Preparing for Natural Disaster
Click on the topics below for more information.
As you're headed out the door this winter remember preparing for cold weather can help make a difference.
Winter Storm Watch
When severe winter weather threatens your area, a Winter Storm Watch is generally given. If you plan to be outdoors for a long time period or plan to travel, be sure to keep an eye out for changing weather conditions.
Winter Storm Warning
When severe winter weather threatens your area, a Winter Storm Warning is generally given. If you plan to be outdoors for a long time period or plan to travel, be sure to keep an eye out for changing weather conditions.
A blizzard warning means large amounts of falling or blowing snow with winds of at least 35 miles per hour are expected for several hours. Travel is not recommended during a Blizzard Warning, you should remain indoors.
Wind can pose a hazard to you and your skin during winter season. Wind Chill Equivalent Index is a calculation of how cold it feels outside when temperature and wind speed are combined. When winds combine with freezing temperatures, the result can be air temperatures that feel about 35 degrees colder.
Preparation and Damage Prevention Tips
- Insulate walls and attic.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to reduce wind drafts.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic film from the inside.
- Detach all gardening hoses and shut-off water supply to outside faucets.
- Install faucet covers to all external faucets.
- Tag the location of your main water valve and make sure you can easily turn it on and off.
- If you have a thermostat that uses a battery, be sure to replace it regularly.
- Follow precautionary steps to safeguard against your water pipes freezing.
- Follow home winter safety tips to protect yourself and others on your property.
- Keep garage doors closed to help eliminate drafts in the attached house.
- During power failures, disconnect your electrical appliances to avoid damage from power surges, which can occur once the power is restored.
- Remove snow build-up and ice dams on your roof to avoid ice and snow damage to the roof or interior of the home. Refer to the ice dam prevention tips for more information.
Earthquakes often strike without warning. They sometimes start as a small shake but more often leave behind mass devastation and much heartache. Usually, earthquakes in the U.S. occur along the west coast. However, earthquake potential exists in all states, including the southeast. Although nothing can stop an earthquake, careful preparation and planning can make a difference when it comes to protecting your home, family, or business from the effects of an earthquake.
- Develop and practice an earthquake safety action plan for your family or business that identifies safe places that can provide the highest amount of protection during an earthquake as well as an escape route and off-premises meeting place.
- Become familiar with your community's disaster preparedness plan – identify locations of potential shelters (keep in mind pet-friendly locations) for all members of your family.
- Teach family members or have employees learn how to shut off water, gas, and electricity to your house or business.
- Purchase at least one multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher.
- Install smoke detectors and change the batteries every six months.
- You should always have your Emergency Catastrophe Kit available as if preparing for a five (5) day stay without food or power.
- Have a professional licensed architect, engineer, or building contractor retrofit your home or business structure to better withstand the forces of an earthquake.
- Have your professional licensed architect, engineer, or building contractor retrofit all nonstructural areas of your home or business to protect your personal or business property.
- Attach cabinets and bookcases to the wall using brackets.
- Secure heavy objects (i.e. televisions, stereos, computers, large armoires) with brackets or safety straps.
- Secure wall hangings such as picture frames, bulletin boards, and mirrors to walls using closed eye screws into wall studs.
- Secure ceiling lights to supports using safety cables.
- Apply safety film to windows and glass doors.
- Anchor large appliances (i.e. refrigerator, stove) to walls using safety cables or straps.
- Contact your utility company to install flexible gas lines and automatic gas shutoff valves.
- For smaller personal effects, use putty to tack down glassware, priceless heirlooms and figurines.
- Install safety latches on kitchen cabinet doors to prevent glassware or cooking utensils from falling.
- We’ve all heard the "stop, drop and take cover" slogan , so at the first sign of an earthquake, teach your family members or employees to drop and take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an inside wall away from objects that may fall.
- Sit or stay close to the floor and hold on to sturdy furniture or your office desk legs for balance and/or protection from falling objects.
- Teach family members or employees to use their arms to cover and protect their face and eyes from fallen debris.
- If there's no sturdy furniture nearby, kneel or sit close to the floor next to a structurally sound interior wall away from windows, shelves, or furniture that could fall and place your hands on the floor for balance.
- Stay away from doorways as violent motion could cause the doors to slam against your body, crush your fingers or inflict other serious injuries.
- Do not run outside.
