Three Things Every Homeowner Should Know Before The Next Natural Disaster
Being prepared can save lives, your home, and your property.
As this post is being typed, a “Nor’easter” is barreling its way up the Atlantic coast and is slated to bring buckets of rain and driving winds to New York City and Boston by this evening. This comes on the heals of some of the worst winter storms on record over the last month. Weird weather events where and when they’re not expected have been happing more and more frequently. No matter what your opinion on climate change or the causes of these events, the reality is, places that don’t usually see earthquakes are seeing earthquakes; places that don’t see tornados are seeing tornados; and the tropical storms, hurricanes and floods just keep coming. Are you and your home prepared?
Don’t be daunted. We’ve got you covered. Here are three things every homeowner should be aware of before the next disaster strikes:
1. Planning Saves Lives
Let’s think for a moment about the type of disastrous weather and geological events that we’re susceptible to as humans and homeowners. In a major part of the United States, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with relentless lightning are as common as bug bites. In another part of the country, millions of citizens live under fault-lines and next to dormant volcanoes that are ticking time bombs. Further still, in the Rockies, a super-volcano has been sleeping underneath Yellowstone for millennia. Those along the Mississippi Delta fight off flooding nearly every year. The western half of the country gets set on fire each summer, and of course, in the South and along the Atlantic coast, hurricane season comes annually without fail.
Of all of the terrible events I just listed, only flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires have the potential to give you any real warning before they hit you. Regardless of where you live in the United States, there’s a natural disaster to which your area is prone. Don’t worry, though. There are a lot of resources out there to help you be prepared.
The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Consider how many people are in your household at any given time. How are you going to get to safety? Do you have enough supplies to last you a few days if you have to hole-up in your home? How do members of the household communicate with one another if they’re separated during the emergency? (Cell phone service may not always be available.)
Sit down with your family, discuss the types of disasters that could arise, and make a specific plan for each. Make sure you answer each of the questions above in your plan, and it’s also a good idea to practice every once in a while. After all, even schools do fire drills every month or so.
2. You Don’t Have to Be a “Prepper” to Be Prepared
Watching shows like Doomsday Preppers, Alaskan Bush People, or Building Off The Grid can help you out with a lot of useful survival information, and they’re a lot of fun, but one must remember that these are TV shows meant for entertainment purposes. They show extreme examples and extreme people. If you want to protect your home, you don’t necessarily need an underground bunker (complete with flame-throwing and spiked booby-traps), a Mad-Max style bug-vehicle, 4,000 rounds of ammunition, and three-years’-worth of dehydrated foodstuffs. If you want all that stuff, then go for it.
But most of us would rather spend our money on things to help us enjoy our lives before the disaster strikes, so we don’t commit resources to preparedness at all. Preparedness isn’t an all or nothing game, however. Most families will be able to get by with what FEMA recommends for an standard household emergency kit:
Water – 3 days supply @ 1 gallon per day per person
Non-perishable Food – 3 days supply @ whatever is a comfortable ration for your family
Extra sets – eyeglasses/contacts, keys, and hearing aids.
Medical supplies – a basic first aid kit, any extra prescriptions that are vital, and copies of your paper prescriptions.
Pediatric and geriatric supplies (diapers, special food, etc.)
Vital documentation – financial and property records, photo ID, and proof of residence.
Money – in the form of cash as you may be unable to access your bank account.
Flashlight and radio – These need to be either battery or (flashlights) kinesthetically operated in case there’s no power.
Important family and emergency contact numbers written on paper (in case electronic devices are inoperable).
A “bug-out” plan with road maps and alternate routes planned out (you should also ave supplies ready in a mobile bag should you need to evacuate).
Coolers for cold food storage and dining accessories.
Tools – at minimum: two screwdrivers (flat and phillips), an adjustable wrench, a pair of pliers, a hammer, and a decent cutting tool.
Hand-operated can opener (most small Swiss Army knives work great for this purpose because they also have blade screwdrivers and, of course, the cutting tool)
Things to keep you warm – extra warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, etc.
Personal hygiene products.
Things your pets need.
3. Most Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Don’t Include Flood Protection
By now, you may have seen this on television commercials advertising for flood insurance, but it is true. The standard underwriting for homeowners policies does not usually include coverage from flooding due to natural causes – this includes pretty much anything outside your home. So, if you’re away and a pipe breaks, you’re most-likely covered, but if a torrent of melting snow slams into your basement egresses and fills each lower bedroom with an inch of standing water, you’re in trouble unless you’ve got flood insurance.
The key here is to try anticipate what could happen, and how likely it is to happen. If your house is on top of a hill and there’s very little chance of spring runoff or a hurricane hitting you, then you might not want to spend the premiums on flood insurance. There are plenty of other things you may want to insure against, though.
Talk to your insurance agent about coverage options. Make sure you know exactly what’s covered in your policy and what isn’t and try to protect around any of those deficiencies in coverage. The more you know about your coverage, the more at peace you can be.