A Look Back at Our CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength Contest Winners

Giving back to the community has always been a part of our company’s culture. It was this philosophy that fueled the launch of our CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength contest. This was a simple way to honor and spotlight four local Miami-Dade and Broward County residents who have gone above and beyond to help others during these challenging times, with a $2,000 cash prize each.

Joan Saint-Hilaire, Katie Lizana, Demi Genao, and Jarrel Strong were all nominated for our CGI Heroes contest by peers for their commitment to assisting others. As this event comes to a close, we would like to highlight each of their inspiring stories of generosity and selflessness once more. 

Joan Saint-Hilaire: Beyond the Classroom 

Joan Saint-Hilaire is a kindergarten teacher at Whispering Pines Elementary School in Cutler Bay within Miami-Dade County. The 49-year-old seasoned schoolteacher has been instructing students for 26 years. The Miami resident is not your typical teacher and focuses on more than just the curriculum. She has purchased a mini refrigerator and filled it with milk, cereal and other snacks to ensure her students were well fed, driven by their homes with pamphlets and gift bags, and made sure they had the necessary school supplies.

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Katie Lizana: Sewing to Save

Celebrating Strength

Katie Lizana is a fourth-generation watchmaker and co-owner of Circa Tempus, LLC, a company that produces watches for individuals with special needs. She has been sewing to save health care professionals’ ears after hearing that many nurses and doctors were experiencing discomfort due to the loops and restrictions of their surgical masks. The Hollywood resident developed an ear-saving product prototype and has crafted and customized thousands of complimentary medical mask attachments. Dubbed “ear savers”, the 43-year-old began making the mask attachments in April 2020 with strong ribbon and buttons, forming a soft strap that could connect to the face covering. Since she launched the giving-back initiative, Lizana has received hundreds of requests through Facebook and Instagram from all over the country and mailed them to almost 100 hospitals nationwide to alleviate ear pain and chafing for health care professionals. She has never accepted compensation for the products.

“Giving back gives me purpose, and I cannot thank these health care workers enough for what they do on a daily basis,” said Lizana. “When I send out a batch of ear savers and get pictures back from an entire ward at a hospital, it makes me happy and makes me feel like I am doing a small part. People are always searching for the path to true happiness in life, and time and time again, I have found the only thing that really makes people happy is doing something for someone else.”

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Demi Genao: Spreading Selflessness 

Demi Genao, a 25-year-old registered nurse at Broward Health Medical Center, works 12-hour shifts three days a week. She typically arrives home exhausted but that doesn’t stop her from buying and hand-delivering food, including bread, eggs and other necessities, to the elderly in her off time. The Miami resident has adapted to her nursing role in the first few years and has worked through a pandemic with grace, courage and compassion.

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Jarrel Strong: Feeding the Hungry  

Born and raised in Miami, 26-year-old Jarrel Strong lived in nearby Overtown for most of his life. It was his connection to the area and the hardships he has experienced that compelled him to help the homeless. He saw the need for daily resources like food for those living on the streets. Since March, Strong and others have purchased and made two meal deliveries, including a welcomed meal of spaghetti, green beans and dinner rolls wrapped up in to-go containers with utensils, that fed about 300 men and women in three separate Overtown sections. Strong seeks to pursue criminal defense law in order to help those inside the criminal justice system and help defend and provide resources for those who cannot defend themselves.

“I’ve experienced these same situations,” said Strong. “Once I was above those circumstances, I felt it was my duty to turn back and help those in need as well. Someone helped me before. It was my inspiration and my opportunity to do so. It made me happy because my little help was going far, and it was a blessing to those at that moment.”

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“These four Miami-Dade and Broward County residents represent the definition of a community hero,” said Bob Keller, President of the Southeast Business Unit for PGT Innovations. “They have demonstrated strength, generosity and compassion in the face of unprecedented adversity, and their actions have shown that we truly are stronger together. Our team is honored to highlight their selfless acts and reward them for the ways they have served their communities.”

