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Disaster-Proof Your Home

Tips to increase your home’s chance of survival against a natural disaster.

Portrait picture of A row of houses & their reflection in a flooded street

5 Ways to Disaster-Proof Your Home

With the intensity of heat and summer storms, the power of natural disasters can be overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to increase your home’s chance of survival. To reduce risk to your home, FEMA suggests these upgrades:

1. Reinforce Your Residence. Consider retrofitting options, or steps to improve your home’s protection from natural disasters, including high wind events. One of the most common types of wind damage to a structure is called “uplift,” which occurs when a roof lifts and collapses back down on the house. Fortunately, you can minimize the chances of this happening by installing straps connecting the structural members of your roof to the wall studs or columns.

Other risk reduction ideas include:

– Using shingles rated for 90+ mph wind, with a minimum of four nails per shingle;
– Ensuring windows and doors are properly shimmed and nailed into the framed opening, tying the window and door frames into the adjacent studs;
– Installing a garage door designed for higher wind speeds.

FEMA recommends consulting with a certified home inspector to determine if these are viable options for your home.

2. Fortify Your Home’s Floors. Homeowners can secure their structure to the foundation by using anchors or metal straps. Your builder should ensure there are properly installed anchor bolt connections between the plate and the foundation at least every four feet to ensure maximum fastening to the foundation.

Consult with your local building code official as well as a certified home inspector to determine the best options for you.

3. Trim and Tighten. High velocity winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes can turn patio furniture, grills and tree branches into destructive missiles. In addition, if the area immediately surrounding your house contains trees, outbuildings, trash cans, yard debris or other materials that can be moved by the wind, your house will more likely be damaged during a storm.

All storage sheds and other outbuildings should be securely anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors. The straps and ground anchors used for manufactured homes can be used as anchoring systems for outbuildings, such as garden sheds, which are not placed on a permanent foundation. Outdoor furniture and barbecue grills can be secured by bolting them to decks or patios or by attaching them to ground anchors with cables or chains. Trees should also be trimmed so they’re at a safe distance away from your home.

4. Elevation is a Smart Renovation. Flooding is a real risk, and elevating your home and its critical utilities can significantly reduce the risk of water damage. Elevating your home may even reduce your flood insurance premiums. Contact your local floodplain manager to learn the flood risk and elevation requirements for your residence.

5. Assure You’re Fully Insured. Take the time to review your insurance coverage. Are you adequately insured for the risks your community faces? Are you covered for wind, flood and sewer backup? Has your policy been updated to reflect the value of your home? Many homeowners find out too late that their insurance coverage has not increased with the value of their home. Contact your insurance agent to get these questions answered and ensure your home is financially protected.


Emergency managers and first responders urge homeowners to have the following emergency strategies in place:

Safeguard your valuables. Take videos of each room in your home and photos of any expensive jewelry, artwork, collections or other valuables—they may be helpful if you have to file an insurance claim. Remember that valuables, including important paperwork, are safest when stored in a fire-proof box or safe. And do consider keeping copies of your most valuable papers in a location other than your home.

Have a family emergency plan. Draw up a reasonable escape plan for the family just in case of a fire or another emergency. Review it annually and be sure each family member understands how to get out of the house and what to do next, such as meet up at a neighbor’s home or at a nearby public area. It’s also a good idea to designate an out-of-area friend or relative as the contact person in the event the family is separated.

Stock up on supplies. Have enough food and other supplies on hand to ensure your family’s safety and comfort for at least 72 hours after a natural disaster. Stock up on canned and dried foods, bottled water, batteries, toilet paper, any needed medications and/or diapers or other supplies—and don’t forget a can opener.

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. All rights reserved.