The record-setting level of deaths, injuries and property destruction during 2011 provide a stark reminder that no matter where you live, everyone is at risk from natural disasters. However, the important lesson from this infamous year of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and worse is not simply the power of nature. It is the power of human resilience. When people survive and communities endure disasters, they do so because of actions taken beforehand, with purpose, to make structures stronger and people safer.
Prepare Your Family
Making sure your family is prepared for any natural disaster is important. Below are some of the steps you can take to prepare your family and protect your home from natural disasters. Your actions can ensure that no matter what Mother Nature brings, you, your family and your community will be resilient.
Here are a few tips to follow from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes – (FLASH®) when preparing your family for any emergency.
- Develop a family disaster plan that includes a list of food and water supplies needed for each member of your family and supplies for your pets. Make copies of important documents like insurance policies, the deed to your home, and other personal papers, important phone numbers and a home inventory. Create a checklist of important things to do before, during and after a disaster.
- Review your evacuation route and emergency shelter locations with your family. Options for evacuation would include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups in conjunction with local authorities.
- Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering in place is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or other location where you are when disaster strikes.
Review your plan regularly. If you make changes that affect the information in your disaster plan, update it immediately.
Protect Your Home
The power of these natural disasters can be overwhelming. While you can't necessarily stop natural disasters from happening, there are steps you can take to increase your home's chance of survival, even in the face of the worst Mother Nature can dish out.
If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause deaths, injuries and extensive property damage. Here are some helpful tips to prepare your family and protect your home.
- Plan and hold earthquake drills for your family.
- Identify two ways to escape from every room in the home.
- Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person's bed.
- Select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after evacuating.
- Have an earthquake kit containing water, food, medicines and other necessities for at least three days
- Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation
- Strap water heaters, appliances and TVs to wall studs.
- Anchor bookshelves, heavy furniture, appliances and televisions to wall studs.
- Secure pictures, mirrors and ornaments to the wall with appropriate fasteners.
- Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas, and water services.
More Information on Preparing For an Earthquake by Simpson Strong-tie
Devastating floods occur throughout the U.S. every year. Ninety percent of all presidentially declared natural disasters involve flooding. Flooding is usually divided into two categories: flash flooding and river flooding. Both can cause death, injury and property destruction. If you are building or retrofitting your home consider these recommendations:
- Wet flood proofing your home allows flood water to flow through the structure. An example of wet flood proofing is installing flood vents that create permanent openings in the foundation.
- Dry flood proofing your home prevents floodwaters from entering the building. An example of dry flood proofing is installing new brick veneer over asphalt coating and applying polyethylene film over existing walls.
- Construct non-supporting, break-a-way walls designed to collapse under the force of water without causing damage to the foundation.
A well-built home can stand up to hurricanes. FLASH provides homeowners the tools to make sure your house is hurricane-ready with the Protect Your Home in a FLASH program.
More Information on Preparing for Hurricanes by Simpson Strong-Tie
Tornados and High Winds
A properly built, high wind safe room protects your family from the most intense tornadoes and hurricanes and can be incorporated into a planned build or renovation to create a multiuse space in your home, adding to its value. FLASH urges homeowners to "Give an Ordinary Room an Extraordinary Purpose" by building or retrofitting interior spaces in their home to safe-room standards.
- Tornado safe rooms are designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour, and offer lifesaving refuge for families in the path of high-wind events like tornadoes.
- Your closet, bathroom, laundry or even an outdoor room like a garden shed or pool house can be enhanced to serve as a safe room.
- A safe room designed to meet standards set forth by the National Storm Shelter Association, the International Code Council and FEMA and will stand up to the most intense tornadoes and hurricanes.
More Information on Preparing for Tornados and High Winds by Simpson Strong-Tie
Each year, thousands of acres of wildland and many homes are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time of the year. Wildfires spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. You can protect your home by following these tips.
- Prevent wildfire damage by developing a defensible space in your landscaping by clearing at least 30 feet around your home, or 50 feet around your home if you reside in a heavily wooded area.
- Plant fire-resistant, native vegetation and remove any dead or dying trees. Properly prune shrubs, and trim tree branches so they don't extend over a roof or near the chimney. Mow your grass and control the height and spread of ground covering vegetation. Keep plants at least 12 to 18 inches away from the house.
- When putting on a new patio deck, build from fire-resistant materials. On new and existing decks, create fire barriers around the deck base and clear vegetation at least 100 to 300 feet downhill from the deck base.
- Install only burning-brand, exposure rated (Class A, B or C) roof assemblies using materials such as asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile or metal roof coverings.
Important Disaster Safety & Mitigation Links
FEMA Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration's Building Science Branch develops and produces multi-hazard mitigation guidance, provides training on this guidance and works closely with the ICC and other partners to develop disaster-resilient building codes to reduce loss of life and property. Building Science's Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) are comprised of expert investigators who deploy into the field post-disaster to assess the damages and make recommendations for future technical guidance and building code improvements. Download disaster-specific MAT reports and find out how to join a future MAT team.
Other helpful disaster safety and mitigation links include:
10 Tips for Disaster Safety & Mitigation
FEMA Building Codes Toolkit for Homeowners
Find more building safety resources in the Catalog of FEMA Wind, Flood, and Wildfire Publications, Training Courses, and Workshops, FEMA P-787
Find more earthquake resources in the Catalog of FEMA Earthquake Resources, FEMA P-736A
Flood Cleanup: Safety and Salvaging Brochure
For more information on mitigating critical facilities such as hospitals, schools, and fire stations, see FEMA’s Risk Management Series for Natural Disasters
High Wind Safe Rooms
Learn about how building safety and sustainability are linked in Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings, FEMA P-798
Mold: Tips on Prevention and Control Brochure
Protect Your Home in a FLASH
Safety First-Disaster Preparedness: Tips for your Home and Family Brochure
Watch Disaster Safety "How-To" Videos
Go to FLASH.org or www.safestronghome.com for more information on how to protect your home.