Celebrating Strength: Determined to Make a Better Tomorrow

Born and raised in Miami, 26-year-old Jarrel Strong lived in nearby Overtown for most of his life. It was his connection to the area and the hardships he has experienced that compelled him to help the homeless.

“I saw the need for daily resources like food for those living on the streets,” says Jarrel. “There are so many people out here that are really struggling, and they have little to no help or resources.”

Celebrating Strength: A Teacher’s True Calling

Since March, Jarrel and others have purchased and made two meal deliveries that fed about 300 men and women in three separate Overtown sections. The food disappeared very quickly.

“I was unemployed at the time, but with the roughly $50-$60 I had, I called up my family and friends with the idea to feed the homeless living on the streets,” he says. “I thought it’s the least I can do. I once lived in the same neighborhood – homeless and living in the city around there.”

His family and friends pitched in by purchasing waters and other items, donating money, masks or gloves or volunteering their time for the cause. The Miami-Dade Police Department donated gloves as well. Jarrel and the group provided a welcomed meal of spaghetti, green beans and dinner rolls wrapped up in to-go containers with utensils.

Rise Above the Circumstances

Passionate about social change, Jarrel grew up without a father, was evicted from every house he had ever lived in, slept in shelters and went without the things he needed.

“I’ve experienced these same situations,” says Jarrel. “Once I was above those circumstances, I felt it was my duty to turn back and help those in need as well. Someone helped me before. It was my inspiration and my opportunity to do so. It made me happy because my little help was going far, and it was a blessing to those at that moment.”

Celebrating Strength: Sewing to Save

Jarrel had hoped to do something similar around Thanksgiving, but his bills piled up. He is planning another meal delivery donation some time in December – probably before Christmas.

Determined to Help Those in Need

Jarrel’s mother, Penny Jones, wanted to acknowledge her son’s big heart and work surrounding social justice and community activism. She nominated him for our “CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength” contest. We launched this contest to recognize four area residents who have gone above and beyond to help others with a $2,000 cash prize. Jarrel is the fourth and final winner.

Celebrating Strength: Kindness that Spreads

“Since the pandemic began, Jarrel was determined to help those in need during this most difficult time,” Penny says. “With little money and a little faith, Jarrel safely fed over 300 homeless men and women in the city of Overtown. He believed that it was his duty to support those who simply could not support themselves. He took to the same streets he once lived. Jarrel knew what it felt like being homeless because he has endured those same situations. He is the agent and beacon of hope that his community truly deserves.”

“My mom encouraged me to do this,” he says. “I share my plans with her, and she pushes me to make sure I achieve whatever that goal is. I am thankful and grateful that she would consider me for this opportunity.”

Today, Jarrel dreams of attending law school. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and pre-law. Jarrel wants to pursue criminal defense law in order to help those inside the criminal justice system. He hopes to help defend and provide resources for those who cannot defend themselves.

Celebrating Strength: Kindness that Spreads

You always know when there’s a “Code Happy” at Broward Health Medical Center. It’s hard not to notice a parade of proud and happy hospital workers dancing to music piped through the intercom system and waving pom poms and crying! That’s what happens when a COVID-19 patient is discharged, and even though Demi Genao had no idea she’d be starting her career during a pandemic, the Code Happy celebration is one of her favorite things about being a registered nurse.

Related: Read About Our Heroes

“We play a happy song as we bring them downstairs, and it’s a huge party where we can laugh and cry with family members,” says Demi. “It’s really sweet.”

Helping Others is a Passion

The recent nursing school graduate received her degree from Broward College in December 2018. She says she always wanted to help those in need. It started with animals when she was a child, and as she grew up, she transitioned to wanting to help sick children and adults.

“The feeling of helping someone who is really sick and seeing them get better, knowing I had a small hand in that, is something that is extremely fulfilling,” she says. “I feel like I am really making a difference.”

The way she has adapted to her nursing role in the first few years and working through a pandemic with grace, courage and compassion is the reason Demi was nominated for the “CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength” contest. The contest was launched to recognize four other area residents who have gone above and beyond to help others with a $2,000 cash prize. She is the third winner in the contest.

