How to Prepare Your Home For Natural Disasters

Create an emergency plan and emergency kit to prepare your home for a variety of common disasters and worst-case scenarios.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
You usually have little to no warning when disaster strikes. And a disaster that affects your home can leave you without a place to live and nowhere to turn. By properly preparing for common disasters in your area, such as putting together an emergency kit or developing an emergency plan, you can help reduce some of the uncertainty involved in protecting your home and make it easier to get back on track once the disaster is over.

Identify any risks

Before making preparations for a disaster, determine what perils are possible in your area. This will allow you to properly prepare your home according to which disasters are more likely to occur around your home, such as flooding, a tornado, or an
earthquake
. The
Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)
website provides a natural disaster risk map to help you determine the natural disasters common in your area.
In addition to preparing for disaster, make sure your home insurance has the proper coverage for risks common to your area.

Look for vulnerabilities

Once you know what perils to expect, you need to determine how prepared your house is to meet particular disasters. Important areas to look at include:
  • Windows: If you live in an area that experiences frequent high-powered windstorms, tornadoes, or hurricanes, you need to have the proper safety measures in place. This can range from moving furniture away from windows, replacing your windows with double-paned glass, and installing storm shutters.
  • Furniture: Secure larger items of furniture to the floor or wall. This is especially important for tall objects or electronics in earthquake country, as tremors could cause these items to topple, possibly damaging them or hurting you or your family.
  • Vulnerable electronic devices: Connect any vulnerable electronic devices, such as computers and TVs to surge protectors in case you lose power. A surge protector can protect your items from the surge of electricity often accompanying the power coming back on or if your house is struck by lightning.
  • Outside equipment: You need to check outside equipment, such as lawn ornaments, satellite dishes, boats, and other objects to see if they could present a hazard in a high-wind situation. If you find something that could potentially cause property damage or bodily injury, take steps to secure the object.
  • A safe room: Consider installing a safe room, especially if you live in storm-prone areas. When designating an area for a safe room, look for an area away from external walls in a strong part of your home. A basement or an inside closet can provide the perfect area to ride out a bad storm or tornado. If you expect a hurricane, make sure that you have a place to go that is above any potential flooding.

Create an emergency kit

In preparation for a disaster, you need to get an emergency kit ready. An emergency kit contains items essential to survival in the aftermath of a disaster. According to
ready.gov
, items in a disaster kit should include:
  • A battery-powered radio
  • Blankets or some other way to keep warm
  • Cell phone (with charger and backup battery)
  • Enough food to last each person at least three days
  • Enough cash to last you a few days
  • Enough water to last each person at least three days (including for sanitation and drinking)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Maps of the local area
  • Signal whistle
  • Small toolkit

Create an emergency plan

In addition to making sure you have enough supplies, you also need to come up with a plan for what you and your family need to do if disaster strikes while you are at home. The following section covers how to create an emergency plan in more detail.
  • Step 1: Determine a meeting place. First off, designate a spot in or near your home for family members to meet up if a disaster happens.
This allows you to get a headcount and make sure everyone is OK.
  • Step 2: Delegate responsibility. In case of a disaster, determine who is responsible for certain tasks, including:
  • Turning off the gas if a gas leak is a possibility
  • Turning off the power to the home to prevent electrocution
  • Turning off the water at the shutoff valve in case of a broken pipe
In addition to coming up with an emergency plan, you and your family need to practice your emergency plan. But don't just practice once and forget about it. Make sure to practice every so often to keep the plan fresh in everyone's mind.
While any disaster is terrible, you can mitigate its impact by properly preparing your home for common disasters in your area. You should also look at the vulnerabilities of your home and try to strengthen them. Preparation and emergency planning can help you and your family survive when the unexpected strikes your home.
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