If recent years have taught us anything is that we should be prepared for anything: pandemics, war, natural disasters. While we can’t prevent natural disasters, we can take steps to protect ourselves and our property from the damage they cause.
In 2021, there were 20 natural disaster events in the U.S. that resulted in the deaths of 724 people and $145 billion in damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. The year came in second to 2020 in terms of number of disasters (20 versus 22) and third in total costs, behind 2017 with $354.8 billion and 2005 with $240.4 billion.
You can reduce the risk of damage by protecting you home against the destructive forces most likely to affect your area. Following are some the most important precautions you should take before disaster strikes.
Home Disaster Preparedness Tips
Stock Your Emergency Kit
Every home should have an emergency kit that is easily accessible and that includes items such as first-aid supplies, flashlights, battery-powered radio, copies of important documents, cash, cellphone chargers, and enough non-perishable food items (don’t forget the can opener!) and water to last several days. Consider buying water-purification tablets and dehydrated or freeze-dried ready-to-eat meals. For information on how to build an adequate emergency kit, visit www.ready.gov/kit.
Get Your Insurance in Order
Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy to check your coverage. Many insurance providers don’t cover flood or earthquake damage. If you live in an area prone to these disasters, you should purchase separate insurance policies.
Install Alarms & Safety Devices
Most states require private dwellings to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check your state’s requirements here. Make sure you have working fire extinguishers, and consider installing water alarms in basements and ground floors, and automatic shutoff valves to turn off your water main when a leak is detected.
Reinforce Windows and Doors
To withstand high winds, windows and doors need to be reinforced. As a temporary fix, you can board them up with plywood. Another solution is to install storm shutters. But the best and safest solution is to install impact resistant windows and doors. With these, you don’t have to do anything to prepare them before a storm. And don’t forget to get reinforced garage doors.
Find Water, Gas and Electrical Controls
In the event of a natural disaster you may have to turn off your home’s water, gas and electricity to prevent fire and flooding. You may have days or seconds to turn these off; therefore, it’s important to know where the controls are located and how to shut them off.
Put sandbags near doors and other openings to keep floodwater from seeping into your home. Sandbags are critical during a storm surge. For adequate protection, stack them at least a foot high and extend them slightly past each side of the doorway.
Secure Outdoor Items
Anything you have outside your house, in your yard, porch, patio or driveway, can become a projectile in high-wind conditions and cause significant damage to your home and allow heavy rains and high winds to enter the home.
Here are some examples of the items that you need to tie down or bring inside the home, shed or garage:
- patio furniture
- plant pots and stands
- bird feeders
- lawn equipment
- trash cans
- sporting equipment
Trim Your Trees
Trees often are the cause of major damage during thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornados. High winds and rain can cause large, heavy branches to fall and damage the roof, windows and walls and injure people inside the house. To avoid this hazard, cut down dead trees near your house and keep your trees properly trimmed.
Anchor Heavy Furniture to the Walls
Heavy furniture and appliances can cause bodily harm and property damage during an earthquake. If you live in an earthquake zone, use fasteners, such as brackets, to secure heavy furniture (china cabinet, bookshelf) and appliances (refrigerator, furnace) to the floor or walls. In addition, anchor overhead lighting fixtures such as chandeliers and install latches or bolts on cupboards, cabinets and drawers.
Use Fire-Resistant Building Materials
If you’re building a home, use fire-resistant materials, such as concrete, stucco, brick, fiber cement, gypsum and tempered glass.
During a natural disaster, ordinary items can become dangerous hazards. Following are other important things to do as part of your disaster readiness efforts.
- Unplug appliances and turn off propane tanks.
- Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas connections and cracks in foundation or ceilings.
- Store large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Hang framed pictures and mirrors away from sitting and sleeping areas.
- Store weed killers, pesticides and other flammable products away from heat sources.
- Keep your roof, awnings and gutters clean from debris.
- Digitize or make hard copies of important documents and store them in fireproof containers.
- Maintain your swimming pool and/or cistern and keep it filled.
Hurricanes and Tornadoes
- Reinforce windows and doors.
- Make sure you have proper insurance.
- Tie down anything that could fly or float away.
- Buy a power generator and store some fuel.
- Keep storm drains clear.
- Know your community’s evacuation plan.
- Build a safe room in your home or basement.
- Fix, fortify, seal and/or strap your roof.
- Seek higher ground.
- Move valuables and furniture to the top floor.
- Seal the basement walls with waterproof compounds.
- Elevate appliances at least 12 inches above flood levels.
- Install backflow valves that block sewage from flowing backward into your home.
- Stop heavy items from toppling by securing them to the floor or wall.
- Strap your water heater to avoid fire.
- Store breakable items on lower shelves.
- Repair cracks in the foundation and defective wiring.
- Consider bolting your house to its foundation.
- Use flexible connections on gas and water lines.
- Know how to shut off the gas and electricity.
Thunderstorms and Hailstorms
- Get a lightning surge protector to safeguard computers and other electronic devices.
- Install screens around your air-conditioning unit to protect the fins from hail damage.
- Install impact resistant windows and doors.
- Consider replacing and old roof with an impact resistant one.
- Use fire-resistant materials when building a home.
- Move patio furniture that could burn away from the house.
- Have a hose that is long enough to reach around the entire house.
- Hang heat-resistant curtains.
- Install dual-paned, tempered glass windows.
- Cover attic vents and chimneys with 1/8-inch wire mesh to keep embers and debris out.
- Create a defensible space around your house to keep fire away from it.
The best time to prepare for a natural disaster is before it happens. Don’t wait until a disaster is imminent. Create an emergency plan for your family and prepare your home before disaster strikes.
At Air Master Windows and Doors, we have impact resistant windows and doors that meet the strictest impact resistance standards in the world. Contact us for more information.