Related: Celebrating Strength: A Teacher’s True Calling

“I am so appreciative for the nomination and for winning,” says Demi. “It’s kind of crazy because not every newbie nurse is going to deal with a pandemic so that was challenging to adjust to. While I was still learning the basics, all of a sudden, we have to learn this brand new thing. No one knew what it was, and it was difficult. I feel a lot more comfortable now being in the role. Every day, I learn something new. My co-workers are amazing, and the patients are so grateful and appreciative. When they tell me that I’m making a difference that’s what I love.”

She works 12-hour shifts three days a week and usually comes home exhausted, but that doesn’t stop Demi from buying and hand-delivering food to the elderly in her off time. “It really started with my grandparents,” she says. “My grandma doesn’t go out too much, and I know it was hard for her to go out and buy groceries because she was so scared of getting sick.”

Demi started there but then it snowballed, as many of her grandmother’s friends expressed the need for help.

The Snowball Effect

“I do a bulk shopping trip for bread, eggs and other necessities and drop it off on their doorsteps,” says Demi.

The 25-year-old nurse says she has never won anything in her life and when she found out at about the CGI prize at work, it was an overwhelming surprise. The best part? The nominator was her mom – Josie.

Related: Celebrating Strength: Sewing to Save

“I nominated her because she inspires me, and I am so proud of her,” says Josie. “I would see her come home from working at the hospital at the point of complete physical exhaustion and in tears some days. But she would just wake up the next day and go deliver food to people in need. I told her to stay home and recuperate, but she would say she couldn’t. She had to help people.”

Demi has some good examples at home. Josie works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is currently helping flood victims in Louisiana. Her father is a Miami-Dade County firefighter, and her brother is in school for emergency management.

“For someone being so young and not even thinking of themselves, just makes me so proud,” Josie says. “Demi is selfless and tireless. She has faith in people, is non-judgmental and has a kind heart.”

Celebrating Strength: Sewing to Save

You can find Katie Lizana on Instagram as Ms_Polka_Dottie. It’s a name that pays homage to her grandmother, Dottie, who Katie says was the seamstress in the family. Katie even still has some of her vintage sewing needles! But now, the third-generation watchmaker is following in her grandmother’s footsteps, sewing thousands of what she calls ear savers for health care professionals in her spare time.

Related: Nominate Your Hero

“When the pandemic first started, I was reading about nurses and doctors with raw and sometimes bleeding ears and red faces from wearing masks for so long or doubling up on them and causing them so much pain,” says Katie. “Like so many others, I felt helpless. I knew there had to be something I could do.”

With help from her product-testing neighbor, who is a nurse, Katie began working on an ear-saving prototype. The first one was made from ripped-up bed sheets sewn together with buttons. “When I gave it to my neighbor, she said it worked! I knew I was on to something.”

A Small Act Can Change Lives


The next version was made from strong ribbon and buttons, forming a soft strap that could attach to the mask. She gave a few to her neighbor and started posting about them on Instagram. That was all it took for the idea to take off. Doctors, trauma nurses and other medical professionals started reaching out about getting ear savers for their teams. Katie received messages from all over the country. If the first responders were local, she’d leave a bag of ear savers somewhere close for them to pick up. She would even leave the mask attachments at various locations, such as a fence at the YMCA or outside at a local school, for people to grab as they passed by.

Related: Submit Your Local Hero 

“Most people didn’t want them just for themselves, they wanted them for everyone in their unit,” she says. “And I even got a few custom requests for specific ribbon colors.”

The most amazing part about Katie’s new hobby is that she has never accepted any money for the products. She stopped counting, but she estimates that she has made thousands of ear savers and sent them to close to 100 different hospitals nationwide.

“A couple of people insisted on paying, and I just could not take the money,” says Katie. “I was at home feeling helpless. These people are going to work every day putting their lives on the line. I had the luxury to switch my watchmaking company to a home-based business, and I felt very lucky – even though it was a tough transition. This has made me feel useful.”