- If outdoors, quickly move into the open, away from electrical lines, trees and buildings.
- If driving, bring your vehicle to a stop at the side of the road away from traffic.
- Do not stop on or under bridges, near or under power lines or road signs. Quickly and safely exit off bridges or double-decker highways.
- Be alert for aftershocks as they can at times become stronger than the initial quake.
- Look for injured victims and administer first aid. If you or any member of your family or business is severely injured, quickly seek professional help from Red Cross or local medical teams.
- Pay attention to damaged utilities. Avoid loose or dangling electric power lines and report all gas and electrical problems to the proper authorities.
- Turn off any damaged utilities.
- Check for fire hazards and use flashlights instead of candles or lanterns.
- Wear protective shoes at all times. Have them by your bed in case the earthquake happens in the middle of the night.
- If your building is sound, stay inside and listen for radio advisories.
Sources: American Red Cross, California Seismic Safety Commission, Utah Seismic Safety Commission, Oregon Seismic Safety Commission, California Contractors State License Board, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Institute for Business and Home Safety, U.S. Geological Survey
Flooding can cause widespread damage to entire neighborhoods or business districts. It may be localized or catastrophic. It may be part of a hurricane, brutal thunderstorm, sudden winter thaw or a number of other widespread disasters. Many floods arrive with advance warning so you can get prepared ahead of time. Weather forecasts will indicate that storms are on the way or that nearby rivers are rising because of a heavy run-off upstream. Depending on how much time you have, there are steps you can take to minimize damage.
- Use water-resistant building materials in areas below the base flood elevation.
- Leave rooms unfinished that are below base flood elevation.
- Install back-flow valves or standpipes on sewer lines to prevent backup.
- Raise, anchor, or shield all equipment that is in an area below base flood elevation.
- When possible, install and maintain a sump pump system.
- Use native plants and vegetation in your landscape to combat erosion.
- Become familiar with your community's disaster preparedness plan – identify locations of potential shelters (keep in mind pet-friendly locations) for all members of your family.
- You should always have your Emergency Catastrophe Kit available as if preparing for a five (5) day stay without food or power.
- Make copies of Insurance policies or important documents and keep off-site with a family member or within a safety deposit box.
- Using a battery-powered radio listen for emergency instructions.
- Turn off all electrical and natural gas at the main valves.
- Relocate papers, valuables and irreplaceable items to upper floors or higher elevations.
- Sanitize bathtubs, sinks and plastic bottles ahead of time using bleach and fill with clean water.
- Tie down or relocate all outdoor equipment.
- Respond immediately when instructed to evacuate.
- If the water starts to rise inside your home before you can leave, retreat to the roof. Take dry clothing, flashlight, and battery-powered radio. DON'T try to swim to safety, wait for help to arrive.
- Don't drive or walk through floodwaters. Find an alternate route if you come upon a flooded road. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood.
- When walking, remember that as little as six inches of moving water can knock you down.
- Watch for downed power lines, since electrocution is a major cause of death during a flood.
- Be aware that snakes, rodents and other wild animals may seek shelter in your house during a flood.
- Contact your Agent directly or our Claims Department at 866-274-5677.
- While you’re waiting to hear from the claim representative, you can begin the difficult process of cleaning up. But, proceed cautiously. There can be more damage than meets the eye, and moving too quickly may make the situation worse.
- If your property suffered damage from wind, hail, fire, etc. which may be covered by your AmCap Insurance® policy, report the damage at the same time that you report your flood loss.
- The National Flood Insurance Program requires that all payments include your mortgage company as a payee, so verify the name of your current mortgage company with your claim representative.
- Turn off the electricity and gas if it can be done safely and without walking through water.
- Watch for snakes, nails, and dangerous debris. Do not walk through flowing water, and be aware that steps and floors may be slippery.
- Cover holes in the roof, walls, or windows with boards, tarp, or plastic sheeting to prevent additional damage.
- Walk around the outside of a flooded building and check for gas leaks, loose power lines and structural damage before entering. Open all doors slowly, as sticking may indicate that the ceiling may be saturated and ready to fall. Stand clear and force the door open, wait for a few minutes to determine if it's safe to enter the room.
- To release water from the ceiling, use a nail on the end of a stick to poke a small hole at the edge of the sag to release the water. Don't poke at the center of the sag since the ceiling could collapse. Repeat this process working toward the center of the sag until all of the water drains.
