7 Things to consider to get your house ready for natural disaster


Help your home ready because disasters can strike anytime. Is your house ready?

Here are some ideas to become well-prepared before the disaster strikes.

In no more than a few hours in October, the strong wind and water of Hurricane Sandy ravaged decades of memories on the Eastern Seaboard. News reports revealed the damage left in the wake with homes, cars, structures, and boats severely damaged or destroyed.

How dangerous is it?

Two organizations that help promote stronger, more stable construction methods are the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (flash.org) and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (disastersafety.org). They each provide a search feature on their websites that allow homeowners to assess state-by-state risk for extreme weather events such as hurricanes, wildfires, flood, and hail.

1. Coping with the Inevitable

Punishing cyclones, strong tornadoes, dashing wildfires, ravaging floods: Epic storm has taken a toll on lives, businesses, and homes. According to Munich Reinsurance America, from 1980 through 2011, 30,000 people in North America lost their lives to weather catastrophes that caused more than $1 trillion in damages (in 2011 values).

2. Be Ready for Hurricanes

Start-off your weather defense by ensuring your roof prepared. Contact a licensed roofing professional to set up a high-wind-rated roof cover, and get it safely attached to your house with hurricane bands or clips. This could be completed when re-roofing or by reinforcing the existing roof-to-wall connections.

Strapping is relatively inexpensive and often easy to install. You can buckle your house to its foundation and the walls to each other while you are at it.

Conduct a visual inspection of your roof and try to find damaged, missing or damaged shingles and looming branches. Ask your contractor to seal the joints between the sheathing panels that make the roof deck prevent wind-driven water from getting in if it’s time to re-roof.

Look at all the entrances in your house, from the door of your garage and patio sliders going to your windows. If you are thinking about buying new windows, be sure to look for impact-rated windows to keep the damage to a minimum.

Texas, for example, is examining ways to reduce basic losses from hail damage, according to the state insurance commissioner. NOAA says average thunderstorm losses have increased fivefold since 1980.

3. Preparing for Wildfires

There’s earth, there are wind and fire. And just as with tornadoes and hurricanes, a homeowner’s best defense against fire may begin with the roof and windows, the institute says.

While untreated wood shakes are beautiful, they won’t stand up to a wildfire. It is wise to use Class A roofing materials, which are capable of withstanding severe fire exposure. For new windows, look for dual-pane tempered glass. It’s much more resistant to the heat generated by wildfire and is becoming more affordable.

Establishing a “near-home” zone around the exterior of your house with non-combustible materials like sidewalks, irrigated lawns and small flowers and not wood mulch and shrubs. This zone should be extended to five feet away from the house.

Pay attention to how embers might enter your home since wind can carry them over a nonflammable zone. Put screens over vents and box the eaves so that the ends of the rafters aren’t exposed and keep your gutters clear at all times.

4. Bracing for a Winter Storm

It also doesn’t take an expert to prepare for winter weather. Clearing gutters prevent ice from catching hold and backing up under the shingles. Trimming branches prevent them from snapping on your house.

Look for worn-out, missing or damaged siding and roof flashing, and make sure your chimney is still standing straight and tall. If the chimney is leaning or if the mortar between the bricks has seen better days, it’s time to contact a professional to repair or replace it.

Consider adding to the insulation in your attic. It will keep your house warm and your attic cool enough that snow is much less likely to get and melt caught at the edges of the roof in an ice dam. Generally, for less than $100, you can invest in a roof rake to ease the snow load.

5. The Risk of Floods

According to FloodSmart.gov, the website for the National Flood Insurance Program, just six inches of flood water in a home could do more than $20,000 in damage.

Flooding might happen any time of the year and it can happen on the over a mountain as well as down in a valley. Consider obtaining flood insurance from the federal government if your location’s risk profile shows a danger of flooding. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy because flood insurance takes 30 days to kick in.

When you’re given warning of a flood, you should have time to blunt its impact on your belongings by picking up area rugs and placing furniture, electronics, and appliances on blocks that elevate them off the floor. Make sure that main breaker is shut off.

No one wants to experience a natural disaster, especially one powerful enough to cause significant damage. Planning and preparation can help you withstand much of what Mother Nature has in store.

Consider building a “fortified” home, which may help protect you in future storms and may also reduce your homeowner’s insurance. When your home was first constructed, chances are the building code in your area has evolved considerably from.

6. You can build to “code plus”

If you live in a known high-risk area, it may be the best to build to a code-plus standard,  because it’s built to the minimum life safety standard.

For an average new home, IBHS says, the cost to meet the Fortified standard ranges from 3% to 10% of the total construction costs. The cost to meet the Fortified standard to retrofit an existing home is up to 5% of total constructions costs.

7. Safety must be applied

It is very vital that before giving out your personal give out your personal information, make sure it is absolutely necessary. Ask to see the ID of anyone who wants to come into your home to make sure they are the authorized person or they came from a legal entity.

Get more than one estimate for repairs or service. Ask for copies of the contractor’s general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

Go shop around. Some establishments advertise “disaster” sales, offering appliances and major electronics at reduced prices. While these could be bargains, they also could be gimmicks.

Don’t pay the full price for service work until the service is completed and you’re satisfied with the work.

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