We may not like to think about a natural disaster destroying our home, but a little planning and preparation can prevent damage. Here are some tips to help protect your precious home from the unthinkable.
High winds can occur in any part of the country during a natural disaster. Your home’s roof is the place most likely to be damaged by wind. Have the roof inspected annually to eliminate places where high winds can get a grip and rip the shingles away. Also, keep large limbs that hang over your roof trimmed.
Remember that wind can turn lawn furniture, barbeque grills, and outdoor decor items into flying missiles that can damage your house. When severe weather is expected, anchor these items down or move them to the garage.
If winds down power lines, a portable or built-in generator can provide an electrical source until power is restored.
Keeping your roof maintained also protects you from leaks in the event of a natural disaster. Keep in mind that gutters need regular maintenance, too. Instead of channeling water through downspouts, clogged gutters overflow along the sides of your house. This can cause fascia boards on the eaves to rot and leak water into your attic. Also, check the caulking of your windows once or twice per year and replace it where it’s cracked or gapping.
To keep water away from your home’s foundation, install French drains in the flowerbeds and around the foundation to channel water away toward the street. If you notice that heavy rains cause water to pool close to the house, bring in dirt and turf to create a sloping grade to channel water away from the foundation.
Preparing for four specific natural disasters
Tornadoes can happen with little notice, and a direct strike by a tornado will severely damage even the strongest home. It pays to have a safe room built in your house, such as an interior closet whose walls have been reinforced with plywood or even steel. Have the room stocked with flashlights, bottled water, portable chargers, and a hand-cranked radio and flashlight. Store your most important personal items there: important documents, family photos, videos, and valuables.
Wildfires can also strike without much warning, and evacuation is essential when a fast-moving fire is coming. To help prevent damage to your home from wildfires, create a buffer around your house that deprives a fire of fuel. Keep brush beneath trees cut away and trees trimmed, removing any dead limbs. Avoid planting trees that contain oils that burn like a torch — junipers (cedar), eucalyptus and pines — close to your house and remove any that are already there. Keep grass cut and watered. Use gravel in flower beds instead of bark mulch. Grow fire-resistant shrubs like boxwoods and hydrangeas. Put screens over roof vents to prevent flying embers from entering your attic.
Hurricanes are forecast well in advance, but there are steps you can take before the risk even arises. Keep basic living supplies like bottled water and packaged food on hand so you don’t have to buy when stores are overrun. Before the hurricane watch begins, have plywood pre-cut to fit windows so you can screw it onto the outside frame once a hurricane is predicted. Keep bags for filling with sand to stack around the outside of the house to redirect high water away.
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, consider installing hurricane shutters. Depending on where you live, local building codes may dictate that your house have hurricane straps. These straps should connect upstairs walls to downstairs walls and downstairs walls to the foundation. If your home does not have these straps, consider having them retrofitted before a natural disaster occurs.
If emergency personnel advise evacuation before a hurricane makes landfall, follow those instructions.
Earthquakes can cause houses to slide off their foundations. Modern strapping techniques firmly anchor the home in one continuous unit from the roof down through the floor joists and the floor to the foundation. The kinetic energy of the earthquake is channeled back down to earth through modern earthquake engineering. In an earthquake, evacuate from your house immediately, or get underneath a sturdy table.
Related – Bracing Your Home for Extreme Weather