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Protecting Your Home From Mother Nature

While some threats to one's property can be prevented, like theft or arson, acts of nature are unique in that there's no way to stop them from occurring. Acts of nature, or natural disasters, are defined as geological or weather events that cause widespread destruction and potential loss of life in a populated area. These events are rarely predictable, and in many cases they occur with only a few minutes' warning or none at all. Because of the unpredictability and widespread nature of most natural disasters, it is necessary for people to prepare for them well in advance. This is the best way to protect one's property, and when that is not possible, at least ensure that lives are not lost.

Floods

Flooding is a natural disaster event that can be caused by severe weather or geological events, such as earthquakes. It can also occur when levees and other flood barriers are compromised by erosion or animals. Flash flooding, in particular, can come with very little warning. Homes being constructed in flood zones should be built on higher ground, or higher foundations, while existing homes can be reinforced by building flood barriers. Residents in flood zones should move important belongings, and all electronics, to the second floor, if possible, in the event that a flood warning is issued. In case of flooding in progress, people should never try to cross moving waters either in cars or on foot, as the risk of being carried away and drowned is too great.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are acts of nature that strike completely without warning, and can topple even modern, heavily reinforced buildings. Whether or not one lives in a designated earthquake zone, it is always advisable to prepare in advance by securing cabinets, appliances and bookcases, to prevent them from falling. Move chairs and desks away from spots beneath ceiling fixtures, such as fans and lights. In the event of an earthquake, the safest action to take is to get under a desk and cover one's head and neck. Many doorways are no longer made strong enough to provide protection during an earthquake, which means that in modern homes they are not safe places to take refuge. People should not attempt to enter or leave a building during an earthquake, as falling debris and electric wires present potentially fatal hazards. Earthquake safety drills that put these safety techniques into practice are also an important part of quake preparedness.

Wildfire

Wildfires can be caused by weather events such as lightning strikes, long droughts, or an extended heat wave. As a result, they are potentially predictable well in advance, and many wildfire-prone areas have designated "wildfire seasons", typically during the summer months. Homeowners can prepare for these disasters by fireproofing their roofs, keeping gutters and roofs clean, and clearing away dead, dry vegetation from around the house. When planning landscaping projects, planting fire-resistant vegetation such as ice plant, is preferable to cedar trees, which are more flammable. Watering down roofs, lawn grass and nearby vegetation, is another good defense against wildfires, as is moving all flammable furniture and other materials indoors.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes form from tropical depressions in the ocean, and often come with a lot of prior warning. Like with wildfires, hurricane-prone areas recognize that certain times of the year are "hurricane seasons". Proper home defense tactics against hurricanes include installing hurricane shutters, trimming or removing trees which can fall and damage roofs, and checking for loose roof shingles. In addition to wind damage, hurricanes also present the threat of flooding, which means preparations for hurricanes must also include precautions that one takes against flooding.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can be spawned from thunderstorms or hurricanes. While many places have known periods of the year for tornadoes, or "tornado seasons", these powerful windstorms can still strike with very little warning. Like with earthquakes, tornado evacuation drills are important because of the sudden nature of these events. During a drill, one should practice evacuating into a basement or a safe room, if they are available. Other areas to evacuate include a bathroom, or a place where there are no windows. To protect one's home, it will be necessary to secure the walls to the house's foundation, as well as reinforcing the roof.

Volcanoes

Of all natural disasters, volcanic eruptions have the greatest potential for property destruction. While domed roofs can reduce the threat of collapse under the weight of volcanic ash, no home can survive a direct hit from lava rivers and pyroclastic flows. Lava flows reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and will burn, melt and bury homes caught in their path. Pyroclastic flows are a tsunami of hot and heavy debris that barrel down a volcano's sides at hundreds of miles per hour. In addition, eruptions can hurl large, burning volcanic debris at high speeds, striking and destroying homes like small meteorites. The best course of action in the event of an impending eruption is to evacuate. In some cases a homeowner can prepare well in advance for lava flows by digging deep trenches that can redirect the flow of lava around the property. Falling volcanic ash can damage both the eyes and lungs, which means people near volcanoes should wear breathing masks and goggles. In addition, ash can collapse roofs and block the flow of air into buildings. People in homes affected by ash-fall should not venture outside for long, and should consider evacuating because of the poor air quality.

Top 10 Safest U.S. Cities from Natural Disasters (according to cbsnews.com)

  1. Farmington Hills, Michigan
  2. Denver, Colorado
  3. Chicago, Illinois
  4. Allentown, Pennsylvania
  5. Dayton, Ohio
  6. Frederick, Maryland
  7. Buffalo, New York
  8. Akron, Ohio
  9. Cleveland, Ohio
  10. Syracuse, New York

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