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21 Tips to Prepare Your Home for a Natural Disaster

Know what to do to when severe weather strikes

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Basic storm kit

Make a Basic Storm Kit

A basic storm kit is designed to get a family through 48 hours without electricity and basic services. Your basic storm kit should include a whistles, blankets, garbage bags, batteries, a three-day water supply and two days worth of food. Get the complete of items here and what to include in a three-to-four day kit and a week or more kit.

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shutterstock_542587336 generator power outagesSpok83/Shutterstock

Fill Gas Containers

A 5,500-watt generator will run about eight hours on 5 gallons of gasoline, so gas management is critical if you want to be prepared for an extended power outage. That may mean running your generator for shorter periods and coasting on things like refrigeration. Learn everything you ever needed to know about using generators in an emergency.

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patio with fire pitArtazum/Shutterstock

Start Moving Stuff

Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools, and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside. Learn how to prepare your yard here.

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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Review Evacuation Plans

You and your family should pick two locations to go to for safety in the event of an emergency. Choose one out-of-town person as an emergency contact and create a list of emergency contacts that can be kept in a safe, readily available place. For a complete list of how to prepare an evacuation plan, go here.

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FH06JAU_470_56_010 main water shut offFamily Handyman

Locate Water, Gas and Electricity Shut Offs

Finding the water, gas and electricity shutoffs should be among the first things you do when you move into a new home. They should be near the top of your list at locating when a hurricane is forecasted. Wait to turn off your gas until local officials tell you to do so.

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broken windowSeDmi/Shutterstock

Prepare Windows, Doors and Garage Doors

If you live an area susceptible to hurricanes then it’s best to prepare the home for those conditions with shutters. Brace your doors and secure your garage door, which has a likelihood of blowing away in a storm. Prepare for unexpected disasters like floods and fires by following these tips.

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dfh11_shutterstock_422339740 maintain refrigerator temperatureshowcake/Shutterstock

Turn Refrigerator and Freezer to Coldest Setting

That way if the power does go out your food will stay cold a little longer. If your fridge is on the fritz, check out these quick fixes you can do yourself.

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dfh1_shutterstock_494465848 plug in outlet extension cordsEHStockphoto/Shutterstock

Unplug Electrical Appliances if Power is Lost

Unplugging your appliances will prevent any potential damage from a power surge once power is restored. Do you know you can save hundreds of dollars by unplugging these you don’t use frequently?

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dfh12_shutterstock_455541607 home insurance claimWilliam Potter/Shutterstock

Gather Insurance Documents

Your home insurance documents and other important papers should be part of your storm kit and readily available in the event of a disaster because you will need that proof for claims and assistance. Know what your policy will cover, homeowners insurance has covered some incredible things like blue ice falling from airplanes.

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Yobab/Shutterstock

Determine What to Do With Pets

Not all emergency shelters will accept pets through their doors so it’s important to have a plan for your pets. Before storm season arrives, locate shelters that allow pets and contact them. Keep a picture of your pet if it gets lost or have them microchipped, if you haven’t already. More a complete, detailed list of items to consider with pets, click here.

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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Elevate Furniture, if There’s Time

If there is time before the storm hits your area, it’s good idea to move furniture to higher ground, but only if you have time. There are certainly far more pressing tasks in a time of crisis.

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flashlightnevodka/Shutterstock

Keep Flashlights and Extra Batteries in Dry Areas

Store them in containers to make sure they will work if need be. Better yet, make a flashlight glow in the dark so it’s easy to locate.

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Have a Plan

Have a Plan

The time to prepare for severe weather is when there isn't a cloud in the sky. Take a few minutes and put together a family survival plan. It'll help keep your loved ones and your home safe. For more in detail information about what you can to right now to prepare for a storm click here. It is also important to create an essential phone numbers list and store in a safe, readily available place. Create your own here.

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Severe Weather: Hurricane

Severe Weather: Hurricane

Hurricanes can change direction and intensity very quickly. Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations for updates. In the case of a Hurricane:
  • Listen to radio or watch TV for weather updates.
  • Locate Storm Readiness Kit. Click here to learn what to include and how to prepare your own.
  • Gas up your vehicle, in case of an evacuation notice.
  • Fill gas containers for generator. Store in a safe place. Learn more about emergency generators here.
  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools, and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside. Learn how to prepare your yard here.
  • Clear your yard of debris.
  • Review evacuation plans.
  • Install storm protection devices such as shutters. Brace entry doors and garage doors.
  • Anchor your boat securely or move it to a designated safe place. Learn how here.
For more in-depth information regarding what to do in the case of a hurricane click here.

