Tips to be ready if a disaster happens
Being Prepared for Emergencies is No Accident
Do you have a plan and checklist in place for your household should an emergency strike? You should.
Texas is a fabulous place to live, a hot spot for fun and entertainment. Unfortunately, Texas is also prone to experiencing more natural disasters than other locations. Ranking #2 in the United States, Texas has experienced 255 federally declared disasters since 1953 – the most common being hurricanes, extreme heat, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods.
While emergencies are difficult under any circumstance, lack of preparation can make the ultimate difference between a difficult situation and a devastating one.
Planning and Practicing for Emergencies
Many corporations have evacuation plans– binders of information gathered, and specific roles and responsibilities delegated to individual staff members. It is just as wise to consider the same for your home.
There are particular emergency necessities to collect ahead of time for a quick grab such as flashlights, chargers, weather radio, first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, toiletries, and nonperishable snacks. Government documents and other essential records should all be in one place as well, like an accordion folder.
But our lives are complicated and versatile. What else do you need to grab? Who will be in charge of finding the dog? The laptop with all your work? The medications your family needs to get through the day without suffering? Be sure to think through the miscellaneous items your family cares about most and delegate who is going to be responsible.
Not every emergency requires an evacuation. Set a meeting place for both inside and outside the home, depending on the situation faced.
Corporations practice their emergency plans. Adopt this for your family as well, hold a family meeting explaining different scenarios, walk through what you would do, and teach children how to use 911.
Emergency Preparedness: A Checklist for Organizing the Process
Here’s a checklist to assist as you construct a detailed emergency plan:
- Download emergency websites or apps and save to your phone: Texas Division of Emergency Management, The Red Cross, and FEMA.
- Make a family plan, including evacuations, meeting places, roles and responsibilities, document gathering, and medical or special needs.
- Put together an emergency kit with items your family may need including:
- First aid
- Hand sanitizer
- Can opener
- Weather radio
- Photocopies of driver’s license/identification
- Plastic utensils/plates
- Pet supplies
- Make sure all critical documents are in one place and assign someone to grab the folder in case of an emergency.
- Conduct an inventory of your home and possessions with the estimated values.
- Review homeowner’s insurance policies with your agent and to ensure you have appropriate for your household’s risks (double check on flooding, many standard homeowner policies do not include flood coverage).
- Inquire what information will be needed to file claims and prepare ahead of time.
- Assess your home and make changes that are appropriate for your risk level. Examples include:
- A way to raise electrical appliances in advance of a flood
- Check the roof for any loose pieces and condition
- Install wind and impact-resistant windows and doors
- Remove dead trees or broken limbs near your home if large enough to cause damage
- Locate the shut-off valves for all utilities and get familiar with utility protocols for common types of emergencies in our area.
Emergency Preparedness: Tips by Type of Emergency
Here are helpful tips for the most common types of Texas emergencies:
- Stay away from floodwater that reaches your ankles or higher
- Stay informed with news and weather alerts
- Leave for higher ground during severe flash flood warnings
- Only reenter your home when officials say it is okay
- Pay attention to your surroundings when you reenter your home: Has anything obstructed a safe path? Do you hear a hissing noise or smell gas?
- Discard these items if they came into contact with floodwater:
- Mattresses & pillows
- Carpets & rugs
- Upholstered couches and chairs
- Medicines & medical supplies
- Stuffed animals
- Baby toys
- Stay updated on weather conditions
- Have your AC checked routinely: Filter, freon level, general condition
- Stay indoors as much as possible and keep your door closed
- store and drink a lot of water
- Have a plan of somewhere cool to go if your AC goes out
- Store items like trash cans, yard furniture, barbecue grills, and tools in a well-anchored outbuilding or garage before the storm.
- If you were unable to evacuate in time, stay indoors and away from windows. Brace your doors and keep blinds closed. Find an interior room or closet to take refuge.
- Do not drink tap water unless officials have said it is safe.
- Do not drive or walk through flooded areas.
- Keep any household chemicals on secure high shelves and ensure they have tight caps. Chemicals that mix into floodwaters cause dangerous conditions.
- Put as much density between you and the high winds/debris as possible. Walls, concrete, and helmets can make a big difference to alleviate injury.
- If on the road, do NOT take shelter under an overpass. The overpass can trap wind and make the force of the funnel even more powerful.
- Do not try to outrun the tornado in your car. If driving seems like the best option, drive in a 90-degree angle away from the tornado’s path.
- While basements are best, they are not common in Texas, so move to the lowest possible floor. Move away from windows, and be sure to keep them closed, as high winds and debris can enter through open windows and doors.
- Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools, and anchor other items as much as possible.
- Bring a radio with you to your place of shelter, so you know when the danger has passed
- Evacuate as soon as officials say you need to. Upon return, scan your property for smoke, sparks, or embers.
- Throw away medications, food, or beverages exposed to heat or smoke as they are no longer safe to consume due to the potential of toxins.
- Wear thick-soled shoes and a mask when examining your home. Take pictures for insurance purposes.
- When updating or remodeling your home, be sure to choose fire-resistant materials. Avoid flammable materials such as wood or shake shingles if possible.
- Create defensible landscaping. Make sure the vegetation and items around your home have been treated, cleared, or reduced.
- Embers can be dangerous if they pass through vents. Make sure all vents are 10 feet from property lines, made of metal, and have corrosive-resistant metal mesh screens.
Since natural disasters are not an everyday event, it’s easy to put off preparing for them. However, a little planning and preparation can bring peace of mind. And, significantly improve the chances for better outcomes for the safety of your family and possessions.
Emergency Preparedness: Resources for Homeowners
Resource for emergency aid for your family, and a great, free emergency app to download on your phone.
A complete, thorough list for building emergency kits.
Texas Division of Emergency Management
Manages all local hazards and emergencies and helping with preparation and community recovery.
Grant information, training materials, and booklets that thoroughly cover every type of disaster.
About the Judi Wright Team
Judi Wright/The Judi Wright Team is a real estate group specializing in the suburbs of Frisco, Plano, and surrounding areas. Named the “Best Realtor in Dallas,” by D Magazine fourteen times and a Five Star Realtor with Texas Monthly eight times. Judi is also a Company-Wide Top Performer with Ebby Halliday, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate.