How to Protect Your Home From Natural Disasters
When disaster strikes, your family's safety should always come first, but that doesn't mean you can't safeguard your property, too.
By taking simple steps to protect your home from natural disasters, you can reduce your risk of catastrophic loss.
The type of natural disaster you're likely to encounter depends on where you live. Some areas face the yearly threat of hurricanes, while others are prone to wildfires. That's why the first step to protecting your home from natural disasters is making sure your homeowners insurance covers damage caused by regionally relevant conditions. Here are a few other ways you can prepare your home to withstand a disaster.
Because thunderstorms are often accompanied by high winds, lightning and hail, they can cause significant destruction. However, you can minimize the chance of property damage by following these simple steps:
- Inspect and repair problem spots on your roof to reduce the risk of leaks.
- Remove dead trees and branches from around your home, so they can't become airborne in high winds.
- Close curtains or blinds to minimize damage if a window breaks due to hail or flying debris.
- Caulk around doors and windows to prevent water intrusion.
- Unplug electrical equipment to prevent damage caused by power surges.
Tornadoes often strike with little warning, but if you live in an area prone to twisters, you can prepare for potential disasters by anchoring top-heavy furniture and large appliances. If you're currently under a tornado watch, you can also prepare by:
- Moving furniture and valuables away from windows and doors
- Fastening cabinet doors
- Removing loose items from your yard
Although it may be impossible to avoid flooding, especially if you live near a body of water, you can minimize potential damage to your home by following these steps:
- Clear your gutters and downspouts, so they can channel rainwater away from your home.
- Move furniture, electronics, documents and valuables to the highest floor of the house.
- Raise appliances off the ground using cement blocks.
- Install a sump pump with a battery backup in your basement.
- Shut off electricity at the main breaker, particularly if outlets or other electrical components are likely to be underwater.
- Use sandbags to divert water around your home.
Hurricanes bring high winds and flooding, so your home should be prepared for both. Besides executing standard flood preparation steps, you should also:
- Remove loose items like lawn furniture from your outdoor spaces to prevent them from becoming airborne.
- Keep your interior doors closed. If your home's exterior is breached, this can stop your home from filling rapidly with air, which can damage your roof.
- Make sure support beams for your porch, lanai and carport are bolted securely to the ground, so they can't easily be torn away.
- Hang storm shutters on your windows.
- Seal cracks around doors, windows, vents and pipes to prevent water intrusion.
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Earthquakes typically happen without warning, so if you live in an earthquake zone, make sure your home is well-maintained and structurally sound. You may also want to:
- Anchor your house to its foundation.
- Invest in a seismic retrofit, which helps your home's foundation resist shaking.
- Secure furniture and appliances using brackets or eyebolts.
- Store flammable or hazardous liquids away from your home.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy to extinguish blazes resulting from earthquake damage.
Winter weather can be hazardous, but a few simple steps can minimize the risk of home damage:
- Set your thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
- Let your faucets drip to keep pipes from freezing.
- Remove snow from your roof to reduce the chance of a collapse.
- Keep your house's furnace exhaust vent clear of snow.
- Operate your portable generator in a well-ventilated outdoor area to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
If you live in a wildfire zone, you can minimize the risk of home damage by choosing fireproof building materials, such as clay or metal roof tiles and steel window frames, and replacing flammable mulch with nonflammable alternatives, such as gravel or rocks. Hanging heat-resistant curtains can also reduce the chance of interior fires caused by high temperatures outside.
When wildfires occur nearby, you should also consider these tasks:
- Seal off entry points to your home using wire mesh to keep embers out.
- Create a 30-foot defensible zone around your home by removing trees, dead leaves and grass, which can help firefighters protect your house.
- Keep your gutters, roof and deck free of leaves and pine needles.
- Move flammable items at least 30 feet away from your house.
- Mow and water your lawn regularly.
If you're in the path of a natural disaster, your family and pets should always come first. Having an emergency plan ensures that all family members know what to do in a worst-case scenario. Your plan should include an easy-access emergency preparedness kit, which has supplies, important phone numbers and backups of important documents, such as home insurance policies, on a flash drive.
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