objects from shelves and items such as bikes hanging from the ceiling. Place tools and large objects on the floor.

3. Shore up the garage door (the largest opening to the house) using special products, lumber, and/or hardware.

4. Secure any openings to the attic from the garage with latches or lumber.

5. Use plywood to protect garage windows. Window films provide some protection against shattering, but 1/2" or 3/4" thick plywood is a better option. Hurricane shutters are preferable to sunshades on windows.

6. Keep automobile titles and other documents sealed in plastic bags in a safe or a large, heavy container that won't get lost.

7. Participate in a car club. Tap in to fellow car lovers as the best resource for local and regional repair shops and other resources before, during and after an emergency.

"Car lovers tell us these are the simple steps they take year after year," commented Laura Bergan , director of marketing for American Collectors Insurance, adding that most specialty policies require a collector vehicle to be stored in a locked garage.

"Many car-loving clients put themselves in good position to preserve their property or keep damage to a minimum, especially during hurricane season," Bergan stated. "The key lesson: securing the garage door proved vitally important not just to preserving a cherished vehicle but to protecting life and limb."

"Taking care of these issues before the storms hit freed up time for American Collectors customers to assist family, friends and neighbors," Bergan added.

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