In the event of a serious home disaster, things can be pretty chaotic. Whether it’s a tree limb falling through your roof or water coming up through the basement floor; the biggest priority is staying safe. Even before the skies of disaster darken your doorstep, there are things you can do to help in the event of serious damage done to your home.
And, of course, this goes without saying: If safety is even a question, call 911 RIGHT AWAY. The safety of you and your family comes first.
Stopping anything from damaging your house is the best way to avoid, well, anything from damaging your house. It sounds simple, but preventative measures can save you major headaches in the long run.
Trimming any overhanging limbs away from the house is a great step on the road to prevention. Overhanging limbs and trees too close to the house have the potential to fall on to (or in to) the home. Cutting back trees is not only great for damage prevention, but it also gives you an opportunity to check on the health of your arboreal neighbors.
Another thing you can do is make sure your downspouts, gutters, drainpipes, sump, sump pump and drains are all working the way they’re supposed to. Ideally, everything works together to eliminate water from the immediate area around your house. As a result, everything below ground and above your head stays dry.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the event of heavy rain or snow, your drainage system works hard to keep your house dry. To ensure it stays that way, clean your gutters at least once a year and schedule a visit from a trusted plumber once a year.
Using scoped cameras (and sometimes remote rovers), a plumber can check on the health of your water mitigation system. That way, when clouds do come, you can spend that rainy day fund on fun – not fixing a leaky house.
If disaster strikes, make sure any further damage is minimized by protecting your home, your family and your belongings.
Remember, above all else: If safety is even a question, call 911.
If a storm blows out a window, use plywood to cover it up. If a lightning strike fries your electronics, call an electrician to clear the breaker before turning it back on. If your house is damaged to the point where staying there is in question (even a little bit), get your family out and find another place to stay. If you even think you smell gas, GET OUT. If your basement is flooded, DO NOT wade in after your things – no matter what. The chances for serious injury or death are far too high.
In the age of smartphones, you can’t go anywhere without people taking pictures of what’s going on around them – for better or worse. If a tree punches through the roof of your house, it might not seem rational to be snapping pictures. But this is one of those times when documenting the world around you comes in handy.
Pictures help tell the story of the damage. Whether they’re for an insurance company, your relatives who want to know you’re okay or your friends who think you’re blowing the whole thing out of proportion, pictures put people on the scene when they can’t witness it firsthand.
Another thing homeowners can do is document their possessions before anything happens. Whether you take pictures, write up a spreadsheet or take a video tour of your home, the idea is to account for everything in the house should anything happen to some, or all, of it.
As a rule of thumb, my wife and I walk around our house and snap pictures in every room once every year, usually around tax time. We save those pictures to our computer and our external hard drive, and we have it backed up on the cloud. You might even want to put it on a thumb drive and keep it away from home in a safe deposit box or with a relative. You can never be too careful.
For an added level of record keeping, we could make a list of everything. If you go that route to keep organized, let others know where it’s kept, and be specific. If you have a Sony 80-inch LED 3D smart TV that’s your pride and joy, you want to make sure that insurance covers a comparable replacement. You don’t want to end up with a cardboard box with a screen-shaped hole in the front.
It sounds simple, but in the panic to make sure everyone is okay and account for your loss, protection and common sense can sometimes be overlooked. In the end, the things in your house are just things. Your family’s safety supersedes everything else. So, immediately following a disaster, make sure everyone is okay, call 911 if needed, and get everyone out of harm’s way.
As with so many other things in life, a little preparedness in the event of home damage will make life easier should disaster strike. With a little prevention, protection and recording, you’ll be ready no matter what.
How do you head off disaster? How does your family prepare for home emergencies? Do you record your belongings in a way I didn’t mention? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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