Thursday, June 7, 2012

When Extreme Weather Comes A Knocking! How to prepare yourself and your home

Mother nature has a tendency to keep you on your toes. Here in the Denver area we're no strangers to bizarre weather. We see our fair share of wildfires, snow, wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes! With the unpredictable weather comes the homeowner's responsibility to deal with the fallout when these acts of nature wreak havoc. Below are several things you can do to be better prepared ahead of time for these types of situations and a plan of action for dealing with the aftermath thanks to our friends over at Travelers!

Hail is one of the number one causes of house damage in the US. Not surprising if you've ever witnessed a good downpour with golfball size air debris! If you have forewarning that you may be hit by one of these storms you can start out by protecting plants and flowers by covering them. Move vehicles into garages if possible. Bring anything breakable inside like flower pots, umbrellas, etc.

Staying safe in a hailstorm
  • If there is a hail storm in your area, make personal safety your first priority. Take shelter during the storm. Large hail can cause serious injuries.
  • Hail is often accompanied by strong winds and lightning, both of which pose their own dangers.
  • After the storm passes, keep in mind that windows may have been broken and high winds may have knocked down trees and power lines. Look for broken glass, sharp objects and live wires. Be sure to wear proper shoes and gloves when walking around your property.
  • If necessary, protect your property immediately against further damage and theft. Use plywood, tarps or other materials to cover broken windows or holes in roofs. Keep receipts for reimbursement of all expenses covered by your policy.

Understanding hail damage

  • Hail is frozen precipitation that forms in storm clouds when super-cooled water droplets freeze on contact with dust or dirt in the air. Hailstones can be as small as the tip of a pen or as large as a softball. The larger they are, the more damage they can do.
  • By understanding the signs of hail damage you can be better prepared to work with contractors and your claim professional after a storm.

House fires are not as uncommon as most people would tend to believe. Fire is a year round concern as it can arise from nearly anything. You have a variety of fire potential everywhere you turn outside of the kitchen stove- bbqs and outdoor grills, dryers, space heaters, outdoor patio heaters and tiki torches, camping fires, cigarettes, lightening, etc. Obviously there are ways to prevent most of these sources but accidents do happen.

Having clear knowledge of how to use a fire extinguisher is a good place to start. Making sure your smoke detectors are functioning properly and that your family has an emergency exit plan that has been PRACTICED! Cleaning dryer vents regularly. These are good places to start. But even the most prepared can be caught off guard, especially by a wildfire. Stay safe by heeding the following advice.

  • Give your yard a good annual clean-up and maintenance. Prune tree limbs within 10 feet of your home, clear away dead plants or branches, and remove pine needles, leaves, and other debris from the yard, roof, and gutters. Use caution and be careful to stay away from overhead wires. If you are not comfortable doing this work yourself, hire a licensed contractor.
  • Prepare a family evacuation plan. Have more than one escape route and designate a place for family members to meet if they are in different locations when an evacuation order is given.
  • Make sure adult family members know how to shut off utilities and how to use fire extinguishers.
  • Prepare a survival kit.


  • Listen to the radio for important reports and evacuation information.
  • Remove lightweight and non-fire-resistant curtains from around windows.
  • Place combustible patio furniture in the house or garage. Move all flammable furniture away from windows to the center of the house.
  • Close windows and interior doors.
  • Connect a garden hose to the outside tap and place lawn sprinklers on the roof. Wet the roof and any shrubs within 15 feet of the house.
  • If you must evacuate:
    • Shut off propane at the tank, or natural gas at the meter, and turn off all pilot lights.
    • Turn on a light in each room of the house to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
    • Wear protective clothing, including sturdy shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts, gloves, and a bandana or handkerchief.
    • Advise a friend or family member outside the wildfire area that you are leaving and where you will be.


  • Stay tuned to the radio or television for updated information. If you had to evacuate, return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.
  • Check for hazards such as electrical shorts or gas or water leaks. Turn off any damaged utilities, and arrange for the electric or gas company to test, repair, and turn utilities back on.
  • Check the roof and attic for smoke, sparks, and embers.
  • Throw away items such as food or medicines that have been contaminated by smoke or fire.
  • Promptly report any loss to Travelers using the toll-free claim reporting number.

First thing about floods and the #1 thing you should do after reading this, CALL your insurance company and check your policy. Most standard homeowners policies do NOT include flood insurance!!! The average cost to mediate a flood is $48,000 according to the National Flood Insurance Program. The best advice is obviously to add flood insurance to your policy.


  • Know your flood zone risk. Evaluate your flood risk.
  • Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.
  • Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.
  • If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.
  • To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.
  • Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.
  • In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.
  • Learn the flood alert signals of your community.
  • Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.
  • Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.
  • Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.
  • Plan a kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home. 
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.
  • Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
  • Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.
  • Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out the water gradually. Remove about 1/3 per day to avoid structural damage.
  • Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.
  • Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets, shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.
  • Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.
  • PROMPTLY call your insurance company to report any loss
And of course I will add in that you should hire a professional to address the damage done to your home. It may be tempting to just start ripping out wet carpet but there are a million facets that go into the proper remediation of a flood including mold prevention, not something to mess around with.

Safety is the number one priority with any type of major storm. There isn't a whole lot you can do about things like tornadoes but you can prepare your home ahead of time just in case and have a plan in place in the event that something does occur. Needless to say the damage a home sustains from a major 'act of God' like a tornado should by repaired by a reputable professional.

  • Learn the warning signs and alert signals of your community.
  • Understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means that tornadoes may develop, while a warning means that a tornado has been sighted and you should seek shelter immediately.
  • Prepare a survival kit.
  • Conduct drills with your family. Designate an area of your home as a shelter and practice what you would do should a tornado occur.
  • Move cars and other outdoor objects inside the garage.
  • At Home:
  • Seek shelter away from windows in the center of the room. Basements and storm cellars are the best havens, but if there is no basement, take cover in a bathroom, closet, or under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • At work or school:
  • Go to the basement or an inside hallway at the lowest level. Keep away from large, open areas such as auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums. Lie low and use your arms to protect the head and neck.
  • In a car:
  • Do not try to outrun the tornado. Stop the car, get out, and if there is no nearby facility in which to take shelter, lie in a low area such as a ditch.
  • Stay in your shelter until the storm is over.
  • Listen to the radio or television for the latest storm information.
  • Check for gas leaks or electrical system damage.
  • Watch for downed power lines when going outside.
  • Report damage to your insurance company


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