Are You Ready For Disaster?
What would you do if a disaster struck in your home? What would be your course of action?
With recent events, we have learned, that wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes can affect anyone—at any time. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to be educated on how to help yourself during an emergency. Although nobody likes to imagine themselves in the midst of a natural disaster, its best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Here are 10 ways to help minimize or even prevent damage to your home in the midst of a natural disaster.
1. Make sure your smoke detectors are working!
Whether a damaged electrical wire or an improperly used generator, “fires tend to happen around natural disasters,” warns Tom Heneghan, senior program manager for Disaster Cycle Services at the American Red Cross.
“Make sure that you have properly placed smoke detectors in working order. If they’re hard-wired, make sure they also have battery backup. Don’t forget to replace the detectors themselves every 10 years—the sensors go bad over time”, Heneghan says.
2. Have an escape plan!
“Everyone in your family should know not one, but two ways to get out of the house fast”, Heneghan says. Make sure everyone in the house knows the escape route or routes. It is also a great idea to have a meeting place. For example, the mail box across the street or the big oak tree two houses down. If you fail to plan, your plan is to fail.
3. Keep your valuables in an easy to reach place!
Valuables are not only jewelry and money. In fact, in the event of an emergency, they are usually not the first to be saved. Social Security cards, baby pictures, insurance policies, and ID’s should be kept in a place where you can get to them fast. Those items will be most valuable in the days to come.
It may be worth investing in a fireproof safe to keep your most important documents and other valuables.
4. Prepare to rough it!
“Have a grab-and-go kit ready to go at the foot of your bed,” Heneghan advises. “A flashlight, water, and all-purpose tools can go a long way.”
It’s always good to have a battery powered radio to keep updated on news or local events.
“It’s important to follow the directions of your local officials,” Heneghan says. They’ll be able to tell you, for instance, if your water is safe to drink, if and when you should leave your home, and where you can go for help.
5. Know how to reach utility companies!
“If you smell natural gas, see downed power lines, or suspect another emergency situation, leave the area immediately,” says Teresa Young, a spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric.
If you smell gas, alert everyone around you to move away from the area, call 911, and then call the gas company.
“Don’t use anything that could be a source of ignition, including cellphones, flashlights, light switches, matches, or vehicles until you’re a safe distance away,” Young adds.
Even if your gas can be turned off at the main gas service shut-off valve, experts advise against attempting this unless you smell gas, see a broken gas line, or suspect a leak.
You should know where your electrical panel is. In an emergency, flip the main breaker switch inside to turn off all the power in your house. But common sense should be used. For example, if your panels located in the basement that happens to be flooded, you shouldn’t go anywhere near it until a licensed electrician gives you the go ahead.
6. Make sure to anchor the heavy furniture!
It’s a good idea to anchor your heavy shelves or armoires to the wall. In the event of an earthquake, it will prevent these heavy items falling on someone. Not only will they fall onto someone, the small items in them can become projectiles and really do some damage.
7. Understand your insurance policy!
Are you covered with your flood insurance? Are you protected against earthquake damage? The time to make sure you are covered is before the event, not after.
“If your home was impacted by a major disaster, you may be eligible to apply for federal assistance,” says Jenny Burke, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.
Still, any granted funds you’re eligible for might not cover all your damage. Or, you might only qualify for a loan that will have to be repaid.
8. Have an estimate of what your personal property is worth!
A common mistake that most homeowners make is not documenting what their stuff is worth.
Take video or pictures of your property. Preferably, pictures of the serial numbers or product numbers. This also includes everything from your grandmother’s diamond ring to your sectional couch to your juicer. Its just to show your insurance company proof of what you owned and lost.
9. Know thy neighbor!
Get to know your neighbors. Chances are, they’ll be the people who will first respond to your cries for help.
“You’ll really depend on each other during and after an emergency,” Heneghan notes. “Who’s near you who will need help? Who can help you?”
Bake some cookies and take some to them, or have a BBQ and invite them over. In an emergency, a familiar face can do wonders for morale.
10. Keep your head up!
Don’t panic! If you aren’t dead, you made it. Now keep a clear head and figure out how to help if its needed. When you panic, you will make others, especially children, panic. Practice coping strategies such as, taking deep breaths or quick meditation.
It may be a good idea to download one of the Red Cross free apps for advice on dealing with common first-aid emergencies, weather alerts, and tips on preparing for certain types of emergencies.
Remember, its better to be prepared for a disaster and not have one, than to have a disaster and not be prepared.