- Test for water trapped in walls by removing the baseboard and poking small holes in the wallboard about two inches above the floor. If water drains, cut or drill holes large enough for it to flow freely. With the power turned off, unplug appliances and lamps. Remove light bulbs, wet switches and outlet plates.
- Drain the basement slowly, using a pump or by hand bailing. If there is still floodwater outside the building, the pressure from the water inside may be preventing the walls from collapsing. Remove two to three feet of water at a time and mark the new water level. If the water does not rise above the mark by the next day, it should be safe to repeat this process until all the water is drained.
- Take digital photos for your records and to assist on validating your personal property.
- Remove as much debris and mud as possible.
- Open (do not force) windows, doors, cabinets, and drawers to help with the drying process.
- Do not use gas lanterns or open flames, and do not smoke, since there may be explosive gas in the air.
- Wash and disinfect the entire flooded area including air ducts, outlets, wall switches, light sockets, furniture, and other contents.
- Make an inventory list of all damaged contents. Keep in mind that not all contents are destroyed by water but may be able to be cleaned and disinfected. To download a Contents Inventory Form to begin this process, please click here.
- Remove floor coverings from flooded areas. Keep samples of any carpet/upholstery for your claim adjuster.
- Do not drink the water until it is declared safe. Boil water for drinking and food preparation vigorously for five minutes.
Every winter, the pipes in your home are at risk of damage from freezing conditions. Low temperatures can cause your water pipes to freeze, and in some cases burst. The following tips can help you safeguard your home before, during, and after a pipe freezes.
Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing
- Disconnect all garden hoses and install covers on all outside faucets.
- Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even if you are leaving the house for an extended period of time.
- Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate.
- Identify the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater. (Learning the location of these valves may come in handy during an emergency.)
- Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. This can prevent freezing, especially for interior pipes that run along outside walls.
- Close all windows near water pipes; cover or close open-air vents. Freezing temperatures combined with wind drafts can cause pipes to freeze.
- Heat your basement and consider weather sealing your windows.
- Insulate outside walls and unheated areas of your home.
- If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, shut off water supply valves to your washing machine.
- Allow a faucet to drip slightly (lukewarm water) in order to minimize freezing. The first sign of freezing is reduced water flow from a faucet.
- Check your faucets for water flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up.
- Check pipes around your water meter, in unheated areas, near exterior walls and in crawl spaces. These tend to be vulnerable to freezing conditions.
- Identify cold air drafts coming in from a flue or chimney chase and caulk gaps that are near pipes.
If A Pipe Freezes
- If a faucet or pipe inside your house freezes, you can thaw it using a good hair dryer. (For safety purposes, avoid operating a hair dryer around standing water.)
- To thaw a frozen pipe, heat water on the stove, soak towels in the hot water and wrap them around cold sections of the pipes.
- When thawing a pipe, start thawing it nearest to the faucet. Make sure the faucet is turned on so that melted water can drip out.
If A Pipe Bursts
- Shut off water at the main valve. If the break is in a hot water pipe, the valve on top of the water heater should be closed.
- Call a plumber. Keep an emergency number nearby for quick access.
Hailstorms are occurring frequently across the U.S. Most hailstorms take place during the spring or fall months, when the weather is most volatile. Recently, the National Weather Service found a trend of year-round hailstorms. Occasionally hailstones can reach about 1.5 inches in diameter. When this occurs, they can cause significant property damage to pool enclosures, windows, and sliding doors. When hailstones reach three inches in diameter, they can cause major roof and structural damage to your home or business.
- Consider replacing your roof covering with roof material that received a UL impact resistant classification (UL2218) of Class 4, which meets local building code standards and requires minimal upkeep and maintenance.
- Listen for weather updates about hail activity.
- Seek shelter immediately if you are caught outdoors – preferably not under a tree.
- Stay indoors until the storm subsides.
- Close drapes, blinds or window shades for protection from the possibility of breaking glass.
- Assess the damage to your property. Document original damage with photographs. Click here to download your Content Inventory Form.
- Check trees, shrubs, and plants around your house.
- If possible, use binoculars to access your roof for damage. Do not attempt to climb on your roof as it may be dangerous.
- Check patio covers, pool enclosures, window screens, and soft aluminum roofs for damage.
- Cover any broken windows and holes in your roof.
