Equipping Home For Natural Calamity
Preparing your home to weather a flood, hurricane, or other natural disasters well ahead of emergency benefits you in a few ways: you’ll have a more organized home, as well as peace of mind if you have to evacuate, and there will be less to worry about when you do receive an alert that a storm is coming.
The best time to prepare for a disaster is before it happens. To protect a home from a natural disaster, being proactive is key. Building a home with wind-proof and fire-proof materials offers some of the best protection, but it is not essential. Some simple additional steps can be taken to keep a home safe before a natural disaster strikes.
How to prepare for natural disasters in advance
If you have not done so already, the first thing you need to do is determine what type of emergencies you are likely to experience where you live, such as flooding, earthquake, tornado, or wildfire. Use this information to make an emergency plan and prepare accordingly, then you can start taking steps to ensure your home is protected in advance of any emergencies. Here's how to prepare for a flood and other natural disasters:
Install safety devices & alarms
By law, residential homes in most states are required to have at least one smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on each floor. In addition to these, you may want to pick up some other safety devices and alarms that can help alert you to changes in your home during a natural disaster and mitigate some of the damage:
- Fire extinguisher
- Water Alarm
- Sump pump alarm
- Automatic shutoff valves
- Check valves
Things to do before evacuating
If you have to evacuate and you are sure you have time, take a moment to secure your home:
- Unplug appliances.
- Turn off all utilities.
- Sump pump alarm
- Securely close and lock all doors, windows, and the garage.
- Creating an Emergency Plan
Reinforce doors and windows
During a hurricane or tornado, doors can fly off and loose debris can break windows. Consider installing wind-resistant doors and windows or storm-proof shutters to keep them intact during a storm. For a temporary fix, board up windows and doors with plywood before a storm is expected to hit.
Find water, gas, and electrical lines
When a storm is on the horizon, a homeowner might receive emergency instructions to turn off the home’s water, gas, and electricity connections to prevent flooding and fire hazards. Water and power lines, if left unchecked, can cause additional damage, and as such, before a disaster happens, it’s important to know where those lines are located and how to shut them off. If there is an evacuation order, disconnect water, gas, and electrical lines before leaving.
Sandbags divert water and placing them around doors or in flood-prone areas is an effective way to keep flood water from seeping into a home during a hurricane. This can be especially crucial during a storm surge. The sandbags should be stacked at least one foot high for adequate protection.
Secure outdoor furniture
If there is outdoor furniture on a porch or patio, make sure everything is tied down and secured before a storm hits. Loose items, like sporting equipment, grills, or umbrellas should be moved inside, if possible. Double-check that toys, yard tools, and other small items are not left outside before a storm.
These items could easily cause additional damage to your property and possibly damage your neighbor’s property.
Prune large trees
Trees can cause major damage during a storm. Heavy branches that overhang the home’s roof can easily fall and cause significant problems, including injuries to people inside. To keep the roof safe, regularly prune large trees on the property and ask neighbors to keep any trees that cross property lines trimmed.
If you are in a fire-prone area, consider leaving space between your house and any foliage that could potentially add fuel to a fire.
Secure heavy furniture to the walls
Earthquakes can be powerful enough to knock over heavy furniture, including appliances like a refrigerator. Items that fall can cause serious injuries, especially to young children. If the home is located in an earthquake zone, secure heavy furniture to the walls with a bracket and be sure nothing near them can be damaged if they fall.
Look for fire-retardant plants
In areas prone to wildfire, creating a defensible zone around your home and making use of non-flammable materials, like cement and stone, are just some strategies to protect your home. Plants in the yard can fuel the flames and spread the fire toward the house. Cal Fire recommends planting fire-retardant plants, like Rockrose, ice plants, aloe, hedging roses, sumac, and shrub apples. Maple, poplar and cherry trees tend to be less flammable than pine or fir trees.
In the event of a power outage
- Group food together in the freezer to help it stay cold longer
- Put “fresh” items that require refrigeration that you don’t need in the freezer, including leftovers, dairy products, and meat
- Pack your freezer with ice
- Keep a thermometer in your fridge and freezer—it will help you judge if the food is still safe to eat (Fridge should be lower than 40F, freezer below 0F)
- Open freezer and fridge doors as infrequently as possible
Create an emergency plan
Creating a natural disaster survival guide for the family is important. Some items to keep in an emergency kit can include non-perishable food items and bottled water, in case stores are not open and the water supply is impacted, as well as medications, chargers for cell phones, and radios for emergency alerts. Keep a physical document that includes evacuation routes, insurance policy information, local radio stations, and a checklist for securing the home. Make sure to have a digital and hardcopy version in the event of a power loss. Most importantly, make sure every member of your household knows the emergency plan for each type of disaster and where the supplies are located. If applicable, determine a safe meet-up place or contact method for family members who may be outside of the house. Keep in mind that cell phones may not be available in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
What home insurance covers natural disasters?
In many cases, home insurance will cover natural disaster claims. Weather events that cause heavy winds, heavy rain, freezing, snow and ice, fire and lightning, or falling objects are typically covered under homeowners insurance. Home insurance will usually cover damage to the home’s exterior and personal belongings inside and outside the home. If it becomes necessary to move out temporarily while the home is being repaired, loss of use coverage will pay for hotel and food expenses.
Several natural disasters are not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies, including flood or earthquake damage. Homeowners who live in areas where floods and earthquakes are common are encouraged to consider purchasing separate flood insurance and earthquake insurance policies.
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