Certified Restoration is ready to respond to an emergency. Are you?
Our home of Southern California is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but living in one of the most beautiful places in the world comes with its tradeoffs. The area is prone to many types of natural disasters: wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes among them. But no matter where you live, it is essential that you take preventative measures to protect yourself, your family members, and your home from disaster.
Comprehensive emergency preparedness has a few components: preparing your home for a potential disaster, preparing for what to do during and after an emergency, preparing for survival after an emergency, and preparing for rebuilding after a crisis. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Steps you can take to prepare your home for an emergency
- Building an emergency response plan
- Preparing yourself and your family for an emergency
- How to build an emergency supplies kit
- Helpful resources
- Preparing to rebuild after a disaster
Steps you can take to prepare your home for a disaster
While it may not be possible to avoid damage to your home when a natural disaster comes your way, there certainly are steps you can take to reduce damage when disaster strikes. Below, we’ll provide tips on protecting your home from common disasters: wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. Our recommendations range from simple preventative measures to larger-scale improvement projects, so you can determine what steps work with your time and budget. But no matter the measure you take, taking precautions will pay dividends in reducing damage and cost if a disaster does strike.
Late summer and fall are peak wildfire seasons in California. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to lessen damage to your home in case of a wildfire. These steps can be broken into retrofits and simple preventative measures.
- When building or remodeling your home, opt for ignition-resistant materials. Consider materials such as composition, metal, clay, or tile for your roof. For walls, consider stucco, fiber cement, or treated fire retardant wood. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
- Cover all vent, chimney, and stovepipe openings with metal screens/mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn. Covering your vents prevents embers from flying in. Covering your chimney and vents prevents embers from flying out and starting a fire.
- Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Install screens in all windows to increase ember resistance and decrease radiant heat exposure.
Simple Preventative Measures
- Keep your yard and gutters clear of plant debris to reduce flammability, and trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to ensure emergency vehicles can pass.
- Add a battery backup to the garage door motor so that the garage can easily be operated during a power outage.
- Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
- Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
- Make sure your address is visible from the road.
- Consider having multiple garden hoses long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property.
- Close your fireplace flue during fire season when your chimney is not being used
On any given day, home water damage emergencies affect 14,000 people. The odds that water damage could affect you and your home are growing with historic flooding throughout the country. FEMA outlines the following steps to help reduce water damage in your home:
- When building your home, install tile flooring and use flood-resistant insulation and drywall to help reduce flood damage. Consider building your home away from bodies of water, and build on higher ground.
- Install food detection devices on your property. Certified Restoration offers flood detection devices that alert you the moment they detect water so that you can stop water damage in its tracks.
- In basements, consider sealing walls with waterproofing compounds and installing a sump pump.
- Prepare a list and photograph of all of your high-value or important items. This will help with the insurance claims process.
- Store valuables and important items in waterproof containers, preferably on upper floors.
- Secure items in your yard by anchoring or attaching them to larger structures. This can help prevent yard items from getting swept away in a flood or damaging your home.
- Seal cracks and gaps in the exterior of your home.
Earthquakes are one of the least predictable kinds of natural disasters. That being said, there are steps you can take in advance to reduce damage to your home when an earthquake hits. Consider doing the following to protect your home from damage:
- Strap, brace, and anchor your furniture and appliances to the walls of your home. Make sure your water heater is braced to prevent a leak or fire in the event of an earthquake.
- Use latches on any cabinet doors to prevent contents from flying out.
- Secure hanging items like light fixtures, mirrors, and pictures. Do not hang anything directly over a bed or any other place you may spend an extended amount of time in, such as a couch or dining room table.
- Strap down computers, televisions, or other expensive equipment so that they don’t fall during a quake.
- Secure delicate items by moving them to a lower shelf, or use QuakeHOLD! putty to keep them in place.
- Prune tree limbs near your house.
- If your home was built before 1980, consider a retrofit to ensure your home is anchored to its foundation. This will reduce the chances that your home will slide off its foundation in an earthquake.
- Learn how to turn off the gas in your home or install an automatic gas shut-off valve.
Build an Emergency Supplies Kit
Building an emergency supplies kit is the next step in making sure you and your family are prepared for an emergency. In the aftermath of a disaster, you may need to survive on your own for several days without resources you may be used to. To prepare for this, it is important to prepare your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days. An emergency kit is a collection of these items and other basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website ready.gov suggests the following items be included in a basic disaster supply kit. Kit items should be placed in airtight plastic bags and the bags should be put into an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack, duffel bag, or storage bin.
- Water (one gallon of water per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food). If access to food is a problem you or your family face, food banks can help. They are typically able to provide non-perishable food at low or no cost, with no questions asked.
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, toilet paper, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Masks (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
- Prescription medications. Organize and protect your prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins to prepare for an emergency.
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash, traveler’s checks, and credit cards in a bag
- Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
Building an emergency supply kit is not something that has to be done all at once. We recommend starting with items you already have at home and picking up one additional item to add to the kit every time you go to the store. Oftentimes items will go on sale, so keep your eye out for discounts!