AmCap Insurance® is here to help when Mother Nature is at her worst. We have outlined several tips and tools to use in preparing for and in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Many experts predict an above average hurricane season with several storms expected to reach Category 3 or higher. Now is the time to review your coverage and get ready.
Review your insurance policy to make sure you are adequately protected. Discussing the questions below with your Agent will help you have a better understanding of the coverage you have in place.
- Is your coverage up to date?
- Do you have enough coverage to cover the replacement cost of your building?
- Do you have coverage for floods?
- Do you have any outdoor property that needs to be added to the policy?
Is Your Coverage Up To Date?
Make sure your insurance coverage reflects the current state of your home. If you have made changes that increase the value of your property, you should talk with your Agent and determine if you should increase your coverage amount. Also, if your home has experienced recent damage, you should talk with your Agent about your options.
Do you have enough coverage to cover the replacement cost of your building?
There is a substantial difference between replacement cost and construction costs. Replacement costs tend to be higher as there are extra costs due to site accessibility, costs associated with demolition or debris removal, and higher labor costs and premium prices for materials. Talk to your Agent and they will be able to help you determine where the replacement cost should be for your property.
Do You Have Coverage For Floods?
Basic commercial policies do NOT cover flood damage. In recent years almost 25% of flood insurance claims came from areas not considered high risk for floods. So even if you don’t live in a special flood zone, you may want to consider purchasing flood coverage. Contact your Agent for more information on purchasing this coverage.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source for Flood Insurance in the United States. You can go to www.floodsmart.gov or contact your Agent for more information. Please keep in mind that there is a thirty (30) day waiting period before coverage takes effect. So the best time to purchase it is now.
Do you have any outdoor property that needs to be added to the policy?
Outdoor property such as pools, fences, mailboxes, and entry gates are out in the elements every day. If you have these types of properties on your premises it is highly recommended that you ensure there is coverage in place. Contact your agent to add these items to your commercial property insurance policy.
Things You Can Do Well In Advance Of A Storm
- Ensure you have hurricane shutters or 3/4" outdoor plywood boards for each window of your home.
- Install anchors and pre-drill holes for the plywood so you can put it up quickly in the event of a storm.
- Install head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
- Install hurricane roof straps or clips. These are designed to help hold your roof to the walls of your home.
- Access your property to ensure landscape and trees do not become wind hazards. Remove any diseased or damaged limbs from trees. This will help keep them from blowing around during a storm.
- Pre-select a garage or carport to park your car in or an area of higher ground to move your car to in case of flooding.
Things You Can Do Right Before A Storm
- Secure all buildings by closing and boarding up windows. Remove outside antennas.
- Bring all lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that could be picked up by the wind inside. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
- Fill your vehicle's gas tank.
- Get emergency cash.
- Turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting.
Conduct A Home Inventory
Conducting a home inventory prior to a storm is one of the best ways to recover from the aftermath. It allows you to keep a record of what you own which will simplify the process of sorting through damaged items should you need to file a claim.
Move from room to room recording the value of each of your possessions. It is also helpful to keep track of model numbers and stores where you purchased each item. Here are a few methods you can use.
- Notepad and Camera - Digital works best, but disposable cameras will do the job. As you take photographs, write down the details of each item.
- Video Camera - this is an easy method because you can narrate the details of each item while videotaping.
- Personal Computer - personal finance software packages often include a home inventory program.
Do this today, and if you do have to face a storm this year, you will feel better prepared. Click here to download your Contents Inventory Form and begin the process.
Tips On Conducting Your Home Inventory
- Make sure you record the contents of closets, drawers, and cabinets. The value of little things can add up quickly.
- Store all lists, photographs, and videotapes in a safe place off the premises. It is a good idea to keep back-ups as well.
- Update your home inventory regularly. Each time you make a significant purchase, be sure to add the information to your home inventory while it is still fresh in your mind.
- Keep all receipts, especially for big items such as jewelry, furs, and collectibles. Also keep in mind that valuable items may need separate insurance coverage.
Emergency Supply Kit
When a hurricane strikes there is always the possibility of being without electricity or clean water for several days. You should plan accordingly. Below you will find items we suggest having on-hand, as part of your emergency supply kit.
- Five (5) day supply of water and ready-to-eat, nonperishable food items for every family member and pet. Along with a manual can opener for canned foods.
- Essential medicines, including eyeglasses and contact lenses.
