81 Severe Weather Survival Tips Every Homeowner Must Know
When severe weather strikes, there’s no time to think. That’s why you need to prepare for the worst NOW, before you’re faced with an emergency.
Have a Plan
Severe Weather: 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.
- 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.
Severe Weather: 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.
Severe Weather: Tornado
- 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.
3 Storm Kits
Emergency Car Kit
Severe Weather Safety Tips
- 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.
Prepare Your Yard
Tie it Down
Storm Shutters for Doors and Windows
Reinforce Your Roof
Strengthen Your Garage Door
Caulk and Seal
Get Your Home Ready for Floods
A Safe Room
Storm-Tough Building Products
- 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.
After the Storm
- Don’t return to severely damaged buildings until advised to do so. There may be structural damage that makes the building unsafe to enter.
- Help a neighbor who may require special assistance: the elderly, people with disabilities and large families with young children.
- Take photos of the damage for your records and save samples of spoiled floorings and furnishings to show to your insurance claims adjuster.
First off, be sure to store your water supply in a cool, dark place. Heat and sunlight can degrade water quality. Plus, go check out these 40 first-time homeowner pitfalls to avoid!
Food Safe Containers
Store water in a food-safe container. Water doesn’t have an expiration date, but it can become unsafe to drink if it’s not stored properly. For long-term storage of large quantities of water, food-grade plastic is the gold standard. In a last-minute stock-up for short-term storage, the gold standard changes to anything that’s clean. In this case, use a method of purification if there’s any suspicion that your water may be unsafe to drink.
Specialized Water Storage Containers
Consider specialized water storage containers, such as the WaterBrick ($35 each). Made for potable water or food, these food-grade containers have a tight seal and stack like blocks for easy storage.
Don’t Store Plastic Water Containers Directly on a Concrete Floor
The chemicals used in concrete— not to mention oil spills on a garage floor—can leach nasty chemicals into your water supply, giving it a bad taste or making it unsafe to drink. Store your plastic containers on cardboard or on a wooden pallet.
Store Water in a Tub
Buy a water bladder to put in your tub. The WaterBOB ($35) holds 100 gallons of water for drinking. Just set it in your tub, wrap the spout around the faucet and fill it up.
Make Sure You Have Enough Water
Store 1 gallon per day per person. The length of time you want to plan for is up to you. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends a two-week supply for each person. When you consider all water use— flushing, showers, hand washing, dishes, laundry, teeth brushing and outdoor watering—that’s a LOT less water than we typically use daily. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that we use an average of 80 to 100 gallons of water per day per person.
To avoid as many sticky situations as possible check out these 10 hazards you haven’t thought of at home.
For serious water storage, consider investing in a cistern. It’s very costly, but you’ll be able to store anywhere from 200 gallons to thousands of gallons of potable water.
Stock up on hand sanitizer. By using hand sanitizer instead of soap and water, you can stretch your water supply a little further.
Rainwater Collection System
Install a rainwater collection system. You’ll still need to purify the water, but it’s a good way to take advantage of a natural resource. This DIY rain barrel costs less than $100 and works just as well as the expensive one you can buy. Get complete how-to instructions and start saving water with the next rainfall.
Water Heater Bonus
There are 40 gallons of water or more in your water heater. To extract this water, turn off your water at the house’s main shutoff, and turn off the gas/power to your water heater. Open a couple faucets above the water heater, if possible, to break the vacuum effect. Hook up a hose and drain the water from the tank. If there are solids in the water, filter them out before using it.
Check out these 10 busted plumbing myths.
Sealed Containers Are a Must
Don’t store water in a container that can’t be sealed. If a container doesn’t have a tight seal, all sorts of contaminants can enter.
Oxygenate Flat Water
If stored water tastes flat, oxygenate it by pouring it back and forth between two clean containers.
Fill Up Your Pool
Even a wading pool works. This water will need filtration and purification before you can drink it. And there’s nothing more soothing than jumping into cool, clear water on a hot day. We’ve rounded up 10 swim-worthy swimming pool ideas that would make any backyard an instant neighborhood hot spot.