Giving Back 

Giving back is nothing new for Katie. Her paying career is making watches for people with special needs. She makes vibrating watches for people who are deaf or have bladder and kidney issues and need medication reminders. In her spare time, besides making ear savers sometimes at all hours of the night, she is also a passionate volunteer at her local Kiwanis Club where she serves as president, takes part in coastal clean-up efforts, organizes local drive-in movies and then donates the proceeds to charity and fundraises for the South Florida Mobile School Pantry and Project Alive. Oh, and she’s also married with three teenage stepdaughters and one 5-year-old son!

Related: Celebrating Strength: A Teacher’s True Calling

“Giving back gives me purpose,” Katie says as tears filled her eyes. “When I send out a batch of ear savers and get pictures back from an entire ward at a hospital, it makes me happy and makes me feel like I am doing a small part. People are always searching for the path to true happiness in life, and time and time again, I have found the only thing that really makes people happy is doing something for someone else.”

Katie was nominated by two peers, including one who doesn’t even know her but received her ear savers, for our “CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength” contest. To show our gratitude and commitment to the community, we launched the contest to recognize four other area residents who have gone above and beyond to help others with a $2,000 cash prize. Katie is the second winner.

Related: Who Is Your Community Hero?

The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. EDT. To nominate a deserving resident of South Florida who has demonstrated a commitment to assisting others, visit our Celebrating Strength site.

Celebrating Strength: A Teacher’s True Calling

Giving back to our local community has always been part of our company’s culture. This core philosophy has fueled the launch of our CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength, a contest to recognize four area residents who have gone above and beyond to help others during these challenging times with a $2,000 cash prize. It’s a way to honor and spotlight Miami-Dade and Broward County residents who are everyday heroes and nominated by their peers.

Related: Nominate Your Hero

One of those everyday heroes is Joan Saint-Hilaire, a kindergarten teacher at Whispering Pines Elementary School in Cutler Bay within Miami-Dade County. 

More Than Just the Curriculum 

When reflecting back, we all have that one favorite teacher who left an indelible impression on our lives. For Joan, that educator was Mrs. Dowdy, her fifth-grade teacher at Public School 111 in the Bronx. It’s that connection that guides her relationships with her students today.

A seasoned schoolteacher, Joan has been instructing students for 26 years. Even as a little girl tutoring her classmates, she knew her calling. Today, she’s fulfilling that destiny, creating a domino effect and paying it forward to so many students. Recently, Joan was nominated by two peers for our CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength contest that highlighted her dedication to her students and unwavering passion for her job. 

Related: Submit Your Local Hero 

“I am so thankful to CGI for giving back to the community and paying it forward this way,” says Joan.

Not your typical teacher, Joan focuses on more than just the curriculum. “As a teacher, I help mold students and show them different ways to be good citizens,” says Joan. “I try to feed their soul and spirits – not just their minds. I feel they are my students for life, and I try to form a bond with them that goes beyond the classroom.”

Joan used to teach at a school close to Hard Rock Stadium where several children would come to school hungry. Joan purchased a mini refrigerator and filled it with milk, cereal and other snacks to ensure her students were well fed. To this day, she keeps a refrigerator stocked with snacks. “You have to feed the body to feed the mind,” Joan says. “I can’t stand to see a child hungry.”

Staying Connected Despite The Circumstances 

Over the last six months, teaching proved more difficult due to the lack of face-to-face connection. Joan got a Google voice number for parents to contact her and made short videos for her students to keep connected. She also drove by their homes with pamphlets and gift bags.

“I tried to find ways to still have a connection with my kids but in a safe way,” she says. “Now that we are back, we still have to be careful.”

Joan noticed a lot of students were coming back to school without the necessary school supplies. She began setting things aside and giving out items, such as pencils, crayons and composition notebooks.

When asked her favorite part of the job, her answer comes quickly and easily. “I do it for the children,” she says. “The students are so interesting, curious, excited and funny. They keep you young at heart. I feel like I am doing what I was meant to do.”

Related: Who Is Your Community Hero?

The Miami resident is married with two children, a 21-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. In her spare time, you can find her watching movies, writing poems, trying new foods and traveling. But to Joan, leaving a lasting impact on her students is always utmost in her mind.

