How To Be Prepared For Natural Weather Disasters Part 5
- If you live in an area prone to hurricanes and flooding, make sure your main electrical panel is sited at least twelve inches higher than the expected flood elevation for your house. Electrical service lines, switches, light sockets, outlets, wiring and baseboard heaters should also be twelve inches higher than the flood elevation line. In areas of the home subject to flooding, receptacles should be connected to a ground fault interrupter circuit. Hire an electrician for these tasks.
- If the projected flood elevation is shallow, consider elevating the washer and dryer to a height 12 inches above the line, using pressure-treated lumber or masonry, or build a floodwall around them. Or consider moving the appliances to an upper floor of the house.
- Consider elevating the furnace, water heater, air-conditioning unit and heat pump to 12 inches above the projected flood elevation as well. You'll need a contractor for this job, and the work must meet local and state building codes.
If you have a fuel tank, anchor it to the floor to prevent its tipping in case of flood. Vents and fill-line openings should be above the projected flood elevation.
What to Do After a Disaster
Natural disasters can damage not only your property but also your peace of mind. Try to stay cool and calm, and turn to your insurance agent and emergency officials for help. They're experienced in coping with catastrophe and can advise you on how to proceed.
- If your home has sustained major damage, get out and don't go back in until the home has been inspected and authorities can determine whether it's safe to enter. If you've had to evacuate your home, don't return until authorities give the go-ahead. Keep your radio on so you can stay informed.
- Call your insurance agent right away. He or she can advise you what to do and will be in contact with local emergency officials. Ask whether your policy will pay for living expenses (motel, food, etc.) if you can't return home immediately.
- Loans or grants from FEMA, the Small Business Administration and other agencies may be available after a disaster. Keep in touch with your insurance agent, and watch the newspaper for announcements.
- If your home has been damaged, take photographs or shoot video to document its condition. Make a preliminary list of damaged property, and add to it as you make new discoveries. If you didn't create an inventory of household items before the disaster, make one now.
- You can make minor or temporary repairs, for example, patching the roof or pulling down a damaged chimney, but you'll need expert help and building permits before significant rebuilding can take place. Save receipts for the cost of any minor repairs so your insurer can reimburse you.
- If flammable liquids or other chemicals have spilled, clean them up right away.
- Open a window and leave the building immediately if you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound. Do not use matches or create sparks. If possible, turn off the gas at the outside main valve.