- First aid kit and manual. Include bandages, antiseptic, tape, a compress, non-aspirin pain reliever, and anti-diarrhea medication.
- Battery powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries.
- Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
- Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
- Two coolers – one for food, the other for ice.
- Change of clothing, including extra shoes and rain gear.
- Paper towels, pre-moistened towelettes, and eating utensils.
- Blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags (one for each family member).
- Mosquito repellant and citronella candles.
- Plastic tarp for roof/window repairs and tools (hammer, nails, etc.).
- Plastic trash bags.
- Quiet games, books, playing cards.
During hurricane season you should have a plan in case you need to evacuate. This applies not only for you and your family members, but also for your business and employees. Make sure everyone is familiar with your plan and has copies of important telephone numbers and out-of-state family contacts.
Some Tips For Your Plan
- Learn the best evacuation routes and keep a road map in your car in case you are forced to take unfamiliar roads.
- Arrange for a ride well before the storm if you don't have your own transportation. You may be forced to evacuate.
- Have an emergency supply kit prepared for your car with extra keys, food, water, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and sleeping bags.
- Make a plan now for what to do with your pets. Many shelters and hotels will not accept them. If you are unable to take your pets when you evacuate, make sure you leave behind "Pet Inside" signs on your front and back doors with the number and kind of pets inside.
- Identify an out-of state contact so if your family members get separated, you'll know who to call. If time allows call or e-mail your out-of-state contact to let them know where you are going and when you expect to get there.
- Plan a meeting location at least 50 miles inland in case your family members get separated.
- Fill up your bathtub, sinks, and other large containers with fresh water. This will serve as an important reserve should you be without running water after a storm.
- Gather important papers to take with you:
- Driver’s License, Passports or Personal Identification Cards
- Social Security Card
- Proof of residence (deed, lease, or utility bills)
- Insurance Policies
- Birth and marriage certificate
- Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
- Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
Ice Dams on the Roof
Property owners often think a faulty roof is to blame for water leakage and damage around exterior walls and ceilings during winter months. But the real culprit could be ice dams. Ice dams are lumps of ice that form on gutters, eaves and valleys, and prevent melting snow from running down. As the snow melts, the water backs up and seeps under shingles or tiles and eventually into your home.
Minimize Ice Dam Formation On Your Roof
- Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and natural debris. Identify areas of heat loss in your attic and then properly insulate those areas.
- Wrap or insulate heating ductwork in order to reduce heat loss through the attic.
- Use a snow rake or soft broom to clear fresh snowfall from gutters.
- Avoid using any sharp tools or ice picks on gutters or downspouts.
To avoid getting hurt by falling icicles or avalanching snow, don't climb on your roof or work on a ladder beneath a roof that has large amounts of snow on it.
Like hailstorms, lightning storms are occurring more frequently across the U.S. While most hailstorms take place in the southeast, the National Weather Service has determined a trend of lightning storms across the U.S. Each year, thousands of homes and other properties are damaged or even destroyed by lightning. It's responsible for more deaths and property loss than tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods combined. Lightning is the only disaster that we can economically afford to protect ourselves against. If struck by lightning, a building will generally sustain more damage when there is no lightning protection system present.
Lightning is the visible discharge of static electricity within a cloud, between clouds or between the earth and a cloud. Scientists still do not fully understand what causes lightning, but most experts believe that different kinds of ice interact in a cloud. Updrafts in the cloud separate charges so that positive charges end up at the top of the cloud while negative charges flow to the bottom. When the negative charge moves down, a pilot leader forms. This leader rushes toward the earth in 150-foot discreet steps, ionizing a path in the air. The final strike down generally occurs to a high object and the major part of the lightning discharge current is then carried in the return stroke, which flows along the ionized path.
Lightning Protection Systems
A lightning protection system provides a means by which this discharge may enter or leave the earth without passing through and damaging non-conducting parts of a structure, such as those made of wood, brick, tile, or concrete. A lightning protection system does not prevent lightning from striking; it provides a means for controlling it and preventing damage by providing a low resistance path for the discharge of lightning energy.
- Install a lightning protection system that complies with current nationally recognized codes. Lightning protection systems consist of air terminals (lightning rods) and associated fittings connected by heavy cables to grounding equipment. This provides a path for lightning current to travel safely to the ground.
