While we all hope we’ll never have to face a natural disaster, the reality is that the forces of nature are likely to take control at some point in our lifetime, depending on where we live. That said, there are certain precautions we, as homeowners, can take to prepare us for the various types of natural disasters that may come our way: earthquakes, flooding, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes.
- Earthquakes: When those tectonic plates shift, break, and slide, the earth quakes. And, those of us in the Portland area are all too familiar with the little (and sometimes big) rumbles these earthly shifts cause. Often, in this area of the country, the earthquakes are small, and just a little unsettling. However, it is important to prepare for “the big one,” just in case it happens to come our way. First, secure the heavy items that may topple, break, and cause extra damage to the floor or walls. Highly breakable items should also be placed on lower shelving. Inspect your home for cracks in the walls and foundation and have any suspicious areas repaired immediately. And, architectural technology today allows for new construction to take place in such a way that edifices are able to sway with the movement in the earth. This type of construction is often reserved for high-rise buildings, but is also something to research for your own home if you plan to newly construct. Finally, protect yourself and your family when the quake comes. Stand in a doorway or beneath a sturdy table or desk and turn off your gas and electrical to the house to protect yourself from explosions and fires.
- Flooding: Flooding is the most common natural disaster to occur in the United States. In fact, annual estimates of fatalities from flash flooding across the country are close to 200. That said, the most important item to keep in mind when it comes to anticipating a flood, is to seek higher ground for your own safety. But to protect your home, you may want to consider sealing your basement walls with specialized water compounds, installing a sump pump, and elevating the electrical components in your home if you are located in an area that is prone to flooding and water damage. Additionally, if your property is situated in a flood zone, elevate and reinforce the foundation, but also obtain a separate flood insurance policy.
- Fires: No matter where you live in the country, you are always at risk of fire. Wildfires have been sweeping across the country rampantly for the last few years. Even though most of these fires start in the forests, hills, or wooded areas, the fires spread fast and all locations are susceptible. If you’re building a home in an area particularly affected by drought, avoid using combustible materials and seek out wood treated for fire resistance or opt for using stucco siding or fiber cement. And for both new and existing homes, clear the area surrounding your house from dead or dry shrubs and plants and even trees. Certain types of vegetation are more prone to burning easily and should not be planted anywhere near the perimeter of your home, nor should you store any furnishings (gas and charcoal grills included) near your house that could easily burn. And, of course, if a nearby fire approaches, turn off your gas and electrical lines, close the windows and doors, water down your roof (if possible) and evacuate if directed.
- Tornadoes and Hurricanes: The destructive winds from tornadoes and hurricanes can reach speeds up to 300 miles per hour. Honestly, almost nothing can survive those gale force winds. But, you may be able to do some things to protect you and your home for the tornadoes and hurricanes that may ensue with a little less damage. If you live in an area prone to these high wind storms, install shutters on your windows and even have a “safe room” in your basement or cellar to which you can retreat, away from any windows or doors – well sealed. Always stay away from the outer walls of your house and even lay flat, if you can. There’s really no way to outrun the forces of either a tornado or hurricane, so simply hunker down and stay low – or evacuate if you have enough notice.
Natural disasters are certainly frightening thoughts. While we hope we never experience them, it’s important to be prepared, just in case.