We’ve all seen the terrifying headlines: tsunamis and floods all over the coasts, hurricanes and earthquakes around the globe and even more recently, tornado outbreaks across the Southeast. While there’s sometimes little that can be done to protect your home from Mother Nature’s wrath, here are a few steps you can take today to help fortify your dwelling in the event of some of the more common natural disasters in the US.
What to do now: Did you know that the average home has a 26% chance of being damaged by flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage? This type of disaster affects every state in the US and homes sitting at or below sea level as well as near rivers are particularly vulnerable. Floods are swift moving and dangerous and you should never attempt to wade through floodwaters if not absolutely necessary. If you know your house is flood-prone, it’s crucial to keep gutters as clean as possible to avoid blockages diverting runoff water into a basement or foundation joints during a storm. Basements are particularly vulnerable so install a sump pump to help remove water in the event of flooding and if possible, elevate the furnace and electrical panel off of the ground. Some security providers now offer flood alarms for homes which are worth looking into if you own, say, a vacation home or floods often come through your area in the night.
What to do later: If your house is flooded, first contact your insurance company to see if you’re covered and what they recommend. Pump out standing water (only a few feet a day to avoid foundation cave-ins) and contact a contractor to begin the process of replacing floors and repairing exterior features of the home.
What to do now: Coastal areas like Florida and Texas are usually hit hardest by hurricanes but states as far north as New York and as far inland as Arkansas have suffered damage from a storm. The main culprit of hurricane damage is wind and the debris it kicks up so now’s the time to get a plan ready for the next big tropical threat. If you live in a particularly vulnerable area, invest in hurricane shutters – metal are recommended – and consider purchasing a home that doesn’t sit directly on the water where waves and flooding are worst. For less imminently threatened areas like the Coastal Carolinas or even the Virginia seaboard, think about installing impact resistant windows and exterior doors with deadbolts and at least three hinges. Garage doors should be inspected and have metal stiffeners installed as they’re easily ripped off by severe winds. At the very least, prune shrubbery and large tree branches that look susceptible to gusts as they’re the most likely candidates to come through your roof or windows.
What to do later: Again, it’s always best to contact your insurance company first to see what’s covered and what not to touch. You’ll need to have any stray debris removed, particularly limbs and trees, then get to work replacing windows, siding and shingles that may have been damaged in the storm.
In an average year over 1,000 tornadoes hit the US, most of them causing widespread damage from “Tornado Alley” in the Midwest all the way through the Southeast. Funnel clouds come suddenly and with little warning but surprisingly, you can protect your home much in the same way you can prepare for a hurricane. If a tornado hits your property is most susceptible to debris and wind damage (most buildings are not built to withstand a direct hit from a tornado) so installing impact resistant windows and doors and shoring up roofs and garages are some of the best insurance policies. It’s also crucial to have your foundation checked as it’s most likely to fail where it meets the walls of your home – consult a professional for this. Unfortunately, the damage a tornado does ultimately depends on its path so it’s most important develop a safety plan that includes a tornado shelter or interior rooms to use as personal cover.
What to do later: If your home is still livable after a tornado hits your area you’re in good shape. First contact your insurance company and take plenty of photos for the record then get to work clearing debris and broken glass from the property. It’s a good idea to have a foundation evaluation done after such a storm to ensure your house hasn’t sustained any structural damage.
In the event of a natural disaster, take cover as soon as possible. Worrying about your house should be the last thing on your mind if a storm is headed your way so do what you can now to prepare your home to withstand nature’s fury while there’s no rush. Weather is a powerful and dangerous force – stay safe this summer by doing what you can to get your home disaster ready.
Heather Hendrick is a freelance writer.