How to Prepare for Home Emergencies

Guest Post by Kyle Shaw

For most, home is synonymous with comfort and security. It’s where one goes to relax, not ponder all the things that could possibly go wrong. And yet, there’s something to be said about home emergency preparedness. From forest fires to devastating earthquakes, disasters—both natural and man-made—can strike anywhere at any time. There’s a good chance that you’ll be at home when a potential disaster unfolds, but are you ready for it? Here’s how you can start preparing yourself for home emergencies.

Know the Risks

Knowing which types of emergencies to prepare for is key to maximizing your family’s safety at home. In addition to planning for common emergencies such as power outages and flooding, you should also consider which natural disasters may affect your community.

For instance, the Eastern Seaboard is prone to hurricanes and strong storms. The Midwest is no stranger to tornados and extreme cold. The West Coast is prone to earthquakes and is currently preparing for “The Big One,” a megathrust earthquake that could cause major damage and devastation. Flooding and landslides are a threat all across the United States.

While certain regions are more prone to natural disasters than others, all regions in the U.S. face some degree of risk. By knowing the most likely disasters that occur where you live, you can stay informed and better prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario.

Build an Emergency Kit

Once you know the types of hazards you face, you can start building an emergency kit. An emergency kit (also known as a survival kit) is a short- or long-term supply of items that you need to survive in the case of an emergency.

Generally, you’ll be facing one of two scenarios: sheltering in place or evacuating your home. If you need to evacuate your home, you should have an easy-to-carry backpack full of supplies—one for each member of your family—ready to go and stocked with the following items:

  • 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person, per day)
  • 3-day supply of food (non-perishable items)
  • 3-day supply of medications
  • Manual can opener
  • Tactical flashlight and/or LED headlamp
  • Spare batteries
  • Hand-crank radio
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Copies of personal documentation
  • Passport
  • Sanitation items
  • Emergency blanket
  • Maps of the area
  • Photos of loved ones

If you need to shelter in place, you should increase your food and water supply so that you can sustain your family for a minimum of two weeks. Remember to tailor this list based on where you live, the threats you face and the specific needs of your family members (including your pets!).

Come Up with an Action Plan

Get your family members together and come up with a plan for the most likely emergencies you’ll encounter. For instance, where will you go during a house fire? What about a hurricane? Identify two meeting places: one within your neighborhood and one outside of your area.

Hash out the details of your emergency plan and make sure that everyone in your family knows their specific responsibilities. Print out a family emergency plan and keep copies of it in your wallet and your emergency kit.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your neighbors and build a strong support network. Stay connected with them and be sure to clue them in on your emergency plan. We’re all stronger together.

Be Prepared for Power Outages

Power outages are one of the more common home emergencies in the United States. If a natural disaster knocks out the power, your family could be without electricity and/or water for an extended period of time.

To ready your home for a power outage, take stock of the items you rely on for electricity. If you know a storm is approaching, disconnect your appliances and electronics to prevent damage from electrical surges.

During a power outage, keep your refrigerator and freezers closed. The food inside a fully-stocked refrigerator will last about four hours. A fully-stocked freezer can last up to 48 hours.  Use a hard cooler and ice if necessary.

Stormproof Your Home

Make sure that your home is ready for severe weather by giving it a thorough inspection. Start by inspecting your roof and noting any missing or damaged shingles. Be sure to trim overhead branches near your home.

Check for weak spots around doors, windows and switches that might allow cold or heat to get in during a storm. If you notice any entry points, you can fix them with weather stripping or caulk.

Another thing you can do to ready your home for emergencies is to install storm windows. Not only can storm windows help protect your home from severe weather, they can also reduce heating and cooling costs.

Prepare for the Aftermath

A lot of families prepare for the emergency itself and forget the potential aftermath altogether. Rebuilding your life after a disaster can be mentally and physically taxing. To make the process a little easier, review your insurance policy and tack on additional policies as needed. Take photos of your belongings and save important receipts. This will come in handy during the insurance claim process.

In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, be aware of safety precautions. Downed power lines, contaminated water and dead animals may pose a risk to you and your family. Listen to local authorities for safety updates and know when to call in a professional to clean up an area in your home.

Don’t Wait: Start Preparing Your Home Now

It’s not uncommon for people to wait until the last minute to start preparing for home emergencies. The days or even weeks leading up to a disaster can make all the difference to your safety (and sanity). Prepare yourself and your home now. Your future self will be thankful.

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