What You Need to Know to Prepare for Natural Disasters

When most people think of disaster striking their homes, they think of the things they would lose.


”The most important question is: ‘What should we save,’” says Eric Sanders, head of Risk Services and Solutions at Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. “There’s an easy answer to that query: When disaster strikes, family comes first.”


Whether it’s a wildfire, hurricane, tornado, flood or another natural disaster altogether, your family should know what to do when in danger. Follow this list of simple disaster preparedness tips that will help your family stay safe.


Evacuation plan: Your family should have a practiced, effective evacuation plan agreed upon beforehand so you are ready to go when the unexpected hits. Make sure each room in your home has at least two exits and that each member of your household is clear on the easiest way to evacuate your home. If you have a multi-level home, be sure to have an escape plan from upper stories. Keep a collapsible fire ladder next to your upper-level windows for easy exit through the window.


Make a list: With your family members, make a list of important things that you would want to take with you in case of an evacuation. This list could include things like medicine, eyeglasses and important documents. Keep these things in a safe, easy-to-reach place.


Emergency supply kit: Put together a kit of basic survival supplies to provide for your family in case of evacuation or isolation. In addition to basic survival supplies, be sure to include some items to cheer up your family such as books, candy or toys.


Keep a home inventory: Pick up a video recorder or a digital camera and walk around each room of your house documenting your belongings. This is an important and time-saving step that will be useful when filing insurance claims after a disaster. Store your documentation on a password protected site online where you can access it away from your home. The Insurance Information Institute also makes www.knowyourstuff.org available free of charge.


Keep your insurance information handy: Store information about your insurance policy and insurance agent in your mobile phone or online (or both) so that you will be able to access it from outside your home. This information, along with a detailed home inventory will be important when dealing with the after effects and losses of a natural disaster.


Here are some ideas for preparing your family for specific natural disasters that affect different parts of the country:



  1. Protecting all your windows and doors is the No. 1 way you can protect your home from hurricane damage. Make sure your windows and doors have proper approvals for large-missile impact and wind pressure.
  2. Keeping your roof in good condition is an important way to protect yourself from leaks and other forms of damage. Fasten edge shingles so they do not extend beyond the drip edge more than 1/4 inch. Secure old, brittle or loose shingles with three 1 inch dabs of roofing cement under each tab.


  1. Zoned, fire-resistant landscaping can help reduce your risk of wildfire. Check with your local fire department or nursery for a list of fire-resistant plants to grow in your yard.
  2. Choose heat-resistant materials such as cement, plaster, stucco or concrete masonry for the walls of your home. Flame-resistant walls will help contain fires and decrease the probability of fire spreading to the rest of the house.


  1. If you are replacing your existing windows, install impact-resistant window systems, which have a much better chance of surviving a major windstorm. If you are unable to find them locally, you can order them from manufacturers or home improvement stores in coastal areas.
  2. Make sure you have sturdy hinges and a deadbolt security lock with a 1 inch long bolt on your doors. Anchor door frames securely to wall framing.


  1. Install latches on cupboard doors to ensure they don’t open during a quake.
  2. Do not put heavy artwork, mirrors or shelves over beds. Store heavy items or glassware in lower cabinets so they do not become dangerous during a quake.


  1. Place your valuables above the floor level of your home. Avoid stacking your boxes on the floor level in case boxes become damaged and collapse.
  2. Design your landscape and site grade so water flows into drains and sewers, controlling excess water in case of flood.
  3. Install sump pumps with a back-up generator (in case of electricity failure) to quickly remove water from your home.

Subscribe to the Fireman’s Fund Disaster Texting Service via our Facebook page to get updates on disasters in your geographical area.

This publication provides general information and/or recommendations that may apply to many different situations or operations. Any recommendations described in this publication are not intended to be specific to your unique situation or operation and are not intended to address all possible hazardous conditions or unsafe acts that may exist. Consult with your staff and specialists to determine how and whether the information in this publication might guide you in specific plans for your situation or operations. Additionally, this article does not substitute for legal advice, which should come from your own counsel.