Disasters can strike your home at any moment, and sometimes they come without warning. It’s critical you prepare your homes for anything that could happen.
Disasters fall into two major categories: natural disasters and home emergencies. Natural disasters can include floods, severe weather, and wildfires. Home emergencies might include carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires, or break-ins. Have an emergency preparedness plan for any possible disaster. Steps to prevent and prepare for each of these events are covered below.
Floods: The big dangers from flooding are structural damage to the home and the possible contamination of water from sewage and insects. To prepare for a flood, you can do several things:
- Move your furnace, water heater, and any electrical panels away from ground level. Your best bet if you anticipate major flooding is to have them on the second floor of the home.
- Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compound to prevent water leaking in.
- Construct a flood wall to prevent floodwater from reaching the building.
You’ll also want to have supplies for sandbags if you’re expecting a flood. This includes sand, burlap bags, and shovels. Make sure you allow enough time to get them filled and placed—it takes two people about an hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, according to the Red Cross.
Tornadoes: You can do a few things to prepare for a tornado. Unfortunately, they may not be much help against strong or violent tornadoes, but any preparation is better than no preparation.
- Reserve some indoor space so you can bring in any outdoor furniture or other items that might blow away.
- Keep the yard and areas around your house free of debris, like tree limbs, that could be picked up and thrown around by the tornado.
- Install shutters on your windows (not the fake, decorative kind).
Most importantly, designate a room in your home to be a safe room and keep it accessible and free of clutter. You don’t want to have to empty out a closet with a tornado closing in. A basement or designated storm shelter is the best option, especially if you live in a tornado-prone area. If that’s not a possibility, the next best thing is a small, windowless room in the middle of the building.
Hurricanes: In many ways, prepping for a hurricane is like prepping for a tornado—strong winds are a major threat. You’ll also need to be ready for flooding, though
- Install shutters, or, as an alternative, stock up on half-inch-thick plywood cut to fit your windows.
- Keep a spot available indoors to bring in furniture and other objects that might get blown around in high winds.
- If you’re in a flood-prone area, move valuable items off the first floor of your home (or at least get them off the floor).
- Stock up on sandbag supplies: sand, shovels, and burlap bags.
- Just like preparing for a flood, use a waterproofing compound to seal the walls in your basement.
Wildfires: It seems like wildfires are in the news more and more these days. Defending your home against one isn’t easy, especially if the fire is big and out of control. That said, do whatever you can beforehand to prepare for wildfires.
- Maintain a water source outside your house, like a well or swimming pool. You’ll want the water available if you need to put out any small fires.
- Keep a supply of fire tools. These don’t have to be fancy—an ax, rake, bucket, and shovel will do.
- If you are still building your home, or are making additions, use fire-resistant materials.
If you’re in an area that’s prone to wildfires, identify at least two different ways out of your neighborhood. That way, if one is blocked, you’re not stuck. And make sure there is easy access for emergency vehicles around your home.
Carbon Monoxide Poisonings: Over 100 people still die of carbon monoxide poisoning each year, even though it is easily preventable. Take these steps to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:
- Keep any gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances in good working order. Consider having a professional perform maintenance on them if you can’t do it yourself.
- Never run a car in the garage, even if the door is open.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
House Fires: Prepping for a house fire is a little different than prepping for a wildfire since the threat comes from within. Luckily, you can do plenty to prevent or mitigate a house fire.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. You should also have one outside each sleeping area. And test them regularly! The US Fire Administration recommends testing
- Clean and maintain your heating sources. Poorly functioning furnaces are a common source of house fires.
- Keep electrical wiring in good shape and avoid overloading outlets with too many devices.
- Store flammable items a safe distance from heat sources. Three feet is a good rule of thumb.
Break-ins: As much as we try to protect our homes, break-ins do happen. According to the FBI, there were nearly eight million property crimes in 2015, the most recent year they’ve reported on. Here are a few tips to protect your home against break-ins:
- Keep your porches and yard well-lit. Burglars will often avoid any houses that don’t look easy to break in to, and staying hidden under floodlights is not easy.
- Consider installing a security system. The presence of an alarm is a great deterrent, and you’ll also get the benefit of cameras for home monitoring.
- Close and securely lock your doors and windows.
Also, make sure valuables are not visible through your windows. If you have expensive cars, park them in a garage. Burglars like nice stuff too. If it looks like you have expensive items, they might be more inclined to break in.
While you can’t defend against every disaster and emergency that comes your way, you can do a lot to be prepared. These tips are a great starting point on the road to keeping your home and family safe.