Do laundry ahead of time. If you know you’ll likely be without water, be sure you have enough clean clothes to get you through.
Water From Dehumidifier
If you have power, use the water from your dehumidifier. Yes, it’s distilled water, but you shouldn’t drink it, as it’s not purified or filtered. Use this water for washing, toilet flushing or watering plants.
Camp showers ($10 to $100) are available in a wide variety for those who require a bit more luxury than a sponge bath. This might be a good option if you have a plentiful supply of water.
Before you set out on a camping adventure check out these 15 cool camping accessories you can buy on Amazon. Many are highly rated, inexpensive and perfect for making camping easier and more fun.
Flush the Toilet With a Bucket of Water
When you flush the toilet with a bucket of water, but pour it into the tank instead of the bowl. This method uses less water than pouring it directly into the bowl. Unpurified water, such as water stored in the tub without a container, is perfect for toilet flushing.
Learn the simple four-step strategy that solves 95 percent of toilet flush problems. Stop water from constantly running, give a wimpy flush a boost, and solve other common problems quickly and easily.
Toilet Paper Absorbs Water
Dispose of toilet paper in a wastebasket. Yes, you’ll still be flushing your toilet, but there won’t be the typical amount of water going through the drain from other sources, so it’s more likely that toilet paper could cause a backup.
If you’re storing plastic bottles of water for an emergency, you should use/rotate your supply once a year or so.
Cleaning Without Soap and Water
Stock up on Clorox wipes and hand wipes. Use these for general cleaning instead of soap and water.
Freezer Hack for Power Outages
Freeze jugs of water. If the power is out, they’ll help keep your frozen food safe a bit longer. When the ice melts, you can use it for drinking. A power outage is more than an inconvenience; it can lead to expensive repairs and may even be dangerous to you and your family. These 10 tips to survive a blackout will help you protect yourself, your wallet and maintain some conveniences in a blackout.
Filter out solids through a coffee filter before purifying water.
Fewer Dishes to Wash
Stock up on disposable plates and utensils. Conserve your supply of water by minimizing the number of dishes you have to wash.
It’s never too early to prepare your family and your home for hurricanes, severe weather or natural disasters. Use this “How-To” guide to help you protect your property and loved ones in advance of an emergency.
Lightning: Don't Get Struck Indoors
Your home is probably the safest place to be in an electrical storm. But here's a safety tip you may not know. Lightning can still get to you through the conductive paths in your house; that means your wiring, your plumbing and water. Talking on a corded phone, taking a shower or bath, working on your desktop computer or handling power tools during an electrical storm isn't much safer than standing outside. It's best to stay away from all water and appliances until the storm passes.
Photo provided by Getty Images Photographer John Churchman
Don't Get Shocked In a Flooded Basement
Keep Your Wheels on Dry Land
Keep Your Generator Away From the House
A generator is the best thing to have in a blackout. But it can make you black out (or die). Hurricane Katrina led to more than 50 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Like any internal combustion engine, a generator engine exhausts carbon monoxide gas, which can give you a headache, knock you out or even kill you. This is easy to avoid, though: Don't run a generator in your garage or porch, and keep it at least 10 ft. away from your house.
Stay Out of Gushing Floodwater
Don't Burn Down the House!
Flooded Basement? Turn Off the Gas
Floodwater and floating junk can lead to damaged gas lines and malfunctioning gas controls. Leaked gas then bubbles up through the water, giving your basement an explosive atmosphere on top of the flood. And the smell of gas may be masked by other floodwater odors. So call the utility company to shut off your gas even if you don't smell it. If you do smell gas, get out of the house before you make the call.
Stay Dry in a Flooded Basement
Furniture isn't the only stuff floating in your basement. The water probably contains chemicals stored downstairs and a dose of sewage that backed up through basement drains. That's not just disgusting, but also a toxic soup that can make you sick. Before you go down there, gear up with rubber boots and gloves to prevent skin contact. Also wear gloves when cleaning up the polluted sludge left by the flood.
