By BreAnn Stephenson
At the end of July, Tropical Storm Emily formed in just 8 hours and officials are now saying this is going to be an above average year for hurricanes. We’ve also seen resources to fight wildfires quickly dwindling in western states like Arizona and Montana and as of June, California wildfires had already burned through twice as many acres as last year. As for tornadoes an amazing 41 of them twisted their way through Georgia within two days at the end of January, causing many to wonder what kind of spring and summer storms would be coming our way. The Department of Homeland Security reports that 1200 tornadoes hit the U.S. each year!
With the ability of catastrophic events to spring up and escalate quickly, preparing your properties and tenants well in advance is of the utmost importance. Once they begin there is usually little, if any, time to run for cover. Natural disasters don’t wait on humans to be ready to respond – either you are ready or you’re not. That being said, if you aren’t already prepared for these types of catastrophes then there is no time like the present to get geared up! Heeding the few tips below from Ready.gov could save you thousands of dollars and may even save a life.
Wildfires can occur at any time throughout the year, but the potential is always higher during periods with little or no rainfall, which make brush, grass, and trees dry and burn more easily. For many areas, this occurs in the summer through fall months, but many western states have a year-round wildfire risk. This year, rains in early spring caused an abundance of new grassland growth; unfortunately, those grasslands have now dried up, bringing even more fuel to summer and fall fires. High winds can also contribute to spreading the fire. Your community may have a designated wildfire season when the risk is particularly high.
For your property:
- Create and maintain an area approximately 30 feet away from your property that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers, brush, and other landscaping that can burn.
- From 30 feet to 100 feet reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible and prune vegetation, create “fuel breaks,” such as driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.
- Work with neighbors to create spaces up to 200 feet around your homes where vegetation is thinned to remove underbrush and tall trees do not touch each other for continuous canopies.
- Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
- Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
For your tenants:
- Be sure your tenants know the wildfire risk, especially if they are not originally from the area.
More Wildfire Tips: https://www.ready.gov/wildfires
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30. While these are the common seasons for cyclones, storms can occur at any time of the year, such as this year’s Tropical Storm Arlene which set records when it arrived in April.
For your property:
- Trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep your tenants and your property safe.
- Secure loose gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage.
- Retrofit to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
- Purchase a portable generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
- Consider building a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter designed for protection from high-winds and in locations above flooding levels.
For your tenants:
- Tenants should also be advised to prepare to stay in the home if not in an area advised to evacuate. They will need adequate supplies in case they lose power and water for several days and are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
More Hurricane Tips: https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes
Tornadoes can strike in any season, but occur most often in the spring and summer months. They can occur at all hours of the day and night, but are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
For your property:
Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room built to FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards is to provide a space where people can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your property.
- The basement.
- Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
- An interior room on the first floor.
Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.
To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
- The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
- The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
- The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
- Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.
For your tenants:
- Identify safe rooms (built to FEMA criteria or ICC500), storm shelters or other potential protective locations within the property or inside sturdy buildings near the property, where tenants can go to quickly for safety in the event of a Warning or an approaching tornado.
- For buildings with long-span roofs, open space plans or many occupants, identify the best available refuge and share those locations with tenants.
- At minimum, tenants should get as many walls between them and the outside. Centrally located bathrooms can be a good choice if there isn’t a basement, for example.
- Advise tenants to be alert to changing weather conditions and look for the following danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
- If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
More Tornado Tips: https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes
6 General Disaster Preparedness Tips for You & Your Tenants
- Review your insurance policy and also require tenants to carry renter’s insurance to protect their belongings. Named Storm (Tropical Storms/Hurricanes) coverage and Flood coverage are both purchased separately, so check with your agent to make sure you are covered appropriately for your area.
- You may want to provide basic supplies for an emergency preparedness kit in your welcome packet, including a flashlight, batteries, and first aid supplies. Tenants will also need medications and copies of critical information if/when they need to evacuate.
- Provide resources to help tenants make an emergency plan including an evacuation plan and a communication plan. Share local emergency management agency contact information with tenants.
- Make a plan for contacting tenants in the event of an emergency. Be sure they know how to best contact you or your property manager during an emergency too.
- During the event, stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio, for weather updates, emergency instructions or evacuation orders. In any emergency, always follow the instructions given by local emergency management officials. Advise your tenants to do the same.
- Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.” NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio and television newscasts are several other reliable methods for obtaining the latest information.
What 13 states have the highest Wildfire risk? “What States Have the Greatest Wildfire Risk?”
Instructions for Preparing a “Go Bag”: “Storm and Hurricane Prep: 15 Essentials for Your ‘Go Bag'”
What to do after a Storm: “Storms on the Horizon”