Written By: SafeHome.org Team | Published: December 20, 2020

It's not every day that we think about preparing our homes for emergencies because who wants to contemplate the worst happening? However, every now and then, there will be moments when the worst does happen — and we'll wish we were more prepared. Scientific American keeps a running list of record-breaking natural disasters. Wildfires, hurricanes, rain, flooding, and heat have made 2020 a busy year. For instance, Phoenix had a whopping 144 days with temperatures soaring to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Five of California’s six largest fires burned in 2020, and Colorado experienced its largest wildfire with the Cameron Peak Fire. The year also saw the most named hurricanes, at 29.

This guide will help you prepare your home for common emergencies and disasters to allow you to live comfortably and with peace of mind. It is always a good idea to put together an emergency kit and to have enough supplies on hand to keep you and your family safe.

Starting with the Basics: Preparing an Emergency Kit

No matter where you live, it's vital to have an emergency supplies kit. This kit should include items you need to survive for several days and be easily transportable. If you need to leave quickly, you should be able to take this kit with you and go. Essential items to consider adding include the following:

Place items in easy-to-carry containers and label the containers accordingly for quick identification. Consider the area you live in and factor in other things you may need. If you reside in a place where flooding happens frequently, stock up on plywood for storms. Don’t wait until the last minute when everyone realizes they need those items.

If you have not yet looked into homeowner's insurance coverage options, now is the perfect time to do so. It is never too early to prepare and buy emergency supplies. Natural disasters hit people all around the world at unexpected times.

Depending on your circumstances, you may need more supplies in your emergency kit than what we listed above. Check out the following resources:

Creating a Plan

Disasters can be hard to plan for, especially if you don't know what type of disaster will happen and when but plan out what you can. For example, you and your family could hash out the details on who picks the kids up from school, where to meet, what to do if phones don’t work, etc.

Evacuation routes: Map out evacuation routes and local emergency shelters. Have your family members practice taking these routes every few months.

Meeting spots: Create a plan that includes multiple locations to meet up after evacuation.

Contacts: Plan who to contact first in case your family is separated. School personnel, grandparents, and friends’ parents could be on the list.

Shutoff valves: Depending on the emergency, you may need to turn off your home's water, gas, and electricity. Familiarize yourself with where these shutoff valves are and how to turn them off safely.

Disasters are stressful, but planning helps you stay calmer and think better. This is particularly true if your family includes members with disabilities or older adults. A medical alert system could be a lifesaver.

For additional information on how you and your family can create a disaster plan, visit the following links:

Disasters to Prepare For

There are a multitude of home disasters one should be familiar with and prepare for. Each type entails different protocols, and we have broken down some common ones below.

There are many home disasters to be familiar with and prepare for. Each type entails different protocols, and we have broken down common types below.

Some areas are prone to frequent flooding. Even a flash flood, which occurs in less than six hours, can lead to devastation. Plan ahead with these steps.

Has a flood already happened in your neighborhood? The following tips will help you get through the disaster as smoothly as possible:

For additional information on how to protect your family from flooding, check out the following resources:

When the rock beneath Earth's surface shifts and breaks, the result is an earthquake. Earthquakes can happen anywhere at any time, and much of the United States has a moderate to high risk of these quakes. So, be ready to protect yourself, your pets, and your children. Take these steps:

Do’s and Don’ts During an Earthquake

Earthquake safety continues after the earth stops shaking. You may have to contend with fallen power lines, weakened structures, and much more.

Want to learn more about protecting yourself and your family from earthquakes? Take a look at the following resources:

There's nothing more frustrating than a power outage that lasts a long time. Outages for an hour or two don't require as much concern. However, if the outage persists, your perishable foods could go bad. Keep the following supplies on hand to be prepared:

During a power outage, be ready to:

If there is doubt about whether food is safe to eat, throw it out unless you have a thermometer. Meats and fish exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more are likely not safe. Keep in mind that foods may not have any odor or sign of rotting but can cause illnesses and discomfort after ingestion.

You can never be too prepared for a power outage. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of resources for further research:

House fires are preventable. Wildfires are trickier, but you can still prepare for them. First, we’ll address house fires. One step is to look into home security systems with environmental monitoring. They’re a great way to protect against fires and to get alerted if one occurs. Other tips include the following:

During a fire, refrain from touching doorknobs that are hot. If the fire is blocking you from exiting safely, stay in the room with doors closed and a wet towel under the door. Call 911 for help.

For wildfire safety, stow flammable items such as lawn mowers, wood piles, and propane tanks at least 30 feet away from the home. To keep embers from jumping into your home, install 1/8-inch metal mesh screens under decks and under vents. Follow these lawn safety tips:

If you evacuate, you may not have time to do much. If possible, move flammable furniture to the center of your house away from doors and windows. Turn on exterior and interior lights to make the house more visible and lean a ladder against the house to help firefighters.

If you might need to evacuate, arrange temporary shelter just in case. Gather fire tools such as axes, rakes, and buckets. Close doors, windows, shutters, blinds, vents, eaves, and pet doors. If you have flammable drapes or curtains, pack them up. Get dressed in long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and durable shoes. Wear gloves and use a handkerchief to protect your face. Grab outdoor hoses and fill pools, hot tubs, and large outdoor containers with water. Turn sprinklers on and keep them running.

For more information on home fire and wildfire safety, visit the following pages:

Extreme heat is the most deadly weather-related hazard. The CDC notes that more than 600 people in the United States die every year of heat-related causes. Even when death doesn’t occur, excessively high temperatures cause discomfort and may result in fainting and illness.

These high temperatures are not getting any better, either. Temperature records were set in 2018, 2019, and 2020, disrupting human health, agriculture, and other essential components of life. Fortunately, a bit of preparation goes a long way. To get started, consider these tips:

Discuss safety protocols with your household. For instance, no one should turn to a fan as their main or only cooling device. Residents should look out for heat illness symptoms such as a body temperature of 103 degrees F or higher, nausea, heavy sweating, and muscle spasms.

Heatwaves are tough. Learn how to make surviving them more bearable with the resources below:

Winter storms can be very dangerous, depending on their ferocity and where you live. These storms can be so severe as to go on for several days at a time. To stay safe and comfortable while hunkering down, consider these tips.

Prepare even more with the resources below:

Conclusion & Additional Resources

It is impossible to control the weather and stop catastrophes from happening. However, you can educate yourself and your family on preparedness and safety. One key step is to build a kit. Another is to learn more about the different disasters that may happen in your area. After you create a primary plan, you can tinker with it a bit to address each disaster that could occur. For additional information on preparing for natural disasters, visit the following links: