It’s safe to say 2020 was a historic year, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s billion-dollar disaster report shows that weather was no exception to last year’s extremes. There were 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2020 – including seven tropical cyclones, 13 severe storms, one drought and one wildfire – with a combined total of $95 billion in damages.
The best defense against unusual and severe weather is preparedness. Here are some tips on how to plan for unexpected severe weather events.
1. Heavy Rains
Weatherproofing can go a long way in minimizing storm damage. A leaky roof can cause structural damage as wood rots, promoting mold growth and damaging electrical wiring. Possessions can also be damaged or destroyed by rainwater leaking through a compromised roof. The National Association of Home Builders recommends that homeowners have their roof inspected every three years to look for potential problem areas. Consider sealing your basement walls and all windows in your home with waterproofing compounds as an additional preventative measure.
Heavy rains can wreak havoc outside your home. Homeowners should be aware of whether or not their property is located in a flood plain. If it is, they will need to purchase flood insurance.
It’s important to take action before a flood occurs and remain informed, so tune into local media for the latest updates and be aware of any emergency instructions or evacuation recommendations. If a flood is imminent, bring outdoor furniture inside, move valuable household items to the top floors or shelves, turn off gas and electricity and unplug any electronics that may be impacted. It’s also a good idea to remove or secure any hazardous household chemicals that might contaminate flood waters.
Remember, never to walk or drive through flood waters – six inches of water can knock a grown adult down, and it only takes two feet of water to wash a vehicle away. If your flood risk is high, Mercury Insurance has provided more tips on how to deal with the aftermath of a flood to help you prepare.
2. Hurricanes and Tornadoes
Hurricanes and tornadoes can cause severe damage. If you live in an area where these weather events are common, such as Florida, Texas, or Georgia, you should be prepared and reinforce your home. Installing roof anchors and tie-downs can help stabilize your roof in the event of heavy winds. Impact-resistant windows and storm shutters will better protect the interior of your home from storm damage, or you can board up your windows before the storm hits. All windows should be sealed to prevent rain from getting inside. Fortify your doors, including the garage door, and make sure that porches and carports are properly secured because if they become airborne in heavy winds, they could easily cause damage to your property.
It’s also a good idea to trim back any diseased or dead tree limbs, as well as those in close proximity to the home to help cut down on projectile damage when the winds start whipping. Remember to bring potted plants inside and put away gardening tools and equipment, as well as outdoor furniture.
If local authorities warn you to evacuate, get out of your home if you can do it safely, but have a target escape destination in advance. Otherwise, basements, storm cellars and closets are the safest spaces to ride out hurricanes and tornadoes.
While some states are at higher risk than others, earthquakes can happen anywhere. Unfortunately, there are no early warning systems to tell us when the ground is going to start shaking. Opt to have emergency alerts texted to your cell phone and watch for updates from local media, the Weather Channel and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
If you live in an area that’s at high-risk for earthquakes, conducting a hazards check is a great way to make your home safer. Use earthquake putty or hooks to secure items that are hanging – such as mirrors and family photos – and avoid hanging any heavy objects above places where you sleep or sit like couches, beds and chairs. You can also protect expensive electronics and large appliances with flexible nylon straps and latch cabinet doors to keep them from opening and spilling contents during an earthquake. It’s also a great idea to use adhesive or putty on lamps, books and any other items on shelves or bookcases that could turn into flying hazards. Move the heavier and more breakable objects to the bottom shelves and use straps to anchor standing furniture – bookcases, cabinets, grandmother clocks – to wall studs to prevent toppling. Another recommendation is to look into purchasing earthquake insurance to cover structural damages.
4. Emergency Kits and Plans
Prepare emergency kits and disaster plans for your family ahead of the storm. A yearly checklist (Opens in a new window) (PDF file) (0.1mb) is one way to make sure that your disaster kit is stocked and that your emergency plan is updated. Review your family’s emergency plan, which should include a detailed evacuation and customized emergency checklists for your kids. Practice disaster drills so that your family knows what to do when disaster strikes.