A True Community Hero

“I want my students to know that someone is in their corner that cares and sees the positive in them,” she says. “I feel that’s one of the things that I love about what I do, but the kids help me realize that I can make a difference. My goal is to leave a lasting legacy and a positive impact.”

Who comes to mind when you think of a local hero who has selflessly served your community? To nominate a hero by Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. EDT or for the full list of the rules and regulations, visit CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength.

Bring The Florida Keys Home

There are about 2,000 chickens and roosters strutting their stuff on the streets of Key West. These beloved fowl have become one of the most recognized interests of this tiny island.

Related: Understanding Home Styles

Instead of adopting roosters to get into the Florida Keys spirit, homeowners can do plenty of other things to bring the Keys home and into their entertaining. It could be through the food served, decor choices, landscaping, or the home’s exterior colors. This guide will help homeowners feel like they are in Key West no matter where their home is.

The Food of Key West

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Despite the island’s small size, it boasts a thriving food culture. Its Key lime pie, gulf oysters, Key West pink shrimp, and conch fritters are all standouts.

It may be challenging to find authentic Key West shrimp, gulf oysters, and conch fritters at the local grocery store. But one thing anyone can have is Key lime pie. Kermit Carpenter, one of the most famous purveyors of this sweet and slightly sour dessert, has sold his key lime pie in downtown Key West for 27 years.

Try his recipe for a Key West-themed event, or anytime you want to put a smile on your guests’ faces. Here’s one pointer, Key limes should not be substituted with Persian limes. It is vital to use Key limes or their juice for authentic flavor. You can read more about the Key lime flavor profile in this Southern Living article, “The Real Difference Between a Florida Key Lime and a Regular Lime.”

Key West Home Decor

home decor - coastal home design - coastal home decor

Featuring our Sparta Horizontal Roller HR4110A

It is easy to add small touches to create a Florida Keys vibe to your home. By mixing tropical, coastal, and vintage decor, homeowners can create an authentic Florida Keys vibe. Try to bring the outdoors in by having large French or sliding doors to open up a space.

Related: 2020 Coastal Design Trends

Look for furniture pieces made of wicker, rattan, or bamboo. If wood is preferred, stick with the lighter shades. Choose a color palette that is light and bright. Embrace colors like pink, yellow, and teal. Add in plenty of tropical patterns that fit into the chosen color palette.

The Landscaping

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Embrace the Florida Key lifestyle by heading outdoors to the backyard. Create a tropical paradise by building up the soil with plenty of nutrients. Then plant blooming greens, quick-growing vines, and orchids that grow from the trees. Palms of varying sizes can provide plenty of shade and are a hallmark of Florida landscaping. The Gardenista has ten landscaping ideas you can steal from Key West to make any home feel more tropical.

Related: The Colors of Miami’s South Beach

The Colors of the Florida Keys

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Featuring our Sentinel Sliding Glass Door SGD150

Stroll down the narrow streets, and it is apparent that the residents love color. Bring this trend home by painting the front door a Florida Keys inspired color. If a homeowner’s association prevents this, embrace the colors of the island in less permanent ways. Flowerpots, an outdoor rug, and throw pillows are the perfect places to embrace the color while complying with local restrictions.

Related: How Impact Windows Work Overtime

While you are at it, take a cue by painting a front or back porch ceiling blue. When strolling along the tree-lined sidewalks in the Florida Keys, visitors will notice that most porches have a blue ceiling. Not only is this soothing and inviting, but there is an intriguing piece of history behind this decor choice.

Entertain in Florida Keys Style

With these small touches, any homeowner can feel as though the Florida Keys are in their home. It starts vivid paint colors, then continues with the decor. The finishing touches are a tropical oasis in the backyard with plenty of island-inspired nibbles to serve guests. No matter the time of year, homeowners can feel like they’re on holiday in the Florida Keys by trying some of these tips and tricks.

4 Ways to See if You’re Prepared for the Next Hurricane

Experts are predicting an “extremely active” hurricane season. Some forecasts estimate 24 named storms, including (potentially) 5 major hurricanes.

