When it comes to disasters, saving
lives comes first; saving the home is a distant second. But with
a little planning, you can dramatically increase the chances that
your home, sweet home will come through almost any danger in one
The key is to be prepared before
an emergency occurs. Check out the Ready
campaign launched by Homeland Security as a guide to citizen
preparedness. You'll find contacts and information for all types
What are the local disaster dangers?
If you live in L.A., you want to be prepared for earthquakes. But
if you live in the Midwest, tornadoes are a greater concern. Visit
the Federal Emergency Management
Agency Web site for your local disaster dangers and ways you
can prepare before one strikes.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people
are unaware of the hazards that face them," says Rocky Lopes,
project manager for Homeland Security with the National Association
of Counties, Senior Disaster Preparedness Consultant for the Home
Safety Council in Washington, D.C., and convener of the American
Disaster Education Coalition, a network
of 19 government and nonprofit disaster-related organizations. "Every
hazard is different and possesses different risks," says Lopes.
Cross guidebook on disaster preparedness for more information.
Many of the steps you take will be the same regardless
of the threat. So here are some tips on dealing with some of the
more formidable emergencies:
|With a little planning, you can dramatically increase
the chances that your home will come through almost
any danger in one piece.
|Use these tips to prepare:
If you live in a hurricane prone areas like Florida and the Gulf
and Atlantic coasts, it pays to prepare in advance. Sometimes, it
helps to be ready even if you're not in a storm-prone area.
"With Hurricane Hugo, more
people in Charlotte had wind damage than on the coast," says
Lopes. "So follow the advice of local officials."
Hurricane winds will always attack
through the weakest area of the house -- usually windows and glass
doors -- so you need to come up with a plan to reinforce them before
storm clouds ever appear on the horizon, says Lopes.
Homeowners have several options.
Many shutter systems will protect against storms and are rated on
their ability to withstand strong wind, says Lopes. If you have
any doubts how strong shutters need to be in your area, he recommends
talking with local emergency management officials.
If shutters are impractical for
your house or too expensive, you can use plywood. Lopes recommends
installing permanent bolts into or next to the window frames. (And
you may want to consult a professional to make sure you don't ruin
your home's facade.) Then have a piece of outdoor plywood a half-inch
thick or more precut to cover every window and glass door, with
pre-drilled holes large enough to accommodate the bolts.
When the storm threatens, "you
throw [the plywood] onto the bolts and screw it down," says
Duct tape, long a favorite to
reinforce windows, won't keep them from breaking. "Tape does
nothing but help windows break into larger pieces," Lopes says.