How to Prepare Your Home for a Natural Disaster
Natural disasters can strike at any moment. As a homeowner, preparing for such an event means having a plan that keeps you and your family safe — and protects your house.
Here in the Southeast, severe storms, hurricanes, and floods are particular threats. Disasters are never fun, but when you're prepared, you'll know that you've done all you can to protect your family — and your home.
Have insurance and know how to access it
Insurance is a homeowner's best financial defense against disasters that could damage or destroy your home. Homeowners insurance insures your home against damage due to fire, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, or other covered disasters. If a natural disaster occurs, your insurance pays for repairs or to have the house rebuilt. Note that floods are often not included in standard insurance policies, so you'll need to buy separate flood insurance.
About flood insurance
Flood insurance covers against damage due to flooding. Every state offers flood insurance to homeowners through a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) called the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP.1 Flood insurance is typically purchased through your insurance company,2 though the federal government administers it.
If you live in a moderate-risk or a low-risk area, you might be able to get flood insurance at a reduced cost. If you're in a high-risk area, you'll probably pay more.3 Check to see whether you're in a flood zone by using the FEMA flood map.4
Have enough insurance
It's a good idea to review your homeowners insurance policy periodically to know what it covers and to determine whether you're adequately insured. There are two ways to insure your home: replacement cost coverage and guaranteed replacement cost coverage.5 With replacement cost coverage, if your home is damaged or destroyed, your insurance company pays up to your coverage limit. If you underestimated what it would cost to replace the home, you would pay the difference. With guaranteed cost coverage, you're guaranteed a full rebuild of your home at its current value.
You can typically review your homeowners insurance policy online. If you're not sure how, call your insurance agent or your insurance company directly.
Make an emergency kit
An emergency kit can come in handy if your home were to lose power for multiple days of if you need to evacuate. You can assemble a kit by placing loose items in plastic bags and then putting the bags inside a duffel bag or plastic bin. If the kit becomes too big to manage, make two kits that are easy to carry.
Ready.gov6 recommends including these items in your emergency kit:
- Several days' worth of water (one gallon per person per day)
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio
- First aid kit
- Whistle to call for help
- Face mask
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal a room
- Hand wipes
- Garbage bags
- Pliers or wrench to turn off utilities
- Can opener
- Local map
- Cell phone charger
- Any personal items you need such as medicine
Make sure to periodically replace items that can expire.
Did you know most insurance policies don't cover floods? You typically need to buy a separate flood insurance policy.
How to prepare for weather events
Residents of the Southeast should prepare for flooding, hurricanes, and freezing temperatures.
Homes in the Southeast often have water pipes in vulnerable locations. If the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you should protect your water pipes from freezing7 — and potentially bursting — by letting cold water drip through the inside faucet.
Hurricane season8 in the Southeast is from June 1 through November 30. During high winds, you'll probably need to act in a hurry. By having a plan in place before disaster strikes, you can better protect your home. (See below list.)
How to protect your home before a hurricane
If you need to evacuate during a hurricane or flood, you can take the following steps ahead of time to keep your home protected.
- Store all loose items you keep outside, like a grill, potted plants, or bicycles, inside. (You don't want saltwater to ruin your items in the event of a storm surge. And during heavy winds, some items can become projectiles, potentially damaging your home or other people's homes.)
- Make sure nothing is blocking the storm drains so that water doesn't flood your home.
- Put sandbags around doors, windows, and garage doors.
- Close all interior doors.
- Put plywood over windows.
- Unplug appliances and move portable appliances off the ground or on a second floor since water can ruin them.
- Turn off the power by setting the circuit breaker's main switch to "off."
- Turn off the main water valve, located on the water meter.
With proper planning, you can rest easy knowing you've taken the right precautions to protect your family and your home in the event of severe weather.
Important disclosure information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
- www.floodsmart.gov, accessed March 19, 2021. Back
- Julia Kagan, "Flood Insurance, "Investopedia, updated January 21, 2021, accessed March 19,2021. Back
- Penny Gusner, "Who needs flood insurance?" insure.com, updated August 7, 2020, accessed March 22, 2021. Back
- Fema.gov, "FEMA Flood Map Service Center: Search By Address ," accessed March 19, 2021. Back
- Pat Howard, "What is guaranteed replacement cost?" Policygenius, published June 23, 2020, accessed March 22, 2021. Back
- Ready.gov, "Build A Kit," accessed March 19, 2021. Back
- American Red Cross, "Frozen Pipes," accessed March 4, 2021. Back
- Ready.gov, "Hurricanes," updated March 16, 2021, accessed March 22, 2021. Back
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