- Install surge arresters at your utility service and telephone equipment to prevent surges from entering your property or other structures on power or telephone lines. Surges are diverted to the ground, and both wiring and appliance are protected. Install transient voltage surge suppressors in receptacles to which computers and other electronic equipment are connected in order to limit the voltage to 1.5 times the normal voltage (maximum for solid state devices).
Dwelling Lightning Protection Systems
- Air terminals spaced 20 feet apart along ridges and within two feet or ridge ends
- Minimum of two groundings at least 10-feet deep
- Roof projections such as weather vanes connected to system
- Air terminals located within two feet of outside corners of chimney
- Dormers protected
- Antenna mast connected to roof conductor
- Connect gutters or other grounded metals as required
- Surge arrester installed at service panel to protect appliances
- Transient voltage surge suppressors installed in receptacles to which computers and other electronic equipment are connected
- If you are caught outdoors immediately get into a building or vehicle. Don't wait for the rain to begin.
- If you're unable to get inside, remove all metal including baseball caps; crouch down with feet together in pitcher-stance; duck your head and cover ears, becoming as small a target with as little contact with the ground as possible.
- Avoid picnic and canopy shelters. Avoid trees, water, high ground, and open fields. Avoid metal objects i.e. flag poles, light poles, bleachers, etc.
- If you are indoors stay away from windows and doors and out of water. Do not use the telephone.
- Unplug electronic equipment and appliances to protect them from the possibility of power surges.
- Wear protective shoes and watch for broken power lines, shattered glass, splintered wood, or other sharp objects.
- If it can be done safely, turn off damaged utilities.
- Take steps to prevent additional property damage from rain, wind, and looting.
- Keep your receipts for materials purchased to protect your property from further loss. These expenses may be reimbursable under your commerical propery insurance policy.
- Make an inventory list of all damaged contents. Click here to download our Contents Inventory Form.
Source: This information noted above was provided by Underwriter Laboratories Inc. (UL). In the lightning protection field, UL has been serving home and building owners since 1908. Today, UL has a large number of trained lightning protection field representatives located throughout the United States. UL inspects sites ranging from cow barns to missile silos, from golf course shelters to high-rise building systems. In fact, some of the most famous buildings in the world are protected by UL Master Labeled lightning protection systems, including the White House, the Sears Tower and the Washington Monument.
AmCap Insurance® is not endorsing Underwriter Laboratories (UL) but rather providing you with information to help you safeguard your family and home. Make informed decisions about the protection you need. For questions about your insurance coverage needs, call or visit your local Agent.
Although tornadoes can occur anywhere and at any time of the year, the peak season stretches for from March to August in the south, southwest and midwest U.S. These potentially deadly funnel clouds travel at an average speed of 35 MPH, but have been recorded at speeds of up to 70 MPH. Although tracking studies show that most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, a tornado's direction can be very erratic and may change suddenly. Adding to a tornado's deadliness are the wind speeds that range from 40 to 379 MPH. Using the Fujita Scale, meteorologists classify tornadoes by their wind speeds. Needless to say, when a tornado warning is issued it should be taken very seriously.
- Develop a tornado safety action plan for your family.
- Become familiar with emergency procedures for schools, offices, or where ever you spend most of your time.
- Know that a tornado watch indicates that conditions exist that may spawn tornadoes. Be alert.
- Know that a tornado warning indicates that funnel clouds have been spotted. Take shelter immediately.
- Familiarize yourself with the location of your local storm shelter.
- Determine the best place in your home for your family to gather if a tornado warning is issued.
- Educate your family regarding the type of shelter to look for if they are away from home when a tornado warning is issued.
- Prepare an emergency supplies kit including bottled water, a battery operated radio, and flashlights with extra batteries.
- Teach family members how to shut off water, gas, and electricity to the house.
- Make property improvements that will help to reinforce it to better withstand the forces of a tornado (e.g. roof clips, safe room, reinforce walls).
- Prepare an inventory of your personal property and if possible videotape your household contents for record purposes. Keep copies in a safety-deposit box or some other safe place away from home.
Review your commercial insurance policy with your Agent to assure that you have adequate coverage.
- Stay calm and keep your family safe.
- Avoid rooms with windows or patio doors, and do not open windows.
- Move lawn and patio furniture and yard equipment indoors to prevent them from becoming flying projectiles.
- Move your car into the garage or under the carport to minimize damage.
