image of a tree that has fallen onto a house and cased damage

How to Prepare Your Home for Weather Disasters

GCI Consultants Building Envelope, Building Maintenance, Hurricanes

There’s significant evidence that weather-related disasters are on the rise. In 2020, the United Nations published a report that examined the number of disasters, as well as the ensuing lives lost and economic toll, from 2000 to 2019. Compared to 1980 – 1999, the numbers have risen at an incredible rate. 

From 1980 – 1999, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction reported 4,212 disasters linked to natural hazards, claiming approximately 1.19 million lives, and affecting 3.25 billion people, resulting in approximately $1.63 trillion in economic losses. 

During 2000 – 2019, those numbers rose to 7,348 major recorded disasters, 1.23 million lives lost, 4.2 billion people affected, and $2.97 trillion in global economic losses. 

According to the UN’s report, much of the difference can be attributed to “a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019.” 

Homeowners may feel intimidated in the face of such staggering numbers, but there are measures you can take to ensure your house is as prepared as possible in the event of a weather-related disaster. 

Steps Homeowners Can Take to Prepare for Weather-Related Disasters

We sat down with Dan Johnson, one of GCI’s resident Senior Consultants with over 30 years of experience in the building industry, to provide his expert opinion on steps that can be taken to protect homeowners. 

“This is a difficult topic, how to prepare for a disaster – that’s why they’re called disasters,” Mr. Johnson says. “But there are steps homeowners can take, depending on the area of the country they’re in, to be ready for [a disaster] and try to minimize the effects as much as possible.” 

Cursory Review 

Limiting the impact and damage a storm can do to your home can begin by simply taking a stroll around your house and examining the exterior. 

“Probably one of the biggest steps [homeowners can take] is to do a cursory review of your home,” says Mr. Johnson. “To see if you have loose attachments of any materials that you can see and make sure that everything is secure. And if you have questions – to contact an expert.”

The cursory review of your home should also include roofs, windows, and anything in your yard that could be potentially damaged in high winds or floods. 

“When looking at the roof, homeowners should look at the shingles and make sure they aren’t loose,” Mr. Johnson explains. “Around the soffit and facia of the roof, make sure it’s secure – the nature of the facia is that, over time, the nails that secure the facia become loose.” 

“When it comes to windows, just make sure they operate correctly and that they lock. And also, this is more for heavy rainfall [rather than disasters], but another thing is to make sure that the sills are free of debris, so if water does get into the windows system, it can drain back out and not spill into your house.” 

“Take a walk around your house and look at all the weather sealant joints, if they look deteriorated, get those repaired. Take a look at the trees or shrubs that surround your house. If you have dead branches hanging over your house, you might want to have them trimmed.”  

Insurance Review

Homeowners should also take the time to review their home insurance policies and see what’s covered. As the risk of flood-related events continues to rise, it may be prudent to add flood insurance – even if you’re in an area that doesn’t necessarily experience floods now. Ultimately, it depends on the area of the country you live in and which events your home may be at risk for. 

“Just talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you’re covered in the areas you feel you need coverage,” adds Mr. Johnson. 

Preparing for Floods 

Another issue that can be mitigated by homeowners is basement flooding. There are easy solutions such as making sure that you don’t store any items directly on the ground of the basement – as well as implementing a sump pump and a drain tile. 

A drain tile is a system that funnels water towards your sump pump so it can be efficiently pumped out of your basement. 

Unfortunately, if your water heater or furnace is in the basement, it’ll be challenging to protect these assets from a basement flood. But, for everything else, stay aware of when inclement weather is on its way and you can take the proper precautions before it’s too late – such as moving anything that may be damaged in a flood from the basement to a higher floor. 

Preparing for Tornadoes

If you live in an area where tornadoes are prevalent, there’s not much that can protect your house but you can take precautions to protect yourself. 

“If a tornado wants to take your house away, there’s not much you can do,” Mr. Johnson points out. “But you want to make sure that you have a storm shelter room or place you can shelter – and ICC 500 is a good standard that tells you what’s required. You may be able to get insurance rebates if you build per ICC 500 codes, which means you have to get things labeled and coded by a third party.” 

Provided by FEMA, the Highlights of ICC 500 document covers the standards for the design and construction of storm shelters, such as design and testing methods. 

Preparing for Hurricanes

Hurricanes combine the dangers of high winds, torrential rainfall, and just about everything else that can be expected to threaten a home during a storm. 

“If you’re in a hurricane-prone area, there are all kinds of things that you can do, [but a lot of it] is just following the normal building codes and making sure that you have impact-resistant materials. This includes making sure windows have strong shutters and that all the additional anchoring has been done to secure your roof trusses to the structure, so they don’t get blown off. This would likely take a professional inspector.” 

While we’re experts in building envelope inspections and standards, what’s most important in the event of a weather-related disaster is you and your family’s safety. We recommend FEMA’s Basic Preparedness Guide, which provides templates and guides for building plans during a disaster, as a starting point in property safety for storms.

If you think your home’s building envelope is in need of inspection or consultation to prepare for inclement weather, the GCI team is standing by – happy to help you stay safe and dry during the storm season. 

Everything Building Envelope podcast