A Long-Term Plan for Preparing Your Home for Emergency
It’s essential to have a long-term plan for preparing your home for emergencies. By taking small steps over time, you can make your home more resilient in the event of a disaster.
From earthquakes to hurricanes, there are all sorts of potential natural disasters that can affect your home, potentially costing you thousands. In 2020 alone, 980 events caused losses, and the estimated economic loss from natural disasters was $268 billion worldwide.
Checking your homeowner’s insurance coverage should be one of the top precautions you take in the event of a disaster to protect your home and belongings. As you do so, gain an understanding of how much insurance you’ll need. Coastal residents, for example, may need a different level of insurance than those living in the Midwest. Reviewing your homeowner’s policy and understanding what it covers can help you make informed decisions about protecting yourself financially in case of a natural disaster. In addition to having homeowners insurance, consider:
- Preparing your house’s exterior;
- Creating emergency kits;
- Having a communication plan;
- Preparing your finances.
In doing so, you can minimize the damage an emergency may cause and ensure that you and your family are safe.
What Counts as an Emergency?
Some emergencies are minor and can be handled by regular homeowners insurance. For instance, if your roof is damaged due to a natural disaster or poor weather conditions, you may file an insurance claim for the repairs that need to happen.
Other emergencies cause significant damage and require extra coverage from specialized policies. Earthquakes, floods, and wildfires often cost thousands of dollars in damages and are not covered by standard homeowners insurance.
Other types of disasters include:
- Hurricanes and other tropical storms;
- Electrical fires;
- Water damage from burst pipes or floods;
- Weather-related events, such as blizzards or tornadoes.
Any of these incidents might have a major impact on your house, belongings, and even your health — hence, the critical nature of preparation.
Creating an Emergency Plan
Your emergency plan should be tailored to the specific disaster you’re preparing for. For example, if you live in an area prone to hurricanes, your plan will be different from someone living in a tornado-prone state.
However, there are some basics that all emergency plans should include:
- An evacuation route and a safe place to stay: Knowing where you’re going ahead of time will help minimize the chaos of trying to evacuate if you need to leave your home. Your family should also know which location to go to depending on the emergency. For example, hiding under a desk during an earthquake, or evacuating to a relative’s house during a hurricane.
- A communication plan: Create an emergency contact list, keep important documents in waterproof cases, and maintain an off-site electronic file backup are all methods to stay in touch during a storm.
- Emergency supplies: These supplies may range depending on the type of emergency. For fires, keep smoke masks and goggles handy. For hurricanes, keep a crank radio and flashlight available in case of lost power. In all cases, utilize a medical kit, non-perishable food, and water.
Whatever emergency plan you put into place, make sure to practice it regularly with your family. This will help ensure that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
Creating an Emergency Kit
As previously mentioned, emergency kits should always be a part of your emergency plan — no matter what kind of emergency you deal with. It’s essential to have supplies on hand if you need to evacuate your home or are stranded somewhere after a disaster.
Natural Disaster Kits
There are a few items that you should always include in your natural disaster kit. These supplies can help you get through the aftermath of a storm until help arrives.
- Water: You should have at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days.
- Food: Nonperishable food items that don’t require cooking or refrigeration are best.
- Flashlights: Make sure you have plenty of spare batteries as well.
- Extra Cash: If power is out and ATMs are not functioning, you’ll need cash to buy essential supplies.
- Documents: Store essential documents like your driver’s license, Social Security card, and insurance information in a safe place.
This is a baseline list, so be sure to customize your kit based on your personal needs.
Medical Emergency Kits
If a family member has a medical emergency, having the right supplies on hand beforehand can mean the difference between life and death. Therefore, having a medical kit is important for creating a comprehensive emergency plan.
Your medical kit should include:
- Epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens).
- Aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Bandages, gauze pads, and adhesive tape.
- Tweezers and scissors.
- Contact information for the person’s doctor and emergency contacts and more.
It’s a good idea to keep this medical emergency kit in a safe place where everyone in the family knows how to find it.
Preparing Your Home for an Emergency
Even if you’re not present in the house, there are ways to prepare your home for an emergency, such as:
- Wildfire-proof your house. Around the perimeter of your house, avoid planting trees and bushes with a lot of resin and oils and replace any mulch-like material with gravel or stone. By creating this perimeter, a wildfire will be less likely to spread to your house.
- Leave a key with a trusted neighbor or friend. Suppose you’re not able to get back into your home after a disaster; having a key stored with a neighbor or friend will allow you to access your belongings.
- Install surge protectors and fire alarms. Ensuring that your home is equipped with surge protectors can help protect your electronics from being damaged in a power outage. In addition, having active fire alarms can help minimize the damage caused by a fire and even save your life.
Simple steps such as these can make a huge difference in the aftermath of an emergency.
Know the Risks in Your Area
Understanding the potential risks in your area can help you make informed decisions about what preparations to make and what steps to take in an emergency.
In a non-natural emergency, like a home invasion or terrorist attack, it’s important to be aware of the risks specific to your area. This includes being aware of any potentially hazardous materials or areas of crime that may be in your vicinity.
By considering both natural and non-natural emergencies, you can prepare your home and family for whatever might happen.
Invest in Exterior Protections
One way of future-proofing your home against potential emergencies is to install exterior protections such as:
- Installing rain gutters. Gutters help direct water away from your home, which can prevent flooding during a storm.
- Elevating your home. In areas prone to flooding, elevating your home can help keep it safe from water damage in the event of a flood.
- Making sure that doors and windows are properly sealed. A tight seal will prevent rain or wind from getting into your home during severe weather events.
- Installing security features. Security features like locks and alarms can help protect your home from burglary or theft in the event of a disaster.
By taking these precautions, you can help safeguard your home against potential damage in an emergency.
Increase Your Insurance Coverage
Insurance is one of the most effective ways to protect your home and family in the event of an emergency. Having adequate coverage can help you rebuild after a natural disaster or even after a burglary or fire.
Some homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage caused by earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters. However, additional policies are available that can cover these types of events. If you live in a high-risk area, it may be worth investing in coverage for the most common emergencies in your location.
Tips for finding extended coverage include:
- Use a home insurance calculator to find the right amount of coverage for your needs.
- Invest in additional policies, like an earthquake or flood insurance, if you live in a high-risk area.
- Make sure that your policy covers damage from all potential emergencies, both natural and non-natural.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that you have the right amount of insurance coverage to protect your home and family in case of an emergency. Moreover, as you look for the best home insurance companies, make sure to ask about their policies for extended coverage. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.