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Disaster preparedness tips for homeowners

If a disaster strikes where you live, would you be ready? (Photo: Shutterstock)
If a disaster strikes where you live, would you be ready? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Disasters can strike with little or no warning, which means that adequate preparation is often the key to making it through one unharmed.

From having the necessary supplies on hand to making sure the entire household knows what steps to take in an emergency, proper planning isn't necessarily difficult — but it's important.


Related: 9 practical steps for hurricane preparation

Improve your readiness with these easy-to-follow tips for disaster preparation in your home.

1. Create a family emergency plan

The midst of a disaster is no time to try and figure out how to react. Make preparations ahead of time so that everyone in your household knows what to do.

Related: 5 keys to preparing for tornadoes

Here are the keys to putting together an effective family emergency plan:

  • Know your risks. Depending on where you live, certain disaster risks will be more prevalent than others. How you should react will vary accordingly. Your preparedness plan should include a process for evacuating your home in advance of hurricanes, wildfires and other monitored risks, as well as what you would do if you need to shelter in place, like when a tornado is fast approaching.
  • Secure your home. It can be hard to remember everything your house needs to stay protected during a storm. Make a list of all the areas you should inspect and secure before evacuating or sheltering in place, including your roof, windows, power and plumbing.
  • Write it out. No matter what type of disasters you need to prepare for, document your plan and provide a copy to everyone in your household. Consider displaying your emergency plan where everyone can easily see it so that preparedness is always top of mind.
  • Have a meeting spot. If you need to escape home quickly or find each other in the midst of a chaotic situation, make sure everyone knows where to go. Whether it's a friend or family member's house or a local storm shelter, everyone in your family should know where to meet if you get separated.
  • Designate an outside contact. Have one person or family member who lives outside of your immediate area designated as the single point of contact in case you do get separated from your own family. Following a disaster, it may be easier to reach someone in an unaffected area. This person can help coordinate contact among the members of your household.
  • Practice. Having a plan is only as good as your ability to use it. Conduct safety drills seasonally, especially if you have children, so that everyone can swing into action when it counts.

Often, the most dangerous phase of a disaster isn't immediately when it hits — it's during the aftermath. (Photo: Shutterstock

2. Keep an emergency disaster kit


Often, the most dangerous phase of a disaster isn't immediately when it hits — it's during the aftermath. Losing access to essential supplies is a serious concern, so it's important that you're able to get by during the hours or days before things return to normal. Keep an emergency disaster kit stocked with all the necessities you'll need to ensure the health, safety and comfort of your family.

Related: Summer weather safety risks & preparation

Emergency kit basics include:

  • Drinking water and nonperishable foods.
  • First aid supplies.
  • Prescriptions and other essential medicines.
  • Flashlights and batteries.
  • Spare clothing, blankets, shoes and outerwear.
  • Important documents like passports and insurance information.
  • If you have animals, include pet food and supplies.

Take advantage of today's technology to improve your preparedness. (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Use technology to stay connected and aware


Technology makes it easier than ever to stay aware of weather risks, coordinate with loved ones and stay safe in the event of an emergency. Take advantage of today's tech to improve your preparedness:

  • Sign up to receive emergency alerts on your smartphone. That way, you're less likely to be caught off-guard by approaching danger.
  • Stay connected to family members. Consider activating location-sharing on family smartphones to help keep track of each other during a disaster.
  • Purchase a weather radio to keep in your emergency kit that can receive official warnings and notices if mobile networks get jammed. Remember: Opt for a battery- or solar-powered model or one that can be charged with a hand crank to ensure you have access information in the event of a power outage.

Related: Are your customers prepared to weather the pitfalls of hurricane season?

While disasters aren't always predictable or preventable, there are things you can do to minimize the potential harm to you, your family and your home. Make sure your disaster preparedness checklist includes how to plan for emergencies, which essentials to stock up on, and how to use technology to stay plugged in throughout a disaster. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll be well positioned to keep your household safe, even if the unexpected should occur.

Pete Duncanson is director of business process and branch operations for ServiceMaster Restore, and chairman of the board for the IICRC. He can be reached at pduncanson@smclean.com.

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