It seems like every day on the news that we hear stories about a hurricane, flood, or wildfire creating massive damage in the U.S. and putting people out of their homes. Have you thought about how your family would handle this kind of emergency? Here are a few tips to keep you and your household safe if disaster strikes.
Plan a Fire Escape Route
Home fires strike thousands of families every year in America. If your home were to catch on fire, do you have an escape route planned?
Every member of the family, including children, should know what to do if your smoke alarm sounds. Do they wait for an adult or exit the house on their own via a path you’ve discussed previously? Do you have emergency escape mechanisms, such as window ladders, if your doors aren’t accessible?
If you have children, seniors, or someone with a disability in your household, it’s wise to practice escaping a fire so you know what to do if the real thing happens.
Be Ready to Evacuate
Some emergencies, like wildfires and severe storms, require you to leave your home. If you live in an area particularly prone to evacuations, it’s smart to have a “go bag” packed for each household member in case you have to leave in a hurry.
Keep a list of other things you want to pack if you only have a few hours or a day to leave, such as before a hurricane. This includes items like medications, precious valuables, important papers, and electronics.
Your first priority is the safety of you, your family members, and your pets (see below). Next is your go bag. If you have time after that, work through your list, taking as much as you can but never jeopardizing your lives to save things. That’s what your homeowner insurance or renters insurance is for.
Have Reunification and Communication Plans If Separated
Sometimes disasters strike while household members are at work or school. Therefore, have a plan for where you will reunite if you are separated and can’t return to your home. Usually, meeting at a designated evacuation center is preferable.
You may not be able to directly communicate if power is out and cell towers go down or are used to prioritize 911 calls. Try to develop a plan for how you will get in touch with each other if your cell phones or email don’t work, like using a nearby relative as an intermediary.
Don’t Forget Your Pets
Remember, your pets are part of your family too! Don’t forget to include them in fire escape and evacuation plans. Your evacuation supplies should include food and water for them, as well as anything else they need, such as medications, bedding, and leashes. Having crates and carriers for your pets will make evacuation much easier, especially if you have to stay away from home overnight.
Keep Emergency Supplies on Hand
Everyone should have supplies handy at home in case you need to shelter in place after a storm or earthquake. You may not have tap water or electricity, so in addition to nonperishable food and medications, keep these items at the ready:
- Enough bottled water for everyone
- Disinfectant and wipes
- Emergency radio
- Power bank to charge phones and small electrical devices
- Flashlights and electric lanterns
- Warm blankets and clothing
- Camp stove or grill (always use outside, never inside the house)
Consider the kind of emergencies you’re most likely to face depending on your location and climate, and plan accordingly. If you have frequent power outages already, you may wish to install an emergency backup generator or keep a supply of firewood on hand for heat and cooking.
Are high winds a hazard where you live? Be sure to keep your supplies in a shelter below ground, if possible, along with pillows and blankets if you have to hunker down there.
Make Your Home Less Prone to Damage
There are ways to minimize damage to many homes. Some common methods include:
- Improving drainage through the yard with greenscaping, water catch basins, French drains, etc., or adding a sump pump
- Upgrading your roofing materials or redoing an old roof
- Adding hurricane straps to the roof
- Trimming back large trees around your home
- Installing new windows and doors or hurricane shutters
- Reinforcing your structure and securing tall furniture to the wall