Above and Beyond Home Insurance:
An Online Disaster Preparedness Guide


Natural disasters are threats that homeowners can neither prevent nor, in many cases, predict. Two such threats that can potentially damage or destroy a home are tornadoes and earthquakes. Tornadoes are funnel-shaped wind storms that come with little warning, often on the heels of a thunderstorm. Average tornadoes have rotational wind speeds of less 200 kilometers per hour and cease to be a threat after traveling just a few kilometers. The most powerful tornadoes, however, can achieve wind speeds of nearly 500 kilometers per hour and carve a path of destruction three kilometers wide and as far as a hundred kilometers long. They tend to occur most often in the Midwestern area known as "tornado alley," but they can happen anywhere in the country.

Earthquakes are defined as the sudden movement of the Earth's crust, and the shaking of the ground that comes along with it. Unlike tornadoes, they come with no warning, and while they last less than a minute, earthquakes of greater magnitude inflict much worse damage than tornadoes, as they can level large sections of cities, especially thrust fault earthquakes. Neither of these disasters is preventable. They can occur everywhere, although some places are statistically less prone to earthquakes and tornadoes than others. The only significant action that one can take is to prepare their homes for damage mitigation in the event of such a natural disaster.

To prepare for an earthquake, a resident must safeguard their home from the dangers associated with shaking and potential structural collapse, and protect their own bodies from these threats as well. Older homes lack the proper construction for mitigating earthquake damage, which means that residents may need to pay for expensive retrofitting to protect their homes, such as anchoring the home to the foundation.

Other less expensive but highly effective defenses against earthquakes involve installing gas shut-off valves, reinforcing chimneys, and securing cabinets, bookcases, televisions, and tall appliances such as water heaters and refrigerators, with the proper type of braces and fasteners that will keep them from falling over.

SResidents should also consider creating a survival kit in the event of an earthquake. It should include a gallon of bottled water, a flashlight and radio with fresh batteries, sanitation and personal hygiene items, homeowners' paperwork, such as a copy of the deed to the home, and insurance documents. Cell phones, chargers, extra cash, a week's supply of medications, emergency blankets, and a first aid kit are some of the other things that should be a part of a disaster preparedness kit. In the event an earthquake strikes, it is safer to stay indoors than to run outside. Rather than standing in a door frame, it is advisable to get under a sturdy desk or table, and wait until the shaking is over. Residents should also make sure to turn off the stove, whether it's gas or electric. After an earthquake it will be necessary to turn off the gas to the house at the meter if possible, to prevent fires or explosions. People should check others for injuries, unplug appliances, and leave homes that appear to have suffered damage.

Unlike earthquakes, tornadoes come with some warning, although sometimes very little. As with earthquakes, it is possible to prepare well in advance for a tornado. Trees should be trimmed so that tornado-force winds do not turn tree limbs into deadly projectiles. Loose tools and other items should be removed from around the house so that they cannot be hurled into flight, either. Shutters should be installed over windows, and garage doors may require reinforcement, in order to protect them from tornado damage. Residents should designate the deepest room within a home as a tornado safe room. This room should be the one with the most walls between itself and the outside of the home. A tornado preparedness kit should also be made available, which will be similar to one for earthquakes. If possible, reinforce the walls and ceiling of a room within the home to be a safe room. If the home has a basement, designate it as the safe room and ensure it is quickly reachable and stocked with non-perishable food, drinking water, and medical supplies. This should also be where the survival kit is located. A working radio is also essential for receiving warnings about approaching tornadoes. There are some tornado warning signs that one can be on the lookout for during storms. These warning signs include large hailstones, heavy and dark cloud cover, and winds that roar like a freight train. As with earthquakes, when a tornado strikes, residents should get under a heavy workbench, table or other sturdy pieces of furniture, and stay there until the tornado has passed. It is recommended that individuals stay away from rooms with windows. After a tornado has passed, one should look for people who are injured or trapped, or provide assistance for those with special needs, such as elderly or disabled people, infants and children. Other important post-tornado survival tips include avoiding damaged buildings and watching out for gas leaks and downed power lines.

Earthquake Preparedness

Tornado Preparedness

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