Prepare Your Home for Emergencies

Preparing and strengthening your home can not only protect your property during disasters — it can also add value to your home.

Table of Contents


Preparing and strengthening your home can not only protect your property during disasters — it can also add value to your home. In addition to the basic emergency preparedness steps of being informed, creating a family emergency plan, and assembling an emergency kit, you can take steps to prepare your home.

Before an Emergency or Storm

  • Prepare for possible power outages.
    • Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries.
    • Consider purchasing a generator to provide back-up power. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and know how to use it safely before an outage. See more Generator Safety Tips. 
  • If you live in a coastal community, review the Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards to protect your property from nor’easters, coastal storms, and hurricanes.
  • Know where your electricity, gas, and water switches and valves are located and how to shut them off.
  • Fasten bookcases, hutches, and freestanding shelving to walls and place large, heavy, or fragile objects on lower shelves to avoid damage during an earthquake.

Flooding Hazards

  • Find out whether your property is in a flood-prone or high-risk area by reviewing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps.  
  • Elevate your furnace, water heater, and electric panel to higher floors if they may be at risk during a flood.
  • Know Your Zone: Learn if you live in a pre-designated hurricane evacuation zone.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters to allow water to flow away from your home. Rain and melting snow can back up and cause flooding if gutters are clogged with debris.
  • Elevate items stored in the basement to minimize damage from basement flooding.
  • If you have a basement or lower level of your property prone to flooding, buy and install sump pumps with back-up power. If you already have a sump pump, check regularly to make sure it is functioning properly.
  • Consider installing check valves in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains in your home.

Wind Hazards

  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches around your home.
  • If you don’t have storm shutters, make temporary plywood covers for windows and glass doors and store them in a readily accessible place.

Winter Weather & Extreme Cold

  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide insulation.

Extreme Heat

  • Install air conditioners snugly, insulating if necessary.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.

As a Storm Approaches

  • Prepare for power outages by charging cell phones and electronics and setting your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. If you use electricity to get well water, fill your bathtub with water to use for flushing toilets.
  • Secure or bring in outdoor objects (patio furniture, children's toys, trash cans, etc.) that could be swept away or damaged during strong winds or flooding.
  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment.

Prepare for Flooding Hazards

Ensure that items stored in your basement are elevated to prevent damage. If you have a sump pump, check that it is working.

Prepare for Wind Hazards

If damaging winds are expected during a tropical storm, hurricane, or coastal storm, cover all of your home’s windows with either storm shutters or temporary plywood covers.

  • Do not tape windows - it wastes preparation time, does not stop windows from breaking, and does not make cleanup easier. In fact, taping windows may create larger shards of glass that can cause serious injuries.

Prepare for Winter Weather & Extreme Cold

Check that you have enough heating fuel and consider safe backup heating options like fireplaces or wood stoves in case you lose electricity.

Protect Your Property with Insurance

Property insurance can provide you with coverage in case you have losses from an emergency or disaster.

  • Review your insurance policies to see if you have adequate coverage. If you’re not sure you have enough coverage, talk to your agent or company.
  • Flood losses are not typically covered under renter and homeowner’s insurance, so consider purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP). Flood insurance is available whether or not your building is in an identified flood-prone area, and can be purchased through insurance agents in most communities. There is a 30-day waiting period before it takes effect.
  • Back up your inventory by videotaping or photographing each room in your house and storing this visual record outside your home.
  • Keep insurance policies, your household inventory and other important papers together in a safe and secure place. Consider sending copies of these documents to a trusted friend or family member living outside your area.
  • Household Inventory Insurance Checklist

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