Various climate modelling results point to the possibility of severe and extreme weather events becoming more likely as time goes by. We are already seeing the misery and chaos of millions around the globe who are being affected by unexpected droughts, storms, flooding, heatwaves and cold snaps. So how can you prepare your home and protect your family against such events?
The first thing to do is to look at Department of Ecology reports and long-term meteorological forecasts for your area. You can’t prepare for anything and everything and so you should try to figure out what is the biggest threat and try to make preparations against it.
If you don’t already have one, prepare a home emergency kit. This should include a few days’ water supply, canned food, a first-aid kit, any medication, flashlights, batteries and cash among other things. You may want to consider keeping a foam fire extinguisher which can easily be reached and shotgun in a secure place. Severe weather events can lead to looting and civil disobedience so you must take steps to defend your family and property. Make sure your family has agreed on escape routes and an action plan – everyone should know the location of first aid kits, extinguishers and utility switches.
So what are the most prevalent threats being predicted? Firstly, let’s look at how to protect against high winds. In the United States alone, they are responsible every year for 80 deaths, 1,500 injuries and over a billion dollars of damage to property. A lot of this is due to falling trees, so you can start by cutting the trees around your property down to a safe size. Before a storm, brace your garage doors, board up your windows and fit them with storm shutters, and deadbolt your doors. Ensure that your roof is secure and sealed with regular maintenance. During high winds, shelter and sleep in a room on a low floor with plenty of walls between you and the outdoors.
If the climatic conditions are favorable to wildfires, clear your yard of wood and debris and start reducing the flammability of your home – especially the roof. Tiles and steel are the way to go. Shutter your windows and consider fitting automatic sprinklers.
If the main threat comes from flooding, there are flood-resistant UPVC doors on the market now which offer excellent protection. In the US, you can check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to find out how high floodwaters could rise at your home. This will give you an idea of how high to raise outdoor equipment, plus indoor switches, sockets and wiring. Fit backflow valves to all piping coming into the house so that you don’t get flooded with sewage from flooded sewers. Make sure you regularly clean gutters and drains. If you are under a flood warning, elevate furniture onto concrete blocks, shut off the electricity and start building flood defences with sandbags.
An especially dangerous type of storm is the blizzard. Extreme cold can damage outdoor faucets, so be sure to switch these off. To stop your pipes from freezing, expose them to the warm air of your house through opening sink and bathroom cabinets and increasing the internal temperature. Take the same steps as mentioned for preparing for high winds, clean your gutters and lay down salt outside. As soon as there is a lull in the storm, clear as much snow away as possible before more falls. A snow blower can come in really handy when you want to survive a blizzard.
In a heat wave, you and your family members will each need to drink up to a gallon of water per day, so add this to your emergency kit. The very old and very young need to take special care to avoid heat. If your air conditioning fails, shelter in the coolest part of the house (often the basement) and use fans and wet cloths to keep cool. Without compromising your home’s ventilation, cover windows and skylights with reflectors which will reflect the sun’s rays. Take cold showers and avoid exertion.
We can’t pretend to be able to protect ourselves completely from Mother Nature. In some cases, there are no protective or preventative measures that can resist her. All we can do is asses the risk and prepare accordingly. Do this, and you won’t regret it.