Stormproof Your Home and Create an Emergency Kit for Severe Weather

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—No matter what part of the country you live in, chances are good you've noticed a change in storm patterns throughout recent years. As the climate warms, there tends to be fewer storms, but the ones that do strike drop a lot more water in a shorter amount of time.
August through October is when most storms develop, but the devastating weather that's struck several Southern U.S. states this week shows that isn't always the case. Whether or not your area is becoming more prone to thunderstorms or hurricanes, there are steps you can take to protect yourself against the major damaging effects of strong storms. And when extreme weather events occur, and emergency kit can make it easier to evacuate should you need to leave the area.
Know how to deal with the big three:
#1: WATER
• Perform a roof check before a leak appears. "The most costly home repairs are those caused by the intrusion of water. From roofing to building framing and foundations, these problems often build up over time and are exacerbated by driving rains and heavy flooding," explains architect Steven Bingler, founder of Concordia, a planning and architecture firm based in New Orleans. "The best way to avoid big surprises later is to address existing issues immediately and plan intelligently."
To start, grab a pair of binoculars and look over the outside of your roof. Damaged, loose, or missing shingles or tiles, missing or loose nails, and sagging areas are tipoffs that it may be time for a new roof, or at least a roof repair. Inside your home, go into your attic and look for water-stained areas, especially around the chimney and vents. If the stained area is wet or soft, it’s a current problem and will need to be fixed.
• Make water flow away. "The first and most important principle is to be certain that all ground surfaces are sloping down and away from the building," says Bingler. "After that, the water can be channeled to lower-lying streets or stormwater sewers." If you notice that land slopes toward your home, contact a trusted contractor with experience in flood mitigation to avoid a serious and costly washout in your home.
• Make your lawn a sponge. An especially ecofreindly way to manage stormwater is to replace as much as your turf-style lawn as you can with native plants and permeable surfaces (like gravel or sand) that soak rainwater into the ground. All-grass lawns can create as much rainwater runoff as concrete.
For the more ambitious homeowner, rainwater coming from roof gutters and downspouts can be channeled to underground storm water detention basins or rain barrels and cisterns. To create a detention basin, dig a deep hole and fill it with 2- to 3-inch-sized gravel, and then cover the top with soil. "The size of the basin should be calculated to accommodate the projected worst-case stormwater volume, which can be easily calculated by a local engineer," says Bingler. These basins hold the rainwater and let it slowly soak into the soil (instead of flooding your basement).
• Plant thirsty native plants and trees. The basin can also be elongated into a deep trench, with a perforated pipe, known in many places as a French drain, at the bottom. The trench can extend many feet around the house and be fed by the downspouts coming down from the roof gutters. It's a great way to keep your landscaping well watered. "In my own home, where my wife is an avid gardener, we extended fingers from the circular trench out into the landscape, so when it rains the plants are delighted to get their water from top-down as well as bottom-up sources," Bingler says. The plants and trees (particularly native ones that do well without much fuss from you) can soak up gallons of water a day, and later transpire it back into the atmosphere. "It is a nifty system that can make the most of stormwater management with many benefits all around," Bingler adds.

#2: WIND
•  Check your landscape. Before storm season hits, trim dead wood and weak, overhanging branches from all trees around your home. Certain trees and shrubs don’t hold up well in high winds, so ask your local nursery which ones do best. Avoid planting invasive species, like Norway maple, because they damage local ecosystems. Also, bring in any lawn chairs or other outdoor furniture when a storm is forecast, so they don’t end up smashing through one of your windows.
• Cover and reinforce. If you live in a place prone to hurricane-force winds, you should either install commercial shutters, or prepare 5/8-inch plywood panels to cover your windows in the event of a hurricane warning. You can download free plans to show you how to prep the plywood but it's important to buy these materials before a storm nears, because many hardware stores sell out fast when high winds appear in the forecast. Garage doors are often the first thing to be ripped from a home when hurricane-force winds strike, so make sure you reinforce them as well.
• Find a safe room. If you don’t live in an evacuation zone or a mobile home, or if your local authorities aren't instructing you to leave, it's important to have a safe room ready when strong winds approach. Stay inside and away from windows and glass door, and make sure all interior doors are closed. If things quiet down for awhile, it's still important to stay away from the windows. It could be the eye of the storm, and winds could quickly whip up again. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it's best to stay in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level of the house.
• Know what to turn off. Sometimes authorities will instruct residents to turn off utilities. But if not, crank up your refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep the door closed. This will keep perishable items fresh as long as possible in case the power goes out. Also turn off propane tanks to reduce the chance of a fire, fill your tub with water so you can clean, and flush the toilets, in case your water source is cut off.

#3: LIGHTNING
• Get inside! The National Weather Service's rule of thumb is for storm safetyis simple: "When thunder roars, go indoors!" That's because when you're outside, there's little you can do to lower your chances of being struck by lightning. If you are outside and hear thunder, get inside a building with inside walls, wiring, and plumbing, or a car with a full roof, for protection.
• Prepare like Ben Franklin. If you want to deal with lightning before it strikes, consider hiring an experienced contractor familiar with lightning protection systems. These consist of metal lightning rods on the roof that send a lightning strike into the ground and away from your home.
• Find the safest spot in your house. Know before a storm strikes if there’s metal meshing in the concrete of your basement. If there is, you shouldn't have contact with that area during a storm. Lightning can enter your home through a direct strike, the ground, or plumbing and wiring. Stay away from windows, washers and dryers, TVs, stay out of the shower or tub, and stay off the phone. Surge protectors won't protect your electronics, so unplug them before a storm strikes. And remember, chatting it up may pass the time, but talking on the phone is the most common scenario for most indoor lightning injuries.
CREATE AN EMERGENCY KIT
It's also important to create a family emergency kit to have on hand in the event of serious weather. Here's what you should include in it:
• Battery-operated NOAA weather radio
• Cash (in small bills) and credit cards (some ATMs won’t work in the middle of a disaster)
• Bedding and clothing, including rain gear
• First aid kid with medicines and prescription drugs
• Wet wipes, alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60 percent alcohol or higher), feminine hygiene products, and diapers if there’s a baby in the house
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Surgical and N-95 masks in case someone in the house becomes sick with the flu—it could prevent transmission
• Paper plates, cups, and plastic or compostable utensils
• Fully charged cellphone and corded phone
• List of emergency and family phone numbers
• Books and games
• Pet food and water, medications, carrier/cages, leashes, and immunization records
• Sealable waterproof bag or container where you can store insurance and Social Security cards, medical records, and other important documents.
• Food and water: At the very least, keep your house stocked with a gallon of water per person per day, for up to a week, and enough nonperishable food, snacks, and juices for a week (don’t forget the manual can opener!). Store them in coolers so they can be quickly loaded into a vehicle if you need to evacuate. Make sure your car always has a full tank of gas if evacuation due to severe weather is a fact of life in your area.

2 comments:

June 25, 2011 at 8:54 PM Basement Flooding said...

Basement
Flooding
in Your Home? We Can Help!

Research shows that almost 100% of all basements will suffer some form of Basement Flooding
at some point in their existence. “Almost 100%” translates into “it’s
certain”. It makes sense, too, because basements are the single lowest
location in any structure, and excess water is always going to flow
downhill. Put the two together and you have an unwelcome Basement Flooding .

June 28, 2011 at 9:12 PM Flooded Basement said...

Nearly every homeowner will experience some form of water damage, and if you have a basement, it’s pretty much a guarantee. In fact, studies have concluded that 98% of all basements will suffer from some form of water damage at some point in their existence. A <a

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