- If you live in a mobile home, even if it is tied down, leave and find more substantial shelter.
- Seek shelter in your basement. If you don't have a basement, take shelter in a bathroom or closet located nearest to the center of your home. It’s helpful to find shelter under something sturdy (e.g. workbench, pool table, and staircase).
- If you are caught outdoors when a tornado approaches, find the lowest point possible, lie face down in a ditch, ravine, or other low area and cover your head to protect it from flying debris.
- If you are driving when a tornado strikes, stop and get out of your car. Take cover in a substantial building. Do not attempt to out run a tornado. If no building is available, lie face down in a ditch, ravine or other low area upwind of your parked car.
- Keep tuned in to your local weather-alert radio station.
- Do not go into a damaged home or structure.
- Be alert for potential hazards.
- Watch for broken power lines, shattered glass, splintered wood, or other sharp objects.
- Take steps to prevent additional property damage from rain, wind, and looting.
- Keep your receipts for materials purchased to protect your property from further loss. These expenses may be reimbursable under your commercial insurance policy.
- If power is off for more than a few hours, food may spoil. Freezers, when left closed, may keep food frozen for several days. However, if foods begin to thaw, do not refreeze them.
- If your property sustained damage, report your loss by contacting your Agent directly, report your claim online or call an ASI Claims Professional directly; at 866-274-5677.
Source: Special thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service and the Florida Hurricane Emergency Council for their contributions and advice for this article.
Water Damage in the Winter
Each year, water-related damages cost property owners and renters billions of dollars. The most common damage results from plumbing problems (tubs, toilets, pipe breaks, and showers), rain water, washing machines, and frozen pipe breaks. By taking certain precautionary measures, and by following proper clean-up procedures, you may be able to lessen the severity of damage that may occur should a water-related problem present itself.
- When on vacation, shut off your water. This can help to reduce the chance of flooding from a washing machine hose or frozen pipe break.
- Let faucets continuously drip during extremely cold weather to prevent pipes from bursting.
- Clean downspouts and gutters regularly to prevent roof damage from overflowing water.
- At least once a year, inspect and replace worn fittings or loose hose connections on household appliances that use water.
- Keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging due to retained water.
- Avoid using electrical appliances that may have been damaged by fire, heat, or water.
- Do not use any electrical equipment/appliances while standing on wet carpet or floors.
- If electricity is still on, do not enter rooms where standing water is present.
- Call for professional help immediately. Prompt attention and proper clean up can help prevent further water damage, as well as bacteria or mold growth.
- In rooms where the ceiling is not sagging, but merely wet, remove fixtures so that wet wiring can dry.
- Mop or blot as much excess water as possible. Spread out damp books to dry, wipe wooden furniture dry and prop up wet furniture cushions for even drying.
- For additional assistance, ask an ASI Claims Professionals for a Water Restoration Vendor in your county.
Each year, thousands of acres of woodland and hundreds of homes are destroyed during a fire season which lasts from May to November and in some areas all year long. If you live in the foothills, grasslands, or mountains, you're at risk!
The growing population in new communities that were once woodland areas is making wildfires even worse. This rapid growth places even greater strain on local firefighting forces which can't place a fire engine at every home.
Designing And Landscaping Your Home
- Use fire-resistant or non-combustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with UL-approved fire-retardant chemicals.
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
Protecting Your Home
- Regularly clear roof and gutters of pine needles, leaves, or other debris.
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a non-flammable screen of 1/2 inch or smaller mesh (contact your local fire department for exact specifications).
- Use 1/2-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself. Also use this mesh for screen openings to floors, roof, and attic.
- Enclose the undersides of balconies and aboveground decks with fire resistive materials.
- Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries twice each year.
- Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher and show them where it's kept.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
- Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
- Keep household items handy that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, handsaw, or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
- Place stove, fireplace, and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, and then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
- Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
Creating A Defense Zone Around Your Home Or Business
To create a defensible zone, remove all dry grass, brush, and dead leaves at least 30 to 100 feet around your home. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
Here are some additional steps to help reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat:
- Regularly rake leaves, dead limbs, and twigs.
- Mow grass regularly.
- Clear all flammable vegetation and replace native plants with ornamental landscaping plants that are fire resistive.
- Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
- Thin a 15 foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs that are within 10 feet of the ground.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 10 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Clear a 10 foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use non-flammable material with mesh no coarser than 1/4 inch.
