Wildfires. Tornadoes or hurricanes. Snowstorms and avalanches. No matter where you live in the U.S., there is a chance you’ll experience a natural disaster. While you can’t avoid them, having an emergency plan is the key to protecting your home and family.
How to Prepare for a Disaster
Look at weather trends for your area to see what type of natural disaster could strike your home. Different types of emergencies require different responses. But in general, preparedness involves communication, an evacuation plan and stocking up on necessities.
- Review Your Homeowners Insurance
Don’t wait until a crisis hits to read your homeowner’s insurance policy. Review it in advance and adjust your coverage if needed.
- Coverage gaps: know what is and isn’t covered. For example, flooding is the most common type of disaster, but most homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damages. For flood coverage, you need a flood insurance policy.
- Emergency housing: see if your policy covers the cost of a hotel and meals if your home is unlivable.
- Act fast: if your home is damaged, call your insurance agent immediately. Also, call the disaster cleanup company. Look for a company that provides a fast estimate and works with your insurance company to expedite the restoration process. For example, cleanup and restoration specialist SERVPRO has emergency services available 24 hours a day. They understand that speed matters. For example, with water damage, mold can grow in as little as 48 hours.
- Track the Threat
Tune into warning systems to track the movement of the storm or fire.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts: watch for text messages about severe weather and evacuation orders.
- NOAA Weather radio: tune in to a National Weather Service radio station for continuous weather coverage. Find your local station before the crisis hits.
- Emergency alert system: turn on the TV for severe weather advisories broadcast during normal programming.
- Pack an Emergency Kit
Create an emergency preparedness kit to help you survive for at least three days. Shop for supplies in advance, to avoid long lines and empty shelves during an emergency. Include the following:
- Food and drink: set aside one gallon of water per person, per day. Store nonperishable food such as protein bars and canned goods.
- Practical devices: include a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlights, lanterns, batteries, cell phone chargers.
- Sanitation supplies: keep moist towelettes, hand sanitizer, garbage bags and plastic ties handy.
- Individual needs: if needed by family members, include medication, baby food, diapers and pet food.
- Prepare a First-Aid Kit
- Injury care: get Band-aids in various sizes, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, gauze, adhesive cloth tape.
- Preventive items: include hand sanitizer, bug spray, latex-free gloves, masks.
- Miscellaneous: add an emergency blanket and first aid guide.
- Make an Evacuation Plan
If fire or flooding might cause you to leave home, plan where you will stay and alternate routes to get there. Keep in mind:
- Hotel considerations: nearby hotels will sell out quickly and may themselves be damaged. Make reservations early at hotels in a safe area.
- Pet-friendly: If you have pets, find accommodations that accept them. Be sure your pet has an ID tag in case you are separated.
- Travel tips: fill the car with gas in advance. Bring a map in case you lose the signal for navigation.
- Power Up
If your electricity went out for a few days, how would you function? Make a plan for handling a power outage. It can be as simple as having flashlights and buying charcoal for the grill or as complex as installing a whole house generator.
- Protect Your Home
When a natural disaster is headed your way, protect your home to minimize damage. Below are emergency home protection tips.
- Hurricanes: if a hurricane is imminent, board up windows, remove outdoor furniture and move cars to high ground.
- Floods: to prepare for a flood, install sump pumps with backup batteries, disconnect electrical power to appliances, and place sandbags in flood-prone areas.
- Wildfires: keep flammable items, such as propane tanks or woodpiles at least 30 feet away from the house. To safeguard your home, remove leaves and pine needles from gutters and decks. Trim tree limbs to 10 feet above the ground.
- Winter storms: clean gutters to prevent ice buildup, stay indoors, stock up on food, put gas in the snowblower and be careful when shoveling.
Preparing Your Property for Natural Disasters
While it isn’t possible to avoid natural disasters, planning ahead will make the experience less stressful. Use these tips to take steps to protect your home and safely weather the storm.