Homeowner Planning for Natural Disasters
Summertime, though usually pleasant, is also when natural disasters may strike. The threat of such catastrophes as wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods occurring is a real one. You can plan ahead to avoid the consequences that these disasters can have on your life and property. Preparing a few steps ahead can also get you back on the road to recovery more swiftly.
Though it may never happen, it's well worth taking the time and effort to plan for natural disasters. All of these plans need to include an escape route from the home, to be reviewed every six months, with each member of the family knowing the meeting spot outside, understanding whom they should call for aid and how to signal to family that they are safe. This entire plan needs to be posted where everyone can see it.
During the high-risk summer season, store your important documents, jewelry, CDs with treasured photos, and irreplaceable items in a safety deposit box.
Keep an emergency overnight bag packed for each family member. Also on hand should be some emergency cash, credit card and personal photo identification.
Your insurance agent can help you assess your area's flood risk. Parts of your home at risk for flooding may not be covered even under flood insurance policies, such as your basement. To alleviate this risk, move your valued items to upper-level floors of your home during the summer.
In addition to the usual planning steps listed above, be sure to have nails and plywood boards on hand so you can board up the windows of your home in case you must evacuate.
Wildfires can occur with little warning. If there are warnings, disconnect your gas lines and shut off propane tanks. Also hose down your roof and shrubbery, move upholstered furniture to the middle of rooms.
Everyone should know to go to the basement if there is a tornado or earthquake. If not, gather in a windowless central room. Have your emergency kit with contact information in that room. For earthquakes, have an emergency kit in your car and at work also.
Preventing Natural Disasters
While most natural catastrophes cannot be prevented, you can help stave off wildfires from occurring by using caution near open flames, keeping your chimney clean, and taking care with cigarette butts outdoors.
You can also do your part to help save your home from flames by ensuring you've created a defensible space. Use your insurance agent, an agricultural group, or the American Red Cross or FEMA to help you with ways to create a defensible space. As for flooding, you can plan water diversions and different landscaping methods to help protect your home.
Be sure your homeowner's policy gives you protection against natural disasters. If a huge rock falls and damages your home, you may need earthquake insurance, since an earth movement is the cause of damage in this case. A water main break causing flooding would likely not be covered under a regular homeowner's policy. Plan ahead, as flood insurance takes 30 days to go into effect after obtaining it. Keep in mind that your basement still would generally not be covered under flood insurance, making those preparedness plans important steps to take.