The question is: Are you storm ready if a hurricane heads your way? Read on for 4 ways to ensure you have everything you need to keep your family and home safe.

1. How Will You Protect Your Home?

Related: Download Our Hurricane Guide

Are you a year-round resident? Families who live in coastal areas year-round definitely need to be storm ready and should consider the following. Annually, ensure your impact windows and doors have been maintained and are storm-ready. If you are out of town during hurricane season, make arrangements for someone local to prepare your property if a storm strikes. It is imperative to remove all objects (outdoor furniture, potted plants, etc.) that could become airborne and secure them indoors.

2. Do You Have an Evacuation Plan?

Sit down with your family and create a detailed plan to use in the event of a storm.

• Where will you go if you need to evacuate?

• What will you do with your pets?

• What will you do if you’re separated?
• Will you stay in a hotel, with friends in a safe area, or at a storm shelter?
• Does anyone have special needs or medical conditions to consider?

You’ll also want a detailed plan of what to do if you decide to stay home. Ensure your home is adequately protected, and you have all the supplies you’ll need for the aftermath.

3. Do You Understand Storm Categories & Warnings?

Related: CGI Products and Severe Weather Events

Most recently, 2017’s Hurricane Harvey was one of the most destructive in US history, with over $125 billion in damage.

Even a tropical storm can cause severe damage from wind, flooding, and storm surge. If you’re not already familiar with the Saffir-Simpson scale, it’s time to get acquainted.

And while you are brushing up on your knowledge, do you know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and a Hurricane Warning? A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours, while a warning means you can expect hurricane conditions within 36 hours.

4. Are You Prepared for the Biggest Risks?

It’s scary to think about high winds, but that’s not always the most dangerous part of a hurricane.

Statistics show, 88% of fatalities from hurricanes come from water, not wind. Along the shore, the storm surge pushes a massive wave of water into coastal communities. Further inland, flooding often causes more damage and injuries than high winds.

Related: Hurricane Season Home Preparation 

Start preparing now by ensuring your windows and doors are properly weather-stripped and caulked. Check your homeowner’s policy to confirm flood insurance inclusion—if not, make sure to add it. Also, photograph or video your personal property to make insurance claims easier to file.

Hurricane Season 2020: Are You Storm Ready?

Whether this year’s hurricane season breaks records or passes quietly, it is up to you to prepare your home and family.

If these tips revealed a few areas of improvement to make, do not delay. Take action today to ensure you are ready for the rest of the season. Are you looking for more in-depth information on getting ready for a storm? Download our free 2020 Hurricane Guide to use in your preparations.

Ultimate Hurricane Evacuation Plan

Experts now believe 20 named storms will form during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. That prediction comes from Colorado State University who also expects nine of those will become hurricanes, with four developing into major hurricanes. With these storms on the horizon, it is essential to fool-proof your hurricane evacuation plan. 

That is a high number in any year. But it adds more stress in a year when the country faces the COVID-19 pandemic, and states like Florida are among the hardest hit as of July.

Related: Download Our Hurricane Guide

A hurricane evacuation plan is more important than ever in current times. Coming up with a hurricane preparedness list now will save you valuable time in case you need to evacuate. Keep reading to learn how to prepare for a hurricane and considerations for densely populated areas.

A Brief Look At Past Hurricane Evacuations 

There have already been six named storms as of mid-July and even some activity. That seems like a lot, but the busiest part of the season is still to come.

Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, generally peaking around September. As the season continues, you are more likely to see hurricanes that both last longer and pack more power.

Hurricanes are a regular part of life by the beach. But history also tells that they are especially dangerous in densely populated areas. For instance, a storm that hits Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle is terrible. Yet it is not as potentially catastrophic as one that strikes South Florida.

That’s because South Florida has a much larger population. If there’s a mandatory evacuation there, things can get messy fast. Houston in 2005 is an unfortunate example of this. With Hurricane Rita approaching, nearly 4 million people fled the area at the same time. The resulting evacuation led to historic traffic jams.

