Guest post by Natasha Ramirez.
If 2020 hasn’t made you take a long, hard look at your disaster preparedness plan, you probably haven’t been watching the news. There are some events like the “murder hornets”, for example, that took over the internet that shouldn’t worry you too much. But wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have become a reality for people across the country, and if there was ever a time to fine-tune your preparedness plan, that time is now.
When you rent an apartment, most repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. But when natural disasters strike, those rules go out the window. Compared to prepping a home, apartments are hard to make disaster-proof. You have less storage space than others and you have less control over the building. You don’t get to determine the quality of the building’s foundation if the building is structured in concrete or some other weaker material, or how safe and strategic window and door placement is. But there are a lot of ways you can prepare yourself and your apartment to withstand a disaster, and we’ll talk about them here.
Keep Your Apartment Well-Maintained
When natural disasters strike, plumbers, heating and cooling specialists, and other home professionals that you can usually call for quick fixes will be unavailable or otherwise overwhelmed with house calls. If you need apartment help ASAP, you may have to fix it yourself. Making sure that you have regular maintenance on your water heater, your plumbing, electrical work, and other important apartment fixtures will make most disaster-related fixes more manageable until the professionals can come. Other decor tips for earthquake and hurricane protection and overall disaster-proofing your apartment include securing tall or heavy furniture to the walls, securing small items to prevent them from becoming projectiles, and to not hang heavy decor items overhead.
Create Several Types of Apartment Emergency Kits
Category 1: Repair tool-kit
If you can’t get professional help to your apartment fast enough, make sure you have the tools to make those immediate repairs yourself. Every apartment toolbox should include:
- Duct tape
- Hammer (and nails)
- Tape measure
- Box cutter
- Screwdriver (with different sized bits)
- Plumber’s putty/plumbers tape (to seal leaks from broken or burst pipes)
- Several sheets of plastic sheeting (to mend broken windows or leaky roofs, you could also use trash bags in a pinch)
- Flashlights (with extra batteries)
- Leather gloves
Category 2: Food storage
Of course, factor in the amount of daily food and water storage for each person living in the apartment.
- At least three days worth of nonperishable, shelf-stable, high-calorie food
- Sealed water storage containers (stored on the lowest level of your apartment)
- Can opener
- Filtering straw, water purification tablets, or other water purification devices
- Pet food
Category 3: Important paperwork
Make sure to have copies of important documents that are stored safely in a waterproof folder:
- Social security card
- Birth certificate
- Medical record and names of any medications you currently take
- Physical contact list for friends and family members with phone numbers and addresses
- Extra cash—at least enough to cover a full tank of gas and several meals.
Category 4: Miscellaneous disaster items
- Backup generator
- Hand-crank or battery-powered radio (with extra batteries)
- First-aid kit
- Extra OTC and prescription medications
- Hygiene items (soap, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.)
- At least three days of extra clothing
Prepare for Non-Natural Disasters As Well
Wildfires, floods, and other environmental disasters should be a factor in your emergency planning strategy. But you should also prepare your apartment for other types of emergencies. One advantage that most apartments have over homes is that they’re more secure from burglars and trespassers. Only 26 percent of burglaries happen in apartment complexes with 10 or more units compared to residential areas. Depending on the layout of the apartment complex, apartments usually only have one main point of entry: the front door—residential homes have several doors, garages, and windows as potential points of entry. And the additional eyes of fellow tenants around the complex adds an additional layer of security for apartments.
Still, it’s always good to prepare for the worst. Many older or cheaper apartments are built with flimsy locks and equally flimsy doors that you may want to reinforce or upgrade. Whether your apartment has a physical key or a passcode, make sure to only share these keys with trusted individuals, and share them with as few people as possible.
Additionally, only 22 percent of homes use an alarm system—that’s something that burglars are aware of and use to their advantage when scouting potential targets whether in homes or in apartments. Installing cameras outside your apartment isn’t usually something landlords give permission to do, but you can still install sensors on your windows to alert you of any intruders breaking into your apartment. Big dogs are also a deterrent and can be a good warning system in case of a burglary attempt.
Make sure to meet and keep a friendly relationship with your neighbors. They can be additional eyes around your area in case of any suspicious activity. And if a natural disaster strikes, joining forces with other tenants can increase your pool of supplies, shelter, and expertise.
The Bottom Line
Disasters happen. You can either let them happen to you and suffer the consequences, or you can prepare ahead of time and weather the storm as comfortably as possible. Just because you’re a renter doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can keep your apartment and your family safe should disaster strike.
Natasha is an avid writer, hiker, and dog-lover. Her work has carried her from the bustle of New York at Inc. Magazine to the Santa Fe deserts at Outside Magazine. Natasha currently works as a copywriter, guest blogger, and freelance journalist. When she’s not at her keyboard, Natasha loves spending her time scuba diving and rock climbing.