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How to Prepare Your Home and Property for Natural Disasters


Natural disasters can happen just about anywhere in the US. Preparation is key to ensuring that your whole family—including pets—can get to safety in the event of a disaster.

  • Secure your important documents ahead of time, and prepare an emergency kit.
  • Know what the most likely risks are in your area, and learn what terminology is used so you are ready when you need to put a plan into action.

One of the most important reasons to have property insurance is so that you are financially protected if a natural disaster strikes.

It can feel daunting to try and prepare for a natural disaster ahead of time, but taking this step can make a stressful time much easier for your family to bear if and when the worst happens. Rushing to locate items such as important paperwork when you should be preparing to evacuate is a time-consuming project at the worst possible moment — when delaying your departure could be dangerous or even deadly.

In all the natural disaster situations listed below, the most important thing to do first is to ensure your safety and that of your family. Here are some things to think about as you prepare.

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Secure Important Documents Ahead of Time

One of the best steps you can take to prepare for any type of emergency is to have your important papers in one safe location, such as a fire-resistant box. This way, they are readily available if you need to evacuate quickly and are protected if there’s a fire when you aren’t home.

What types of important documents should you gather?

  • Birth certificates
  • Original Social Security cards
  • Passports 
  • Banking information
  • Any existing contracts, policies and payment plans (such as credit cards, student loans and your homeowners insurance for example)
  • Health information, including current prescriptions 

If you have pets, you should also collect any information pertaining to them, including vaccination records and microchip data, and secure it in your fireproof box as well.

Depending on where you live, some disasters may be more common than others. Knowing what the risks are in your area is a good place to start as you prepare for specific events.

Preparing for Floods

Have you ever wondered why flooding is usually excluded from most standard insurance policies? It’s because flooding happens so frequently and the damage is so widespread. You may be surprised to learn that virtually anywhere you live in the country, your home could be susceptible to flooding.

Floodwaters can rise very quickly or build for days. It all depends on where you live and what is causing water to rise. Preparing ahead of time can help you to keep calm in the event you need to evacuate.

Here’s what you need to prepare for rapidly rising water:

  • Pay attention to local news and weather warnings, and know what the terminology being used means. A flood watch means that weather conditions may lead to flooding. A flood warning means that flooding is either imminent or already occurring.
  • Have an emergency kit ready that can sustain all members of the household for three to four days. Items to include: bottled water and non-perishable food for everyone (including pets), flashlights and batteries, necessary medications, toiletries and blankets.
  • Establish and practice an evacuation plan with your family. Floodwaters can rise quickly, so it’s smart to plan an evacuation route that avoids low-lying areas if at all possible.
  • To potentially reduce costly damage to the systems in your home, consider elevating water heaters, heating and cooling equipment and electrical panels. 
  • If flooding is imminent, disconnect electrical appliances and shut off utilities. 
  • Evacuate if you are instructed to do so. Do not drive through flooded roadways. Water is powerful, moves swiftly and can be deeper than it appears.

In all the natural disaster situations listed above, staying informed is key to having enough time to evacuate safely. Here are some resources that can help you stay up to date.

For hurricanes and flooding, the https://www.noaa.gov/tools-and-resources (NOAA) has resources, information and links to keep you updated. 

For wildfires, the Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a good place to find information, along with your local news.

Many utility companies now have apps and social media accounts that you can follow for updates on imminent storms — and for information about repair work after a storm passes. Some electric utilities also allow customers to report outages and downed power lines using apps and social media.

Preparing for Wildfires

Persistent drought conditions in the western part of the country have led to some very destructive wildfire seasons over the last few years. Wildfires can be highly unpredictable, destroying wide areas while leaving some buildings standing. Winds can shift on a dime and send sparks in a different direction — and these fires can grow very quickly.

All of this can leave people feeling helpless in the face of a wildfire threat, but there are concrete steps you can take to potentially limit or reduce the damage caused by a wildfire. Here’s what you should do during wildfire season:

  • If you live in a drought-prone area, keep abreast of the conditions in your region in case you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Clear dry brush, shrubs, pine needles and other plant debris away from your home regularly. Keep gutters and roofs clear, too. Dry yard waste acts as tinder in drought conditions. 
  • Establish a 100-foot buffer zone around your home and garage. Keep this area clear and watered. 
  • Do not store firewood or fuel up next to your home. Keep anything combustible at least 30 feet away from the house.
  • Pay close attention to the condition of trees on your property and remove any dead or dying ones promptly. Some trees, plants and shrubs are more flammable than others; take this into consideration when landscaping in an arid climate, as you’ll want to plant well away from your home and garage.
  • Have an emergency kit ready in case you need to evacuate quickly. Include non-perishable food, drinking water, medications and any supplies for your pets. Have an evacuation plan for the whole family, and practice it ahead of time.

Preparing for Hurricanes

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 every year in North America. This is the time period in which weather conditions are most likely to create tropical storm systems, which can become hurricanes. 

The two primary destructive forces in these storms are water and wind. The water threat can be either from storm surges or rain — and both of these can lead to flooding. Meanwhile, damaging winds can come from the hurricane itself or from tornadoes generated by conditions that often accompany hurricanes (such as warm air and moisture).

Here’s what you should do during hurricane season:

  • Track the storm and stay abreast of the latest conditions. Hurricanes and tropical storms can sometimes take unpredicted paths.
  • Know what the evacuation routes are in your area, particularly if you live along the coastline or in an area prone to flooding or sea surges. 
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full in case you need to evacuate on short notice.
  • Charge cell phones, and remember to pack any cords you’ll need to recharge your devices. You might want to consider purchasing a portable auxiliary charger as a backup power source. If you have one, make sure it is fully charged and ready.  
  • Have an emergency kit ready that can sustain all members of the household for three to four days. Items to include: water and non-perishable food for everyone (including pets), flashlights, batteries, necessary medications, toiletries and blankets. You may wish to include some cash in the event that electronic purchasing systems are down.
  • Prepare the outside of your home by securing or bringing in items such as lawn furniture, grills or potted plants. These items can be tossed about by high winds, becoming dangerous projectiles.
  • If you have a backup power generator, make sure that you have fuel for it. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and only operate portable generators outside, away from the house. 

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The Bottom Line

No matter which region of the country you live in, there is a potential for natural disasters. Hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding can cause damage over widespread areas and affect millions of people every year. Having an emergency plan in place will help you to remain calm during a very stressful and chaotic time.

Taking some time to prepare for natural disasters is time well spent. Talk to your agent or connect with an Expert Agent today to make sure your home and belongings are protected. 


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