Install Surge Protectors to Protect your Microprocessors
Computer chips are sensitive and highly vulnerable to momentary power surges, especially powerful ones induced by lightning. Losing a $1,000 computer is bad enough, but losing photos, music and other irreplaceable stuff on your hard drive is often much worse. Insulate your valuable microprocessors from this danger by plugging them into a surge protector. Better surge protectors will have the following ratings printed somewhere on the box: meets UL 1449 or IEEE 587; clamps at 330 volts or lower; can absorb at least 100 joules of energy or more; and handles telephone lines and video cables as well.
Consider a Water-Powered Backup Sump Pump
Turn Your Car Into a Generator
A power inverter, which turns DC current from your car into AC current for electric gadgets, is the next best thing to a generator when it comes to surviving a blackout. An inverter to power a tablet or laptop will cost you about $25, but there are much bigger models ($100 and up) that can run power tools and appliances.
Conserve Batteries With LEDs
Fill the Grill Tank
A blackout limits many of life's little pleasures, but you can still enjoy a hot meal if you have a gas grill and a full tank. Consider feeding friends and neighbors by grilling the contents of your fridge and freezer before anything goes bad.
Ice Saves Money
A couple of days without power can cost you a few hundred bucks as food spoils in fridges and freezers. You could try to buy a few bags of ice (along with everyone else) after the power goes out. But here's a better idea: Fill locking freezer bags with water and keep them in the freezer. During a blackout, they'll help the freezer stay cold longer. Or you can transfer them to the fridge or a cooler. When they thaw, you've got drinking water.
A CO Detector is Essential
Blackouts often lead to carbon monoxide deaths. Here's why: To get heat during outages, people crank up fireplaces, gas stoves and all types of heaters—and anything that burns produces carbon monoxide. It's OK to use these heat sources, but first place a battery-operated CO detector in the room. You can buy a detector for about $25 at any home center.
Even if you don't plan to go anywhere, your car is a critical part of your survival kit. It's your emergency transport, your charging system for cell phones and maybe even the only heated space you'll have. So don't wait until the blackout hits. Without power, gas stations can't pump gas from their tanks into yours.
Get a Radio
If phone and Internet systems go down along with the power grid, a battery-powered radio may be your only source of weather and emergency information. You could listen in your car, but a portable radio lets you listen anywhere. Battery-powered radios cost as little as $20 at discount stores.
After the Power Goes Out
- Unplug everything. As the grid sputters back to life, it may create power surges that can destroy electronics. Leave one light switched on so you know when power has returned.
- Don't use candles. Flashlights produce more light and won't burn your house down.
- Bring solar landscape lights inside. Don't forget to put them out for recharging during the day.
- Keep the fridge closed. The less you open fridge and freezer doors, the longer your food will stay cold.
- Tap your water heater. It's your built-in emergency water supply. Let the water cool before you open the drain valve.
- Don't take chances. Power outages mean packed emergency rooms and delayed ambulance service; it's a bad time to get injured.
Patch a Small Hole
Minor roof damage can lead to major water damage inside your home. But if you keep a few simple materials on hand, you can seal most roof injuries in just a few minutes. A section of flashing is the perfect patch for smaller holes—often caused by blown-down tree branches. Don't forget to caulk around the hole. Special roof sealant is best, but any type of caulk is better than nothing.
Tarp Large Areas
If you need a quick fix for roof damage that's larger than a shingle or two, the fastest bandage is a plastic tarp. Secure a tarp over the damaged area with 2x4s or lath nailed to the roof. If possible, secure the tarp over the roof ridge; it's difficult to make the tarp waterproof at the upper end. But don't kill yourself: Trying to patch a slippery, wet roof during a storm is dangerous. Add in high winds or lightning and the situation is deadly. So think twice before you head up there.
Don’t Get Locked In
Garage door openers lock up when the power goes off. Make sure everyone in your home knows about the cord that releases the door from the opener. That way, they can lift the door open and get the car out in an emergency.
Start Moving Stuff
Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools, and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Keep Flashlights and Extra Batteries in Dry Areas
Store them in containers to make sure they will work if need be. Plus: 21 things every homeowner MUST know.