If you live in an area that’s considered vulnerable to natural disasters, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these tips:
1. Read your insurance policy.
Getting to know your home insurance policy is something best done in advance. Reading through your policy can help you ensure you have the appropriate amount of coverage. Though flooding can happen anywhere: If you live in a high-risk flood zone, it’s a good idea to buy separate flood insurance. Flood insurance can be purchased at any time, but it may take 30 days for a policy to become active.
2. Put together an emergency kit.
Ready.gov provides a helpful breakdown of what should go into your natural disaster kit:
- Prescription meds and glasses
- Pet food, infant formula, and diapers (if applicable)
- Essential documents, such as bank and insurance paperwork, stored in a waterproof container
- First aid kit or book
- Sleeping bag/bedding and a change of clothes for each person
- Matches and a fire extinguisher
- Feminine products
- Paper towels, plates, cups, and utensils
- Water and non-perishable foods
You can read the full checklist here. Since 2020, the CDC also recommends including masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectant wipes in your kit. Once prepared, store this kit in an easy-to-access area in case you need to leave your home quickly.
3. Get a fireproof safety deposit box.
Instead of a file cabinet, it’s a good practice to store essential documents, like birth certificates, passports, a marriage license, mortgage paperwork, and insurance policy information, in a fireproof and waterproof safety deposit box. Also, make digital copies of these documents for reference. While not necessarily “essential,” it can be smart to digitize beloved family photos.
If your home has been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster, we want to help you navigate the road to recovery. Contact your local Academy Loan Officer.
4. Check smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Make sure your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Ideally, batteries should be changed at least twice a year. Along with working smoke detectors, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends storing a fire extinguisher on each level of your home. If you’re living in a flood zone, you might also consider installing a water sensor in the basement or bottom level of your house.
5. Locate your shut-off valves.
If you haven’t located your electricity, water, and gas shut offs since moving into your home, now’s the time to do it. The main circuit breaker may be in your utility room or garage, while the water shut off valve may be found in the basement or on an exterior wall of your house. If you have natural gas, the shut off valve should be located near the gas meter.
6. Anchor heavy items.
Brace or anchor heavy household objects, like the water heater, bookshelves, cabinets, TVs, and dressers, if you live in an earthquake-prone zone. You can also temporarily anchor outdoor items that can’t be moved indoors. This might include a shed, trampoline, or backyard deck. Sandbags can be used to weigh down outdoor furniture before a storm, but if there’s room, these items should be brought indoors.
7. Seal the basement.
To minimize water damage, sealing cracks in the basement is one of the best precautions you can take. In general, sealing a basement can help reduce water seepage after a rainstorm and keep a musty smell out. Sealing visible cracks with a sealant and recaulking windows and doors can also help to mitigate more serious flooding. If you plan to finish your basement, water-resistant flooring is recommended.
8. Trim trees.
Regularly trimming trees can prevent wear and tear on your roof. In the case of natural disasters, it can also reduce the likelihood of downed limbs damaging your home or others. That said, it’s important not to prune trees right before a weather event so debris doesn’t accumulate. If you’re in a tornado- or hurricane-prone zone, it can also be helpful to reinforce your garage door and install storm shutters.