Last House Standing™ … Edu-tainment, App-style

Jay Hamburg, FLASH Consumer Writer

Many of us know that where and how we build is a critical factor to surviving disasters, and now the new, fun, and free app from FLASH is spreading that message to players of all ages.

FLASH designed the engaging and informative Last House Standing (LHS) game with inspiration from research such as FEMA’s Preparedness in America report on public preparedness and perceptions. The report showed that 58% of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed failed to recognize disaster safety as a priority. Survey respondents said they needed information, but did not know “where to begin” to become protected and resilient in the face of natural disasters.

Last House Standing solves that problem with a fun, fast-paced game. Each player starts with a budget of $100,000 and has three minutes to choose from many building parts and design pieces to create the best blend of great style and disaster resistance. After building your home, the game tests your design against hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more.

“Our goal is to introduce players to the idea that their choices help determine their level of disaster resilience,” said FLASH President and CEO, Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “The app does this by wrapping serious options about whether to build using a code or other strengthening features like metal connectors inside dozens of fantasy options from space domes to yurts. With only three minutes and a $100,000, players have to think fast to survive the disasters, but they learn that it can be done.”

Players also choose the locale of their home, which means they need to be aware of which natural disasters are most likely to affect the area. FLASH worked with many partners and volunteers to create a game that’s inviting, exciting, and provides easy-to-understand lessons about the importance of design and location in creating a safe, resilient home.

“With more than one hundred feature choices and millions of potential outcomes, the game will keep every audience engaged,” said former Walt Disney Imagineer and FLASH Board Member, Joe Tankersley. “In today’s crowded app world, serious games have to be informative and fun. FLASH has accomplished this with Last House Standing.”

Last House Standing is available for free on both iPhone and iPad here, and in Google Play here. LHS requires iOS 7.0 or later, and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. While the app is optimized for iPad 4 and later, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus, it will operate on older models.

The Only Thing Worse Than No Tornado Safe Room is an Improperly Installed Tornado Safe Room

Jay Hamburg, FLASH Consumer Writer

The deadly outbreak of tornadoes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and across the central United States serves as a stark reminder of the lifesaving value that safe rooms can provide. At the same time, some tragic cases remind us that safe rooms can only protect you and your loved ones if they are properly installed.

Reports that heavy rainfalls caused some underground tornado safe rooms to pop up out of the ground serve as warnings that even a heavy, sturdy, underground tornado safe room can be dislodged by unexpected water flow during a tornado when installed the wrong way.

And, regardless of installation quality, you should never enter an underground tornado safe room if flooding is expected as water flow could cover air vents, or drowning could occur.

“If you have an underground tornado safe room, proper stabilizing and anchoring is very straightforward,” said FLASH SVP Tim Smail. “We recommend using a National Storm Shelter Association Installer Member or ensure your installer follows the ICC/NSSA-500 standard or FEMA P-361 guidelines.”

There are also many affordable options for prefabricated and site-built tornado safe rooms. Prefabricated safe rooms are those that are assembled off-site and transported to the site where they will be installed. A site-built safe room is assembled and installed on-site. Regardless of which type of safe room you choose, be sure to discuss the following with your safe room installation contractor:

  1. Is your home located in a floodplain? If so, keep in mind FEMA P-361 does not allow safe rooms to be installed in high-risk flood hazard areas.
  2. Does your property have the proper access for equipment needed for installation? Installation could involve a large crane or flatbed truck.
  3. Are there easements on your property that would limit where a safe room could be installed?
  4. Have you checked with your neighborhood association to see what design or structural guidelines must be followed? Many associations have rules regarding outdoor structures and their placement.

Most types of tornado safe rooms can be installed and completed in a day, with the average cost for an 8-by-8 foot room ranging from $8,000 to $9,500. Each offers different advantages, but when built and installed properly, all provide the best available life safety and property protection against tornadoes. And it is essential that we point out the need to use a tested door.

