natural disaster

A Homeowner’s Guide to Natural Disasters

We always hope our homes will never be struck by a natural disaster. However, with all the recent earthquakes and hurricanes, we say it’s better to be safe than sorry!

So we’re bringing you a comprehensive guide to preparing your home from natural disasters. With luck you won’t need them, but just in case, read on…

Earthquakes

• Repair cracks that are long and deep in ceiling, foundations, and driveways.

• Remove heavy objects from high areas.

• There are special construction options available, like shear walls or horizontally reinforcing walls.

• Check and restore your roof; seek a professional for advice on bracing and steadying.

• Keep brick chimneys tuck pointed (thoroughly mortared) and in good condition.

• Use seismic straps on your water heater to keep the unit in place.

• Install a slate or metal roof, and fire protection walls.

• You can use landscaping to create visually pleasing fire breaks.

• Have an emergency gas shut-off installed, and regularly check for leaky gas connections.

Wildfires

• If you live in a heavily wooded area, cut back the tree line and other vegetation to the extent recommended by your local fire department.

• Keep your lawn and gardens well-watered, perhaps by installing an irrigation system, since hydrated plants are less likely to burn.

• If you live near a pond or stream, install pumps and suction lines for fire fighters.

• Use non-combustible materials when constructing your home, such as cement wall siding and cement-based roof shingles.

Flooding

• Keep your gutters as clean as possible to allow the water to flow freely.

• Install a sump pump to help remove water, and consider getting a flood alarm.

• Keep your furnace and electrical panels above ground to prevent electrifying floodwater.

• Make sure the ground is sloped away from your home, or consider installing a moat-like trench with drains and pipes around the foundation. Do regular checks when it is raining to see if water is accumulating anywhere along the foundation.

• Be aware that most homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage for flood damage.

Hurricanes and Tornadoes

• Get hurricane shutters or roll shutters, which are motorized and can be operated from inside the home (prices range from $16-$40 per square foot).

• Avoid homes directly on the water in disaster-prone areas.

• Get impact-resistant windows and garage doors.

• Prune shrubbery and large tree branches susceptible to gusts so they don’t come through windows or roofs.

• Properly placed trees can actually have a wind-sail effect, acting as a natural barrier from extreme weather conditions.

• Your home should be securely anchored from roof to foundation. This “continuous load path” requires use of hurricane straps, bolts, and other hardware. Older homes can be retrofitted to some degree to make them more secure.

• Move outdoor furniture and other non-secure items into storage when hurricanes or tornadoes are forecasted.

• Discuss a safety plan, and determine which interior room would be the safest to use for cover.

Lightning

• Have a professional regularly check your wiring and ensure all electrical components are in working order.

• Have an automatic electric generator on hand for when your power fails.

• Install a whole-house surge suppressor to help keep the electricity in your home from frying the wires or electrical equipment.

• Think about keeping sedatives for your pets if they are prone to panic during lightening storms.

Important Considerations for Any Natural Disaster

• Insurance! Be sure to keep it up to date and understand your policy. Keep copies of your homeowner insurance and other important documents online or off-site.

• Create a detailed inventory of all your belongings and keep them off-site or online. Most insurance agencies have a form you can use to create your inventory. There is also software, but be sure to store it away from home. Include detailed descriptions or photos, prices, and even receipts or warranty paperwork when possible.

• Always find out about the likelihood of natural disasters in any area you decide to move to.

• Keep on top of weather conditions in your area by signing up for weather alerts, such as through The Weather Channel.

For more information on extreme weather conditions in your area and preparation ideas, visit weather.gov and ready.gov.