6 Steps to Safeguard Your Home Before a Disaster
Natural disasters are unpredictable and costly to recover from. Even if you have a few days to prepare, the “calm before the storm” looks a lot more like chaos. Keep your home ready at all times for the unexpected with these six steps.
Write an Emergency Plan
Preparation is key to protecting your family and your home in the event of a disaster, and an emergency plan is the first step. Know what types of emergencies you need to prepare for based on your location and delegate specific responsibilities to each family member. Know where you will meet if separated, how you will communicate if cell towers are down, and what each person should pack and bring if evacuation is required. Laminate cards with relevant contact information, and keep a 72-hour emergency kit handy.
Supplement Your Insurance
Check your homeowners insurance policy to see what’s covered in the event of a disaster and add supplemental coverage if necessary. Flooding is the most common and destructive natural disaster in the United States, and the damage from just 1 inch of water can set you back $20,000. If you live in a high-risk area, you may be required to carry flood insurance. Even if you live in a moderate- to low-risk area, it is a smart investment to protect your home. The average cost of flood insurance is $700 a year, and it can save you thousands of dollars in costly renovation and remodeling. Use FEMA’s flood map to help determine your risk.
Sign Up for Disaster Alerts
Stay up-to-date on both natural and man-made events that may impact you and your home with disaster alerts. The federal government has several emergency alert systems that push automatically to wireless devices as well as satellite and radio broadcasts. You can also download smartphone apps that alert you to specific threats in your area and follow social media accounts for updates from local emergency preparedness teams.
Stay on Top of Home Maintenance
Regular maintenance may not top your priority list, but natural disasters can inflict more damage on a home in disrepair. Take time each season, each month, and perhaps even each week during storm season to stay on top of the small tasks that add up to big improvements. Remove dead trees and branches from your yard, clean debris from gutters and drains, and put away any outdoor furniture that could go flying in heavy winds. Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, install impact-resistant shutters, service your HVAC system and fix any existing plumbing issues.
Use Smart Sensors
You are probably familiar with smart sensors that detect suspicious activity in windows and doorways, but other smart sensors monitor specific areas of your home and send notifications to your connected devices if anything unusual is detected. For example, smart carbon monoxide and fire alarms sync with home automation apps on your smartphone, while smart water sensors allow you to quickly stem damage resulting from water leaks. If you integrate these features — fire, flood, CO, and freeze alerts — into your monitored home security system, emergency personnel will be notified directly and respond more quickly when something is amiss.
Back Up Your Electrical System
Storms ranging in strength from afternoon thundershowers to tornadoes can knock out your power and put your home’s electrical wiring at risk. Safeguard your appliances and electronics with surge protectors and purchase a backup generator to keep the lights on, the water flowing, and key systems running during an extended outage. Always follow safety best practices when operating a generator. Never use in rainy or wet condition or in enclosed areas, as these actions increase the risk of electrocution and carbon monoxide poisoning, respectively.
Regardless of the risks you face, preparedness is the best protection for your home and your family. Take preventive measures and have a clear plan for your safety and that of your property in the event of a natural disaster.