The myth that there is nothing you can do to protect against a tornado is false. We want consumers to know that they can survive if they choose smart. Our new video series, Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You, will help them get started.

FLASH and Partners Answer Questions About Natural Disaster Insurance and Home Preparation with Updated Publication

Nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® today released an updated version of their most popular publication, If Disaster Strikes Will You Be Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters.

Updated in time for the June 1 start of hurricane season, FLASH and The Actuarial Foundation are offering the free, comprehensive consumer guide online as well as, on a limited basis, in print in English and Spanish with topics covering earthquake, flood, hail, hurricane, lightning, power outage, tornado, wildfire, and winter freeze. The Guide addresses how to stay safe, save money, and protect homes with answers to top consumer questions, including:

  1. What disasters are covered in my insurance policy?
  2. How can I lower premiums?
  3. What steps should I take to prevent damage to my home?

With single year views of up to 500,000, the Guide is in demand by homeowners and renters alike. “For more than 16 years, we have provided information to consumers before, during, and after natural catastrophes,” said FLASH President and CEO, Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “We are honored to collaborate with The Actuarial Foundation to make a new version of this information-rich publication possible once again.”

“The Actuarial Foundation is proud to partner with FLASH in updating the well-known If Disaster Strikes Will You Be Covered? A Homeowners’ Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters,” said Actuarial Foundation Executive Director, Eileen Streu. “The Guide is a reliable resource and remains one of the most popular publications for FLASH partners and consumers visiting the Foundation’s website.”

Visit Homeowner’s Insurance Guide to download and share the Guide or email info@flash.org for more information.

New Videos from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® Meet Demand for Tornado Safe Room Information

Nonprofit releases “Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You?” video series in conjunction with America’s PrepareAthon! national readiness campaign

(Tallahassee, FL)— According to tornado watch data from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, nearly 90% of U.S. counties experienced tornado watches between 2004 and 2013, for an average of 27 watch hours per year. In response to increased interest in tornado safe rooms driven by this pattern, as well as recent, deadly outbreaks, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) today released new videos highlighting five of the most common tornado safe room choices.

FLASH, FEMA, and Portland Cement Association developed the video series in response to consumer desire to better understand their tornado safe room options. The series, “Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You?”, provides comparative information on cast-in-place, concrete block masonry, insulated concrete forms, precast concrete, and wood-frame safe rooms.

“Today’s marketplace offers an unprecedented range of high-performing, affordable options to save lives and preserve peace of mind for the millions of families in the path of severe weather,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “These videos will help families understand their options for a properly built safe room that will deliver life safety when it counts.”

The new video series is offered in conjunction with America’s PrepareAthon!, an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to come together and prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises. April 30 is National PrepareAthon! Day, a day to take action in advance of natural hazards, including tornadoes.

To find out more about tornado safe rooms visit flash.org.

Six Affordable Home Insulation Tips for Winter Weather

According to the Insurance Information Institute, frozen pipes are the second most common cause of home insurance claims in the United States. And this week’s arctic blast is a reminder to prepare your home and family today. Pipes that are either inadequately insulated or exposed to outside temperatures can freeze, rupture, and cause costly damage. Following these six simple and affordable tips from FLASH will help ensure your home is properly insulated—saving you money and energy too.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can prevent frozen pipes.

  1. Foam:Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts.  For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy.
  2. Dome:  Placing an insulating dome or cover on outdoor faucets and spigots will reduce the likelihood of water inside the pipes freezing, expanding, and causing costly leaks.
  3. Drip: Drip your faucets to reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipe as even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system and reduced the likelihood of a rupture. If you are going out of town, turn off the water to the home and open all taps to drain the water system. This will keep you from returning home to a frozen, soggy mess.

Insulate Your Windows and Doors

  1. Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.
  2. Remember, the most beneficial place to insulate is your attic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 to 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic, and more if you are in a colder climate.
  3. If you don’t have energy-efficient windows, consider using a shrink film window insulation kit from a local hardware store to keep warm air in and cold air out.