Preparing your emergency response plan
Once you’ve prepared your home for disaster and built your emergency supply kit, it’s time for the next step: developing an emergency response plan. When a disaster occurs, the days and hours after are crucial in ensuring safety, minimizing damage, and enabling an effective recovery. To prepare for a quick and organized response after an emergency, developing an emergency response plan (ERP) is recommended.
Certified Restoration has developed a downloadable emergency response plan template. While business owners and managers of commercial, residential, and government properties may find it most useful, it can be modified by use for individual homeowners as well.
Certified Restoration’s ERP will help you get started recording essential information that needs to be kept in a safe place for ready reference. This includes information like insurance information, property descriptions, floor plans and blueprints, and contact information for contractors and other key services. This document is a generalized starting point: your property type, geographical location, building features, belongings, and local climate will vary, so be sure to add other information pertinent to you.
Your ERP should always be kept up to date, as it will help you to minimize confusion and frustration in an emergency situation. After filling it out, print the document and store it in a waterproof container with your emergency supply kit.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you Certified Restoration’s Emergency Response Plan template.
Other Preparedness Tips (Low and No Cost)
- Know what kind of disasters and emergencies are most common where you live, and practice any applicable drills with your family regularly. If you live in an area where earthquakes are common, practice the Drop, Cover, and Hold On drill.
- Create your emergency communications plan. While the emergency response plan covers information on your home, the communications plan includes information like important contact and medical information about your family. A communications plan can also be integrated into your emergency response plan so that you have all your key information in one place. Templates for a communications plan are available at ready.gov.
- Sign up for emergency alerts in your area to receive life-saving information from your state and local municipality. Read on for a list of resources you can receive emergency alerts from.
- Talk with family or members of your household about where you will go if told to evacuate.
- Store important documents and items like passports, birth certificates, maps, and electronics in a flood-safe place like a high shelf or upper floor in resealable water-tight plastic bags to help waterproof them. Store important documents like insurance policies digitally.
- Check online for low-cost CPR or emergency healthcare courses offered near you.
- Visit Floodsmart.gov to know your area’s level of flood risk. This can help immensely in preparing your home for a flood.
For those in San Diego County, SD Emergency is a key app to download. The app sends emergency updates for disasters happening in San Diego County and offers resources to help build an emergency plan, such as checklists, supply lists, shelter locations, and more.
Because most disasters are weather-related, a good weather app is important to have on your phone. AccuWeather provides emergency alerts for all sorts of events, allowing you to track rain, snow, flooding, etc. The app allows you to track multiple locations, so you can keep tabs on the weather for other locations you care about. The app also provides long-term forecasts, so you can check the weather by day, hour, week, or month and plan accordingly.
FEMA, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s mobile app brings you real-time alerts concerning all sorts of disasters. In the app, you can select which kinds of disasters you want to be notified about, including flooding, severe weather (thunderstorms and tornadoes), tropical weather (hurricanes and typhoons), winter storms (snow, ice, freezing rain), avalanches, fire, extreme temperatures, marine weather, public hazard alerts, and more.
FEMA’s app goes above and beyond most apps and also sends alerts for events like evacuations, civil danger, child abductions, hazardous materials, nuclear power plants, radiological hazards, 911 phone outages, riots, explosions, and more. In addition to alerts, the app helps you prepare for disaster, offering emergency safety tips, reminder alerts for testing smoke alarms, and updating disaster preparedness kits.
First Aid by American RedCross
If you’re far from a hospital and need help in an emergency, the First Aid app is your solution. It provides clear instructions and learning opportunities for acting on common health emergencies like stopping bleeding, treating a broken bone, performing CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, treating heat stroke, etc.
The app also offers learning modules on how to prepare for things like an earthquake, drought, flooding, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, and more. The Emergency section of the app has detailed information and checklists on what to do before, during, and after everything from an allergy issue or head injury to a heart attack, diabetic emergency, and hypothermia. The app even offers the phone numbers of local hospitals in case you need further assistance.
Offline Survival Manual
While it is a more niche app, Offline Survival Manual is an extremely helpful guide to survival in less populated areas. It provides information on how to make shelter, what kinds of plants to avoid, how to make fire, how to prepare food, basic medicine, etc. This app could be useful if you find yourself in a situation where you have to fend for yourself for a little while. The best part is the app is entirely free and requires no cell service.
Preparing to rebuild after a disaster
The last step of preparing for a disaster is knowing who to reach out to in the event of damage to your home. Knowing the restoration businesses in your area that can provide an immediate response to restore your home will provide peace of mind and allow you to act faster after a disaster when demand for these services is high. Once you identify a contractor, include their contact information in your emergency response plan document.
For San Diego homeowners, business owners, and property managers, Certified Restoration has you covered. Our experienced and professional technicians can respond quickly to restore homes affected by mold,water damage, flooding, or fire so you or your residents can quickly return to life as usual.
Natural disasters are an unavoidable part of living on this planet earth. While we can’t totally avoid disasters, taking time to prepare for them can pay off greatly in the long run. By following the steps mentioned above, you can save yourself time, money, and a headache if and when disaster strikes.