Disaster can strike anywhere, anytime. The only safeguard you have is making sure your home and family are prepared for emergencies. Here are five ways you can help make sure your home and loved ones are ready.
Make a Communication Plan
Phone networks and electricity are often the first resources to go during a disaster, so make sure you know how you’ll reach your loved ones. FEMA recommends creating a family emergency communication plan that includes at least these three pertinent details:
- A contact list: Write down contact information for everyone in your household – including home, school, daycare and work phone numbers. Place it in a central location in your home, and put a small copy in everyone’s wallet.
- An out-of-state contact: This person can be the central communication point for everyone to check in with.
- An emergency meeting location: Select different meeting places so you have a destination no matter what type of disaster occurs. In the event of a hurricane or tornado, meet indoors in a windowless interior room. Meet outside your home in case of a fire and outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. If there’s an evacuation order, meet at a location outside your city.
Quick tip: If you’re using a cell phone during a disaster, send a text rather than trying to call your loved ones. Texts are more likely to go through on a congested mobile network than phone calls because they require less bandwidth.
Invest in a Home Security System
The FBI reports that nearly 1.6 million burglaries occurred in 2015 – and each one cost homeowners about $2,316, on average. A home security system is a major deterrent to criminals. According to a 2013 study, more than half of convicted burglars reported that they would stop breaking into a home if they found a security system, and 83% said they would search a home for a security system before attempting a break-in.
Rather than purchasing clunky, expensive security systems, people can now tailor systems to their lifestyles. Residents can choose features that used to be home safety luxuries but are now affordable, like security cameras, home automation controls, two-way audio systems and glass-break sensors.
Quick tip: Choose a security system that can sync with a mobile app so you’ll be notified with live video of any strange activity happening at your house.
Create 72-Hour Kits
FEMA recommends that Americans should be prepared to survive on their own without access to electricity, food or transportation for up to 72 hours when a disaster strikes.
A well-stocked 72-hour kit includes some basics: a gallon of water per day, non-perishable food to last three days, a flashlight, spare batteries, a first aid kit, clothes, sturdy shoes, necessary medication, copies of personal documents, a cell phone and charger, and cash.
Each member of your family needs their own 72-hour kit, and you should check them every six months to make sure food and medication isn’t expired, clothing still fits and batteries are fresh.
Quick tip: Store your 72-hour kit under your bed for easy access in case of an emergency.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
A smoke alarm is your first line of defense against a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 60% of home fire deaths occur in residences without working smoke alarms. Those beeps from your fire alarm are lifesaving – once a fire starts, it can become life-threatening in just two minutes and can fully engulf a home in five minutes.
Equally as terrifying is another silent killer: carbon monoxide. This toxic gas is odorless and cannot be seen, and it sends tens of thousands of Americans to the hospital every year and even kills some.
Conveniently, you can buy alarms that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. Newer models can even connect with other devices in a home, providing greater safety. Install one of these dual detectors – like the Nest Protect – on every level and in several key areas of your home.
- Outside each bedroom
- In rooms with fuel-burning appliances
- In the kitchen, garage, and bathroom
- In stairway entrances
Quick tip: Many homeowners remove batteries – rather than replace them – when their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors start emitting low-battery beeps. Look for a detector with a button that silences the alarm noise for a period, ensuring you can quiet the noise without forgetting to change the battery.
Purchase Flood Insurance
Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. Around 90% of all natural disasters involve flooding, and the average flood claim is more than $46,000. If you assume you’re safe from rising tides because you don’t live near a body of water, note that flooding goes beyond overflowing lakes or rivers. Flooding can be caused by heavy rains, seasonal weather, sewer and drain backups, sea tidal surges, and dam failures.
Most home insurance policies don’t cover flooding, but you may be required to have flood insurance if you live in a high-risk area, like Texas, South Carolina or Florida. Even if you live in a moderate- to low-risk area, flood insurance is a smart investment to protect your home. The average cost of flood insurance is $700 a year, but it can save you thousands of dollars in costly renovation and remodeling in the long run.
Quick tip: FEMA maintains a flood map where you can enter your address to help determine your location’s risk of flooding.
You can’t rely on luck or homeowners insurance to protect your family. Assessing your home’s ability to handle disasters will raise your awareness of the considerations you need to make. If you know the degree of risk for the security threats to your home, you can better protect your family from all kinds of disasters.
What plans do you and your family have in place in case of disaster? Share in the comments below!
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