Also, consider additional evacuation zones you may have to drive through to make it to your destination. If you’re leaving Miami and heading to Georgia or Alabama, Orlando may have people heading north and even Jacksonville. Plan and give yourself plenty of drive time.

Related: CGI Products and Severe Weather Events

Prepare to Evacuate Sooner

Emergency preparedness officials learned several things from Houston’s disaster 15 years ago. Some city and state officials are now more hesitant to order a mandatory evacuation for a large area. If they do, it’s likely to be smaller in scope.

If you’re going to get out, you should prepare to go as soon as possible. If authorities issue an order Wednesday for a hurricane slated to hit Saturday, try to get out by Thursday morning.

“The reason we are doing that is because you forget when there is an evacuation, the traffic, the fuel, lodging options become a problem when everybody tries to leave at the same time,” Baldwin County EMA Director Zach Hood said.

Make sure to review your personal hurricane emergency evacuation plan at the beginning of every hurricane season. Keep a bag packed with essentials like medicine and pet food.

Because of the pandemic, you’ll also need to pack things like disinfecting wipes, thermometers, and hand sanitizer. Face coverings are essential, as well. Sure, you won’t need them in the car, but you will when you arrive at your destination.

Keep a smaller emergency kit in your car. It should include a basic first kit.

What about food? If you don’t want to stop for food while evacuating during a pandemic, that is understandable. Make sure to bring snacks like beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts and other non-perishable items.

Also, remember to pack a cooler full of water in case you need it for drinking, hand washing, etc.

Related: Hurricane Season Home Preparation 

Your Hurricane Evacuation Plan

Your hurricane evacuation plan should be something everyone in the house understands. Yes, the adults will know more than small children. But everyone needs to know the basics of how to prepare for a hurricane evacuation.

Listen to local and state officials. Keep an eye on CDC guidelines as well. Above all, be proactive instead of reactive. For more advice, download our 2020 hurricane guide. It has all the information you need to finish making your hurricane preparedness list.

Hurricane Season Home Preparation

When it comes to preparing for hurricane season, one of the most important things you can do is keep water, wind, and debris out of your home.

Related: Download Our Hurricane Guide

When windows or doors break, it often results in the home’s elements, separating from one another with catastrophic results. In the past, homeowners only had the option of boarding up their windows with plywood. Today, hurricane resistant impact windows and doors are a solution with proven reliability. There’s no better way to protect your home and have peace of mind during hurricane season than with impact windows and doors.

Take a Long-Term View

There is a trend of hurricanes growing stronger and retaining their strength further inland year-over-year. To learn more about this, explore our “How to Choose Impact Windows” whitepaper that discusses how the risk area has grown, and why it may continue to increase. Additionally, hurricane impact doors and windows are a long-term investment that can last years with proper maintenance. These are both critical factors that put expenses and material choices in perspective. Investing in the best impact windows and doors will ensure you are ready for anything this hurricane season may and future storms. In most cases, installing hurricane impact windows will lower property insurance costs, offering another long-term financial benefit.

Related: How Impact Windows Work Overtime

Identify Your Hurricane Risk

One in every 45 tropical storms will transform into a Category 5 hurricane and retain that devastating strength upon reaching the shore. After Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, the state of Florida created new requirements to protect its citizens. Building officials in Miami-Dade, Florida, developed construction code requirements, which are still among the most stringent in the country, to help save homes and lives during future storms. Throughout Florida, the risk is different depending on the location of your home. With a little research and partnering with an authorized impact window and door dealer, you can quickly determine your risk, what is required by law, and the ideal hurricane doors and windows for your home.

Related: CGI Products and Severe weather events

Wood, Vinyl, or Aluminum Windows and Doors?

An intense hurricane can tear windows and doors from a home if the frames are not adequately reinforced. Wood, vinyl, and aluminum are common choices for either window or door frames. Wood is affordable and an excellent insulator, but it does require maintenance (especially in coastal areas) and is the most prone to weakening with age. Vinyl is durable and typically less expensive than other materials, but the thicker frame appearance may not match your aesthetic. Aluminum is the most reliable choice but can require preventative maintenance to deter rust and corrosion.