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Severe Weather: Flood

Severe Weather: Flood

Each year, flooding claims more lives than any other kind of severe weather. Watch weather conditions and evacuate if needed in the occurrence of a flood to keep your family safe. In the case of a flood:
  • Locate Storm Readiness Kit. Plan yours here.
  • Fill sinks, tubs and buckets with water. This water can be used for hygiene.
  • If you have a well, seal it to keep out silt and debris.
  • Shut off electricity at your main panel, if the floor beneath the panel is dry.
  • Attach rigid foam insulation or plastic sheeting around the outside first floor walls. Water will get in, but most of the silt will be kept out.
  • Be ready to leave on short notice if evacuation is required.
If the notice to evacuate is given learn more here.

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Severe Weather: Tornado

Severe Weather: Tornado

In the case of a tornado, flying and falling debris is the biggest danger. If there is immediate danger from a tornado or severe thunderstorm:
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Take cover immediately. Go to the basement or the center of the lowest level of your home. Bring your Storm Readiness Kit with you or it may be blown away by high winds. If no basement is available, get underneath something sturdy, like a workbench or heavy table, crouch down and cover your head. Under a stairway is also good.
  • Cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
  • Bring a radio with you to your place of shelter so you'll know when the danger has passed.
  • If you are caught outdoors and no shelter is available, crawl into a ditch, depression or culvert and cover yourself, protecting your head. Stay away from trees and cars, which may be blown on top of you.
  • If you're in a vehicle, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of the path of the tornado by driving at right angles to it. Otherwise, park your car quickly and safely, off the road. However tempting, don't park under bridges,which can cause a traffic danger while giving you little protection.
For additional information, visit spc.noaa.gov and search on “tornado safety.

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Emergency Car Kitstockfotoart/Shutterstock

Emergency Car Kit

Having an emergency kit in your car is smart. Even in mild weather, you can get stranded or stuck, and when a storm hits, your kit could be a life-saver. Learn what to include in your kit here.

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Severe Weather Safety Tips

Severe Weather Safety Tips

Here are our safety tips for storms, fires and floods:
  • If you're wet, barefoot or standing in water, don't use anything electric or try to plug in power cords.
  • If you're working outdoors or in an area with any dampness, use GFCI-protected outlets or extension cords.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Don't walk in a flooded basement if the power is still on or could go on.
  • Turn off the hot water heater (electric or gas) if there is any chance of flood.
  • Avoid using candles. If a fire starts, there may be no phone service, the fire department may not be able to get to you, and fire hydrants may not be working.
  • Don't ever use a charcoal or propane grill in the house.
For more storm safety tips click here.

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Tie it Down

Tie it Down

You've probably seen the photos of plastic drinking straws driven into telephone poles during a hurricane. If high winds can do that to a straw, think of the damage they could do with a lawn chair or grill cover. When severe storms are brewing, it’s critical to batten down the hatches. Click here to learn what to tie down and how to do it.

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Storm-Tough Building Products

Storm-Tough Building Products

Installing storm-tough components while remodeling isn't only safety-smart, it's dollar-smart too. Why?
  • Many storm-tough products are also energy efficient products, helping reduce utility bills in the long run.
  • Although the materials may be more expensive, the labor to install them is often no more than to install standard products.
  • Most products, because they're built to stand up to the elements, have a longer projected lifespan.
  • Many insurance companies offer discounts to policy holders installing storm-tough materials.
Learn more about storm-tough shingles, roofing, gutters, siding, windows, doors and garage doors here.

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A Safe RoomFamily Handyman

A Safe Room

When severe weather strikes quickly, evacuation may be difficult. In these situations, many experts say the best place to head is a safe room. A safe room is a freestanding structure with walls and roof built of materials capable of withstanding the impact of falling and flying debris. They're also the logical place to store your Storm Kit and other supplies. Safe rooms are designed to be independent of the house structure and are securely bolted to a concrete basement floor, ground-level slab or outside pad. They can be made from reinforced poured concrete, concrete block, welded steel or multiple layers of wood, steel and fiberglass. Learn safe room basics here.