- Stack firewood at least 30 to 100 feet away and uphill from your home.
- Clear combustible material within 10 feet of your home.
- Use only safety inspected and approved wood burning devices.
Securing And Maintaining An Emergency Water Supply
Maintain an emergency water supply that meets fire department standards through one of the following:
- A community water/hydrant system.
- A cooperative emergency storage tank with neighbors.
- A minimum storage supply of 5,000 gallons on your property.
- Clearly mark all emergency water sources and maintain easy firefighter access to these water sources.
- If your water comes from a well, consider an emergency generator to operate the pump during a power failure.
Take Action When Wildfire Threatens
If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials. Remember, personal safety should always come first!
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
- Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
- Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
- Arrange temporary housing at a friend's or relative's home outside the threatened area.
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Be calm and safe.
- Know at least two exit routes from your neighborhood in case of emergency evacuation.
- Wear protective clothing such as sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Take your Emergency Supplies Kit.
- Lock your home.
- Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards – make sure you have enough gasoline in your vehicle to ensure traffic delays of routes out of your normal travel. Watch for and listen to local radio stations for any sudden changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
- Close windows, vents, doors, blinds or non-combustible window coverings and heavy drapes.
When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a disaster supply kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags, or trash containers. Include in the kit:
- A three (3) day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
- Food that won't spoil.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person.
- A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
- Emergency tools, including battery powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of batteries.
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
- An extra pair of eyeglasses.
- Important family documents stored in a waterproof container.
- Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
- Pet supplies to include crates as many require all pets to be confined for their safety and the safety of other families seeking shelter.
When Replacing Your Roof - Consider These Options
- Tile, metal, and slate are more expensive roofing materials, but if you need to replace your roof anyway, it may be worthwhile to pay a little more for the added protection these materials provide.
- Slate and tile can be much heavier than asphalt or wood shingles. If you’re considering switching to one of these heavier coverings, your roofing contractor should determine whether the framing of your roof is strong enough to support them.
- If you live in an area where snow loads are a problem, consider switching to a modern standing-seam metal roof, which will usually shed snow efficiently.
- Check with your local fire department for specific "Roof Class" requirements in your area.
AmCap Insurance® is committed to helping you make your life, home, and family safer. We encourage you to make wildfire preparedness part of your home safety program. Contact your local Agent for more information on wildfire safety.
SOURCE: Special thanks to the California Department of Forestry and Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and Fire fighters across California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado for their contributions in the development of this material.
How Can I Begin to Recover?
Recovery takes time. Catastrophic events shake even the hardiest person. But, it's human nature to want to begin putting life back in order. So, here are some steps to help you on the road to recovery.
- Secure the safety of your family.
- Do not enter your home unless you’re sure it’s safe. Depending on the type of disaster, there may be exposed electrical wires, standing water or a natural gas leak. If you have any concerns about the structural or environmental safety of your home, do not enter.
- Contact your Agent directly, report your claim online or call an ASI Claims Professional at 866-274-5677. Have your policy number handy and be prepared to provide contact information so your adjuster can reach you throughout the claim process. It’s important that you provide all your phone numbers, even if they are temporary.
- Tune in to your local TV and/or radio stations for ASI catastrophe advertising and Media Alerts that provide instructions for reporting claims. In heavier hot areas, look for the ASI Catastrophe Mobile Unit for assistance.
- Review your emergency plan and determine if improvements are needed for future emergencies.
Once The Claims Process Has Begun
- Take account of your loss and separate the damaged from the undamaged personal property.
- If available, provide your adjuster with photos or videotape of the loss site prior to the event. This will assist your adjuster with the damage evaluation process.
- If necessary, have a qualified contractor make temporary repairs to prevent additional loss. Be sure to obtain a bill or invoice for this service.
- If bills were lost or destroyed due to a catastrophic event contact your creditors to establish a workable solution.
- Discuss payment issues with them directly; creditors usually appreciate forthrightness.
- If your home is uninhabitable, check with your agent or your review your policy to determine if you have Additional Living Expenses coverage.
- Save all receipts to document your living expenses while your home was uninhabitable.
- Contact the utility companies to discontinue service if your home is uninhabitable or destroyed.
Investigate the availability of special loans and/or grants via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross, local government agencies, private lenders, and philanthropic organizations.