Affordable, Simple, and DIY Ways to Protect Your Home
This year brought a record breaking-breaking hurricane season; wildfires burned nearly nine million acres; ongoing winter storm alerts; and a pandemic. While there is good news on the horizon as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, people may continue to work, educate, and vacation at home. To take advantage of the time at home, the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) offers these ten tips to get your home and family ready in 2021.
1. Know Your Risk: No Cost – Click here to learn more National Center for Disaster Preparedness
- No matter where you live, you are at risk for some type of disaster. To prepare, you must understand what risks you face. You can start your search online by searching for the disaster history in your community. Use keyword searches and phrases for each peril, such as “earthquake and your town.” From there, you can learn not only what happened but also how fast or well your hometown recovered.
- Remember, just because a community hasn’t experienced disaster already doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
2. Earthquake: $20 or less – Click here Purchase a Gas Shutoff Wrench
- It starts with a wrench! Fires caused by earthquakes are the second most common hazard after the quake and can be even more deadly. Broken gas lines caused by the shaking can cause deadly fires.
- Minimize your risk by learning in advance how to turn off their main gas line. Make sure to locate the gas shutoff valve and purchase a gas shutoff wrench to shut off the gas supply manually. Keep the wrench near the gas shutoff, so it is easy to locate. This type of tool is typically under twenty dollars.
3. Flood: Cost Varies – Click here Purchase Flood Insurance
- Where it rains, it can flood. Purchasing flood insurance is one of the best financial protections for your home. Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage, but nearly every home has some level of flooding risk. Even if you live outside mapped high-risk flood zones in a moderate or lower risk location, you need flood insurance. Typically, the lower the risk, the lower the cost.
- On average, full primary coverage for a 250-thousand-dollar home with 100 thousand dollars in contents, the premium is $572 in low-risk X zones. Remember that there is a 30-day waiting period before flood policy coverage goes into effect. You can determine your flood risk by contacting your insurance professional, local growth management agency, building and zoning department, or visiting floodsmart.gov.
4. Hurricane: $20 or less – Click here Strengthen Your Soffits
- A residential soffit is a horizontal surface outside on the underside of the eaves. The eave is an area of the roof which overhangs the exterior walls. Properly installed and braced soffits resist wind forces and keep water out when the wind drives rain against the outside walls and up into the attic of your home. So follow these DIY steps to ensure that soffits stay in place when it matters most. A caulk gun is typically under five dollars, and a tube of caulk is an average of three dollars.
5. Tornado: Approximately $3000 – Click here Build or Buy a Safe Room or Shelter
- Having a tornado safe room or shelter in your home can help provide near-absolute protection for you and your family from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds. Having a safe room can also relieve some of the anxiety created by an oncoming tornado threat.
- According to FEMA, prefabricated safe rooms typically cost less than site-built safe rooms and are available in smaller sizes. A small, 10-square-foot, residential, prefabricated safe room may cost as little as $3,000.
6. Wildfire: No Cost to Low Cost – Click Here Create a Defensible Space
- If combustible yard debris, trees, shrubs, other vegetation, or materials surround your home, your property is at a heightened risk of wildfires. With a wildfire-resistant landscaping plan, you can make a defensible space around your home and reduce your wildfire threat. Defensible space is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect a building from a wildfire.
- Limit the amount of flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the home and increase the remaining vegetation’s moisture content. This design breaks down into zones. Zone 1 is closest to your home; Zones 2-3 move further away. Here are some basics for the homeowner to get started.
- Zone 1:
- This well-irrigated area surrounds your home for at least 30 feet on all sides, allowing room for fire suppression equipment if needed. Clear combustible materials; replace flammable vegetation; prune branches and shrubs to create 15 feet of space from the structure, from the ground, and between trees. Limit plants to carefully spaced low flammability species. Consider landscaping alternatives to shrubs, such as a rock garden.
- Zone 2:
- 30-100 feet out. Use low flammability plants that are low growing. Replace flammable vegetation, create “fuel breaks” such as driveways and gravel walkways, prune tree limbs 6 to 10 feet from the ground. The irrigation system should include this section.
- Zone 3:
- 100-200 feet out. Remove underbrush and thin vegetation, ensure that you place firewood at least 100 feet away from the structure, and keep tall trees from creating touching canopies.
- Zone 1:
- Remember, before fire season begins, remove combustible litter on roofs and gutters and trim tree branches that overhang the roof and chimney. Consult your local or state fire agency or qualified fire management specialist about codes, requirements, and standards related to defensible space.
7. Winter Freeze: Cost typically under $20 – Click Here Foam, Dome, and Drip
- Frozen water pipes are one of the costliest threats to your home. You can prevent frozen water pipes by doing something called Foam, Dome, and Drip.
- FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. You can stop pipes from freezing and save energy for as little as $1 per 6′ of insulation. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.
- DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots to reduce the likelihood of water pipes freezing, expanding, and causing a costly leak. The cost of these domes is less than three dollars each.
- DRIP: Allow a slow drip from your faucets to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the water system’s released pressure will reduce the likelihood of a rupture. If you are going out of town and suspect the temperature will drop, turn off the water and open all of the taps to drain the water system. This way, pipes won’t freeze, and you won’t return home to a mess. FREE!
8. Create a Home Inventory: No Cost – Click Here
- One of the fastest and simplest ways to create your inventory is by using your mobile phone to both video and photograph items as well as entire rooms, closets, and drawer contents. As you map out the plan for your inventory, think about each room and section of your home. Don’t forget your attic, basement, closets, garage, and detached structures, such as tool sheds. For a full detailed list on how to create a home inventory, click here.
9. Have an Insurance Checkup: No Cost – Click Here
- Review your coverage with your insurance agent to make sure you have the right financial resources to rebuild, recover, and bounce back from a disaster. These are the topics that you should be sure to discuss:
- Coverages – Know Your Basics
- What types of things does my policy cover?
- Deductibles and Claims
- For example, did you know that you may have coverage for food that spoils when the power fails even if your home isn’t damaged? Moreover, did you know that food spoilage coverage is often deductible-free?
- Discounts and Incentives
- What types of discounts are available?
- Does my community’s building code affect my rates?
- For full instructions on having an insurance checkup, click here.
10. Know Your Building Code: No Cost Inspect to Protect.org
- Building codes are the foundation for resilience and can be complex; however, you can determine your community’s type of building code by visiting the consumer-friendly Inspect2Protect.org. InspectToProtect.org allows you to identify the building codes by inputting their address to see a map with a color-coded analysis. Once you understand how your home was built, you will have the knowledge needed to better prepare for severe weather events and natural disasters.