Protecting Home from Natural Disasters Burlington NC
Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, and wildfires. The fearsome power of these events can be overwhelming, and while no preparation can offer immunity from them, there are steps you can take to increase your home’s chance of survival, even in the face of the worst Mother Nature can dish out.
If you live in an area with a history of flooding, be smart, and don’t store anything in your basement particularly vulnerable to water damage. Instead, store your valuables and appliances on upper floors beyond where the water is likely to reach.
If they are not already located in a high and dry spot, hire a service professional to move your electrical panel, main breaker, or fuse box and utility meters above the anticipated flood level in your home, to prevent flood waters from damaging your utilities.
If you have a fuel oil tank in the basement or above grade on the outside of your home, you might want to think about strapping it or chaining it to a sturdy wall or post. It’s easy for unsecured, partially-filled oil tanks to tip over during flood conditions, which can cause a safety and environmental hazard.
If you live in an area of the country that has seismic activity, you know that even a little jitter or two can cause a treasured vase to end up in a thousand pieces on the floor. Hardware stores sell earthquake straps that allow you to secure furniture to the wall, bolts to keep appliances firmly mounted, as well as tape and "earthquake glue" to help keep fragile items in place.
Consider keeping heavy objects on lower shelves. This will protect against damage to floors and furniture, as well as the possibility of injury to family members.
In Los Angeles’s Northridge earthquake of 1994, many homes were destroyed by the quake itself, but hundreds more were lost to gas fires when the vibrations ripped hot water heaters out of people’s walls. Make sure your water heater is securely strapped to a nearby wall. You should also have an emergency gas shut-off valve, typically installed at the meter, which reacts to an earthquake by shutting off the gas, and preventing the risk of gas leaks that could cause fires and explosions.
Hire a service professional to install anchor bolts every 4-6 ft. around the perimeter of your home to connect your home to its foundation. Anchor bolts are the veritable ounce of prevention, as they cost as little as $2 each, but can prevent many thousands of dollars worth of damage. Adding plywood panels to weak walls and using framing connectors to make better connections between walls and floors can also make a big difference. Consult your local building department or emergency management department for details. The details are very important!
Tornados and Hurricanes
Hire a service professional to install hurricane straps in your home to secure the roof to the walls and foundation. This cuts down on the risk of losing your roof in a high wind.
Windows and exposed glass surfaces are one of your most vulnerable areas in a high wind. To protect them, and shield against flying debris, install lockable storm shutters, and batten them down when harsh weather conditions threaten. If you are thinking of having new windows installed, having your home renovated, or if you are building a new home, you might want to consider impact-resistant windows. High-strength windows are extremely durable, and can reduce the risk of window failure and personal injury during tornados and hurricanes. They also have the added bonus making it harder for burglars to break into your home through the windows.
Building codes represent minimum safety standards, and while they are valuable, they are far from the highest level of protection your home can enjoy. Consider having your home evaluated by a home inspector to look for areas of improvement, as well as potential vulnerabilities.
If you have plants too close to your house, you’re tempting fate. Many homes burn when the bushes and landscaping around them catch fire. Keep shrubs, bushes, trees, and other green landscaping at a safe distance from your home or deck.
Consider installing tile, or other flame-retardant shingles on your roof, instead of a wood shake or standard shingles roof. This will reduce the odds that burning debris will get airborne, and cause the destruction of your home. If you’re loath to part with the look of your shake roof, there are synthetic shingles that convincingly mimic the look of more traditional materials, but with the added advantage of dramatically increased fire-resistance.
A wildfire cannot advance far without something to feed on. Remove any stumps, dead brush, and grass from your property so that it will not provide fuel that could allow the fire to spread.
Despite all your sensible precautions, your home may yet fall victim to some natural disaster, but if you’ve done your homework, you can replace some of what was lost, and start again.
Buy the Insurance
Certain types of natural disasters are not routinely covered on typical insurance policies, but can be added in the form of riders that often carry significant additional costs. Many people balk at the high prices, and gamble that they’ll never need such protection, but in the event of a calamity, thousands can lose those bets, and consequently lose their homes as a result. If you live in an area with a higher than usual vulnerability to natural disasters, strongly consider adding extra coverage to your homeowners policy that will allow you to quickly replace what is lost, should the worst happen.
Keep Good Records
That insurance is no good without an itemized inventory of what you’ve lost. Keep a record of all your belongings, so you’ll have proof of what you had. Photographs are good, but video is better. Walk through your home with a video camera, noting as much information as you can. Make copies of serial numbers, receipts, and purchase prices. Remember to update your records periodically to keep them current.
Knowing that you’re prepared for the worst will not only help make your home safer and more secure, but more relaxing and enjoyable as well.
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