Year after year, Americans from Tornado Alley to the Gulf Coast to the metropolises of the Eastern Seaboard witness storms that cause millions in damage and loss of life. However, no matter where you live, or what type of extreme weather you may face, there are things you can do to protect your home and family from the worst.
“When it comes to resilient design planning, the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to break the bank. A few quick and easy adjustments can keep you safe,” says Greg Beste, member of the American Institute of Architects Disaster Assistance Committee and Project Management Director, IVI Assessment Services, a CBRE Company.
Beste offers some storm season advice:
• Document your home — before disaster strikes. Grab your smartphone and take photos of your home now, inside and out, covering the foundation and all interior and exterior spaces. At best, you’ll have a nice keepsake; at worst, a visual documentation that can be used for an insurance claim in case of disaster. You can also share the images with your insurance company right away, to add to their files for future reference.
• Be an expert on your house. How old is your home? What type of framing does it have? When was the roof last repaired or replaced? These are questions you should know the answers to, as they will dictate what design changes should be made.
• Make fixes easy, inexpensive and relevant. For example, are high winds a major worry where you live? Add an extra layer of protection by swapping out the shingles on your roof for a heavier material, or secure the roof sheathing with a more wind-resistant nailing pattern, using an extra box or two of nails. Know where your home is weakest; those spots are the first places to shore up in defense.
• Communicate your building goals. If you’re working with an architect to build or retrofit your home, make sure that he or she understands the importance of resiliency. Even more importantly, your contractor should feel comfortable executing these goals. Communication at every step is the key.
• Safe rooms are not a cause for panic. A safe room doesn’t have to be high-tech. With the right design and construction, your mud room, laundry area or even a powder room can be a safe haven in case of disaster.
• Design beyond code. Building codes are the minimum standard and in many cases, have not been updated to reflect the current reality. If you live in a particularly vulnerable area, an architect can advise on additional measures to take — for instance, in coastal areas, building a foot higher than the minimum flood zone would indicate is recommended. Resources like www.architectfinder.aia.org can help you connect with the information and individuals you need.
Don’t just wonder if you’ve done enough to prepare for storm season. Take action to keep your home and family safe.