As September wraps up, we’ve decided to write a piece in honor of Natural Disaster Month. Here in the US, there are many areas where natural disasters are always a factor of life. West Coast Americans suffer through earthquakes. Gulf Coast and East Coast Americans have to deal with hurricanes. And, those in the heartland of the country live in what we call Tornado Alley.
There are also other natural disasters that create fear for Americans, such as winter storms, monsoons, hail, flash floods, wildfires, heatwaves, even the backlash of tsunamis. The unpredictability of mother nature and here severe weather is the reason for awareness causes such as Natural Disaster Month. It’s a reminder that we must take measures in or to reduce the risks of injuries and to protect our homes. Here are five steps to help you get started with preparing your home for such disasters.
1) Identify the Risks
Educate yourself about the most common hazards that occur in the area you live in, especially if you’re new to that particular region. This will help you bring focus to your plans for disaster preparation. Start with the disastrous even with the highest odds of happening in your area. Then, work your way down the list. If you’re unsure about the common dangers in your region, take a look at the Natural Disaster Risk Map that’s provided by the nonprofit organization, the US Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. The map is a simple tool that identifies natural dangers in the states of the US. Once you’ve identified the risks, be sure to update your homeowners insurance policies to ensure that your home is covered against them.
2) Address the Vulnerabilities of Your Home
As a homeowner, you probably feel helpless against the destruction of severe weather. But, there are home improvement measures that you can take to make your home less vulnerable. These storm-specific strategies can help to lower any risks of damage to your home during natural disasters. For hurricane home improvement, you should look into mounting storm shutters, building a safe room in your basement. There are also straps that can be installed that are designed to keep your roof in place during the fierce, blowing winds. There are home improvement measures you can take for just about any natural disaster to help lower your home’s damage risks.
3) Put an Emergency Kit Together
Be proactive when it comes to disaster preparation. Waiting until the last minute to put a plan in order could cost you your home, and possibly your life. You need to be sure that you have an emergency kit with the basic supplies just in case. Here are the items that should be included in your basic emergency kit:
- Water – You should have enough water safely stored away for everyone in your household. There should be at least one gallon for each person in your home per day. Try to store enough for at least three days, although more would be even better.
- Food – You need to have a food storage with at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food items. Storing canned meats, vegetables and fruits is a very good idea. Canned foods don’t require cooking during an emergency, and can be eaten right out of the can. Be sure to pack a hand-operated can opener in your food storage as well.
- Radio – A radio will give you access to the outside world, including natural disaster alerts and instructions in the event of an emergency. Make sure your radio is solar powered or battery-operated. Also, be sure to have extra batteries available.
- Flashlights – You should have more than one flashlight during an emergency. Not only should consider having one for each person in your home, you should consider the fact that one could break during the disaster. Always have extra batteries for all of your flashlights.
- First Aid Kit – There should be a first aid kit in your home with all of the basic tools.
- Cellphone – Try to remember to charge your cell phone every night. That way, if a disastrous event occurs, you’ll have a cell phone to use to call for help or check on family and friends. Also, if possible, try to have a solar powered battery charger. It can come in handy if there’s a power outage.
- Cash – We’ve all gotten so used to swiping our credit cards everyday, many of us forget about the value of cash. But, in the event of an emergency, there may be a power outage, or central computer crashes. If so, those ATM machines and debit card processors won’t be working. You will need hard cash to buy the things you and your family may need, including gas to get out of town if there’s an evacuation.
Once you’ve put your basic first aid kit together, it’s time to consider other factors. Your pet’s will need food and water. Babies will need diapers and formula. If anyone in your home has an illness that requires special tools, these should be in the kit as well. Put together a bag that your family can quickly “grab and go” if you need to leave your home in a hurry.
4) Do an Inventory
You really need to catalog all of the valuables and other personal property in your home. This home inventory will come in handy after a disaster when it’s time to contact your insurance company. This will make it much simpler to report missing and destroyed items for your insurance reimbursement or when applying for federal disaster relief or aid from agencies such as FEMA.
5) Practice Your Emergency Plan
You and your entire household should get together to put together an emergency plan. You need to discuss and practice things such as:
- A meeting place in case you’re separated during an emergency.
- How you’ll communicate with each other.
- Various escape routes out of the home from each room.
- Utility shut-offs, including electricity, water and natural gas.
Planning ahead can help save your home, as well as the lives of you and your family members. The experiences of the Japan Earthquake, Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have created an awareness in the US that should never be forgotten. Getting prepared can’t be done overnight. That’s why it’s important that we all start making the steps for emergency preparedness now to ensure that we’re ready if an emergency occurs.