Related: Know Your Windows

Impact Window Glass Options

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Featuring our Sentinel Single Hung Window 110.

Once you start researching, you may be asking yourself, “How do I decipher the kinds of hurricane window glass options?”

• Laminated Glass:

Laminated glass is two sheets of glass bonded together with a robust and transparent interlayer. A silicone glazing process helps keep laminated glass from breaking away from the frame. Once sealed, the glass “sandwich” behaves as a single unit and is transparent like ordinary glass.

• Laminated Insulating Glass:

Laminated insulating glass is composed of three panes of glass: two panes of glass bonded together with a strong, clear interlayer for impact resistance and one pane for added insulation. The additional pane of glass is added to a laminated unit with hermetically sealed air space in between. It is commonly used in colder climates where the temperature difference is greater than 50 degrees between inside and outside during the winter.

An authorized window and door dealer can help you determine which glass type is ideal for your home.

Understanding Window Styles: A Guide To Window Style Selection

Protect Your Home with Impact Doors and Windows

Proper preparation for hurricane season is essential. Once you understand your hurricane risk and how it may change in the future, you will be ready to choose hurricane windows and doors. If you’d like to learn more about preparing your home, download our “CGI 2020 Hurricane Guide.”

New Construction: Windows and Doors Make a Difference

New home construction is tricky. There are millions of choices to make, and it can feel like every single one of them is permanent.

Related: 2020 Coastal Design Trends

But, when it comes to windows and doors, there’s no reason to stress. They not only provide personality to a home, but they give houses a different look and feel depending upon the time of day and season. Here are some considerations for door and window location and type in new construction.

Window and Door Options

When working with a builder, you have options on windows and doors. Sometimes these are filed under the “upgrade” category but don’t automatically count them out when evaluating your budget. When moving into a new home, there are things you can invest in later after you move in. But decisions during a build about windows and doors will save you time and money when you have an initial strategy. In other words, it’s easier to add a door or window when building a home than to go back and add it later.

Upgrade options don’t stop with simply adding new doors and windows to your floor plan. This is also an ideal time to consider upgrading to impact windows and doors. In the long run, this upfront investment can help you save you money long-term with potentially lower insurance premiums and much more.

Related: How Impact Windows Work Overtime

Door and Window Location

Accessibility can make the difference between liking and loving your home. Does your existing floor plan have a door far away from the kitchen that allows you to access your lanai ? Consider replacing a window closer to the kitchen with a door or adding a new French Door if entertaining outdoors is important, and you don’t want to have to carry food and drinks far. Do you like to store your backyard gardening tools in the garage? Maybe a side-entry door from the backyard to your garage would make things easier for you day-to-day. 

Window and Door Types

For example, if your initial floor plan offers a single swing door to your back patio, is it worth upgrading to a sliding glass door, so you can easily transport food to the grill and drinks out to your guests without having to turn a knob or handle? Or, do you love to grow herbs in your kitchen? There are a couple of window types that should be considered:

Fixed/Picture Window: A picture window gives you more sunlight for your plants (and maybe the perfect excuse to grow your plant family). 

Project-Out Window: Are you an avid baker who likes to air out the kitchen after a long day of baking? Consider adding a project-out window for easy kitchen ventilation.  

Casement Window: The ease of a casement window over the sink allows you to easily open and close your window with the use of a crank. Casement window screens also keep out unwelcome insect visitors.

Door and Window Design

Would you like your home to stand-out compared to your neighbors? It’s worth asking your builder if you have window frame finish options or other upgrades to select from. . You may also have the option to select from half circle, eyebrow, half eyebrow, arch, half arch, or trapezoid architectural shaped windows. These types of windows let you showcase your personal style and differentiate your home. Glass colors, hardware type, and additional options such as improved energy efficiency that could save you long-term on your heating and A/C bills may also be options.

Take the time to evaluate how you currently use your home or how you’d like to utilize your future home. This upfront effort can help you create a window and door strategy that will not only function for your family but maybe even make your neighbors a bit envious.