For more information on how to protect your home from winter freeze, visit the Protect Your Home in a FLASH Blog and the Great Winter Weather Party preparedness campaign.

 

Tale of Two Homes Superstorm Sandy: A Family and the Decision that Saved their Lives

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It’s been two years since the rare and devastating Superstorm Sandy, but the timeless story of the Sochacki family and their survival endures. As Sandy barreled onshore in New York and New Jersey on October 20, 2012, John Seth and Karyn Sochacki barely escaped from their 1940 bungalow only to watch the storm wash it out to sea. Fortunately, they were able to take refuge next door in an elevated concrete home that weathered Sandy with little to no impact.

The Sochackis have turned their devastating loss into triumph by sharing their story and inspiring others to build with resilience in mind. The fourth installment of Tale of Two Homes video series that showcases their experience is now the most popular in the series with more than 8,500 views on the FLASH YouTube channel.

FLASH met the Sochacki family though its partners from the Portland Cement Association (PCA).  According to PCA’s Donn Thompson, “We appreciate the Sochackis’ willingness to share their story and inspire other families to build safe and strong. We are proud to partner with FLASH and share their dedication to helping families build to survive in the face of natural disaster of all kinds.”

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

Most of us have heard “it takes a village” to do something. That hits home hard when it comes to surviving natural disasters. It takes you, your neighbors, your subdivision, your condo or homeowners association, and your town to prepare to survive.

September 1 marked the beginning of National Preparedness Month, a month-long campaign to raise awareness about disaster preparedness and inspire people to take action before a disaster strikes. The campaign culminates on September 30 with America’s PrepareAthon!, a day for “the village” to come together to practice preparedness through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service in Lititz, Pa., knows all too well the importance of taking action to be disaster aware ahead of time, and the dangers that follow when you don’t. “If we try to do it on our own, we lose energy and focus,” says King, who offers recovery services nationwide and in Canada. “People say, ‘What’s the big deal? Why develop a disaster plan?’”

Then, in the aftermath, he hears, “If only I prepared.”

King offers the following preparation tips for your family and town to heed. We’ve suggested a few, as well.

  • Communications plan: Businesses, houses of worship, schools, homeowner associations – any operation that involves numerous people who may scatter before or after a disaster – should have a list of everyone’s cell phone numbers, where they would go if they leave, and emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers.
  • Inventory: Whether it’s your home or business, document what you have. Take photos, make lists. Scan these to your computer or a flash drive that can be stored in a safe deposit box, use cloud storage sites, or simply email the images to yourself so you can access them from any computer.
  • Copy important documents: Also scan and/or email to yourself insurance policies and cards, car titles, loan and mortgage paperwork, passports, driver’s licenses, prescriptions, and a list of medications you need. For good measure, consider carrying hard copies with you.
  • Pack a survival kit: Include water, non-perishable food, medications, documents, cell phone charger, blankets, maps, multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, and cash (ATMs won’t work during power outages).
  • Gas up the car: Unless a station has a generator, pumps won’t work during power outages.
  • Plan for your pets: Find out ahead of time which shelters allow pets. And bring water and food for them, too.
  • Practice your plan: “It’s even more important than having a plan on the shelf,” King says. Would your house of worship or school know how to get everyone to the basement if a tornado threatens? Who decides how it’s handled?
  • Know what’s coming: Whether you use a weather radio or your smartphone, know the status of approaching trouble. Last year, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes released a Weather Radio smartphone app that provides alerts for up to 100 types of events. The app also includes safety and preparedness tips.
  • Take time to clean up outside: Remove debris, dead grass, leaves, and twigs, and cut back hanging tree branches. Clean out gutters to help move rain water from the home.
  • Strengthen your home: Visit flash.org to learn simple, affordable ways to mitigate damage from hazards of all kinds.

Finally, register for America’s PrepareAthon! and pledge to prepare your family and community before it’s too late.

As King and Benjamin Franklin put it, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”