How To Disaster-Proof Your Home

February 13th, 2012 by The Responsibility Project

Why you should build in storm precautions as you remodel or retrofit.

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The Responsibility Project

Next time you’re making improvements to your house, look for ways to reinforce it. “If you’re already reroofing, for example, that’s an opportunity to fasten the roof deck with ring-shank nails, apply a secondary moisture barrier over the seams between sheets of sheathing and use high-wind-rated roof covering,” says Timothy Reinhold of the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Research Center.

“Adding strapping is practical when the walls are stripped for re-siding, exposing the structural members,” he says.

IBHS launched Fortified for Existing Homes in 2010 to show how retrofitting older homes can bring them up to, or even exceed, the standards of new disaster-resistant home construction. Fortified-improved homes are safer, more durable and less likely to need major repairs after a disaster strikes. The program is being piloted in Alabama and will be available nationwide soon.

Damage Prevention

Tornados: Strengthen entry doors with hinge screws that penetrate the structure by 1 inch. When reroofing, install anchors and straps, tying the roof to the top floor. Brace gable ends, secure soffits to supporting material and apply sealant to keep out rain.

Wildfires: Cover attic and crawl space vents with 1/8-inch metal mesh screens to keep out flying embers. Choose a Class A fire-rated roof covering, and keep roof and gutters clear of debris. Enclose the bottom and screen the top of your elevated deck or porch.

Hurricanes: Replace your roof if it’s aging. Remove roofing down to the sheathing, renail sheathing to the roof structure and install a high-wind-rated roof covering. Install window shutters and replace older entry doors, windows and garage doors.

Plan Ahead

No matter where you live, you may encounter a natural disaster during your lifetime. Prepare now so your family and property will be ready in case of emergency.

  1. Set a family strategy. Agree that if you get separated, you’ll meet at a designated spot near home.
  2. Pack vital supplies. Assemble or buy an emergency kit with water, food, flashlights, a weather radio and other survival items.
  3. Assemble a first aid kit. Keep First Aid Fast from the American Red Cross in your first aid kit, along with current medications.
  4. Practice catastrophe safety. Plan where to seek shelter and how to evacuate if necessary.
  5. Map out escape routes. Take routes specified by officials; shortcuts may be impassable.
  6. Review insurance policies. Check that your coverage is current and sufficient to rebuild in case of a total loss.
  7. Safeguard documents. Keep insurance policies, proof of residence, birth and marriage certificates and other important papers in a safety deposit box or other secure location.
  8. Make a home inventory. Videotape your belongings or take digital photos and save receipts. Store the information away from home in a secure location or in a fire-resistant box.

Preparation is key, which is why Liberty Mutual offers flood insurance protection in addition to homeowners and condominium insurance to help deal with unexpected natural events and ensuring damage.