Hopefully, you've made plans in case of emergency and prepared your family by discussing your arrangements and creating an emergency kit. However, surviving the crisis is only part of the battle. The recovery takes a lot longer and requires even more early planning. You can prevent a lot of damage to your home by designing it or updating it to handle whatever comes.
Check and Reinforce your home.
If your area is subject to hurricanes, you need to be careful about choosing the right windows, doors, and roof. Have a professional check out your roof and determine how well-braced it is. They can provide suggestions on the best way to reinforce or add bracing to protect your roof from strong winds. If your windows or doors break and open during the storm, the interior damage to your home will be much more significant. Review your doors and windows to determine if storm shutters and reinforcing bolts are necessary improvements. Don't forget about the garage door. If you're at risk, your local government probably requires wind-resistant garage doors so check your building codes and make sure your door comes appropriately equipped. If it's not, get a retrofit kit to stabilize the door.
Live in tornado alley or an area with high thunder and hailstorms? Plan a yard that will be safe in case of disaster. Keep trees away from your home to prevent them from falling in and causing damage and consider wood chips or mulch instead of gravel which can act like additional hail in high winds. Review your roof and determine its impact resistance to see if you can make any improvements. If improvements are not an option, then be aware of how much damage you might suffer so you can plan for the financial ramifications. High storm areas are subject to flooding, but you might be in a flood-risk area just due to your altitude or if there is nearby water. If you live in a flood-risk area, ensure that your furnace, water heater and electrical panels are off the floor or foundation. Use waterproofing compounds to seal basement and ground floor walls and install "check-valves" in your sewage lines to prevent backup into your drains.
If you're likely to experience an earthquake, you need to check the stability of the entire home. Have a professional check the whole property from roof to walls to the foundation and any brickwork to determine if you need any fortification. If its an older home, especially pre-1935, ensure the house itself is bolted to the foundation. Once you've stabilized the house, you need to do the same thing with your belongings. Use wall and floor fasteners to secure heavy furniture that could be dangerous if it slides around or tipped over. Also, secure large appliances and look into breakaway cords to allow smaller devices to disconnect from the wall instead of pulling on your utility lines. Make sure you have an extra secure space for your family to retreat to in case of danger.
Everyone is in danger of fire, no matter what your location or weather. Protect yourself by installing smoke alarms on every floor, specifically near all sleeping areas and near any appliance with an open flame. Regularly check the batteries on your alarms, ensure they work all the time and replacing batteries if necessary. Make sure all sleeping areas have an available exit to the outdoors, especially upstairs bedrooms. Any window that opens can have an escape ladder nearby or installed to allow for quick and safe exits.
Check Your Insurance and Save Just in Case
All homeowners' insurance is different. Triple check that your policy covers all the disasters you possible in your area. Most policies cover tornadoes and fire, but hurricanes, hail, storms, and flooding are often not covered at all. Check with your insurance carrier about your options to increase your protection. Even the best insurance has a deductible, but it usually requires additional funds to recover your property after a disaster. It is not too early to establish funds in case of a rainy day (or a flaming day, shaking a day or windy day) by putting aside money regularly. You've put so much into the home, that you don't want to lose it. Research the likely damage and replacement costs given your location, risks, and home construction. Once you have the appropriate information, you can start estimating possible expenses and set a reasonable goal amount for your fund.
Always find out your risks before purchasing or building a home when possible. Ask your real estate agent for help finding a home prepared in case the worst happens.