NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Safeguarding Your Home and Valuables Before Disaster Strikes

Wildfires, as we have seen recently in California, are the most destructive force in nature. Nothing can be done to avert the phenomenon of a wall of fire consuming everything in its path. They seem to flare up quickly and spread rapidly in dry and windy conditions.

Wildfire is Coming

In 2016 alone, over 67,000 wildfires were reported across the United States. You can’t outrun a fast-moving firestorm. If you live in a fire-prone area, there are steps you can take to protect your family, home and possessions by at least minimizing some of the risks.

Don’t wait until a wildfire is imminent to prepare. Think ahead because preparation is vitally important. It is recommended that brush and dead branches, undergrowth, leaves and wood piles be cleared a minimum of 30 feet and more around the perimeter of the house. You don’t want to give burning embers additional fuel as they get closer to your home. Make sure you have enough garden hoses.

Store important papers including home inventory, appraisals and insurance policies in a fire-resistant metal box or safe or in another secure location off the property. Assess your possessions and decide which valuables are most important to you. What would you take with you if you had to evacuate? Make certain they are things that can be moved easily and quickly into your car.

Prepare an emergency “go bag” with water, face masks, some type of food and a first-aid kit.  Store it so you have easy access and can grab it on your way out. Have a plan in mind for what to do with your pets.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you face possible evacuation but have some time, these steps might help protect your property. Move furniture to the center of the room and take down drapes and curtains. Close all windows and doors to prevent drafts. Shut off gas from the source. Turn on all lights so that firefighters can see your house easily through the smoke.

The article How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes onthe website houzz.com advises on what to do immediately following a fire and how to assess damage. The author, Gwendolyn Purdom, particularly stresses before and after documentation. Photograph everything in your home for your records. Afterward take pictures of what has been damaged or destroyed. Disasters are extremely stressful, and photos are a valuable aid for insurance purposes.

Floods and mudslides are often the result of the aftermath of a major fire. Ms. Purdom  discusses fire and flood damage and how and what it is possible to rescue and restore. Check your fire and earthquake insurance policies and make certain they are up-to-date. Flood insurance might also be a consideration.

Earthquakes and wildfires are ever present calamities waiting to happen, particularly in California. Knowing you’ve done all you can do to protect your home and family before a disaster strikes is really all that can be done.

In 2016, records show 19,000 earthquakes, about 52 a day, had occurred all over the United States. Major temblors have struck various areas of the country throughout its history.   

Were you aware California averages 19 earthquakes a day?  The entire state of California is riddled with faults, so earthquakes happen more frequently and are usually of greater magnitude. You may not even be aware one has happened, or you might feel a slight jiggle, tremble or even a short, sharp jolt.   You never know when one will strike. The last major quake in California in 2014 struck Napa and the wine country north of San Francisco, resulting in a half-billion dollars in damages.

The possibility of an earthquake may be buried in the back of one’s mind, but there is always an awareness— sooner or later it’s going to happen. Hopefully, not The Big One.

There are hazards in living near an active fault line. If you construct your home on a steep hillside to take advantage of the view, potential landslides must be taken into consideration. An oceanfront home can easily be destroyed by an earthquake-triggered tsunami.  Poor construction, especially in older structures, can cause a building to collapse into a heap of rubble. These are some of the things you must keep in mind if you live in an area prone to earthquakes.

Landslides, tsunami’s and building collapse may be extreme results of a powerful earthquake. But you can protect your possessions in more moderate shaking by earthquake-proofing the furniture and valuable items in your home.

This is a fairly inexpensive and easily accomplished do-it-yourself project. It simply requires properly securing any object that might fall over and be damaged or broken. This not only protects your valuables, but also you and your family.

There are a number of products on the market for this purpose: furniture anchors and wall straps for securing bookcases, hutches and curio cabinets to the wall, safety straps for heavy objects such as wall-mounted TV’s, framed artworks and sculptures and cabinet safety latches to keep doors from flying open.

Quake Hold, a soft, easily removable and non-damaging putty-like substance, keeps breakables and collectibles securely in place during an earthquake. In use by museums everywhere, it is a valuable tool for minimizing damage due to breakage.

A good hardware store, as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot will have all the necessary supplies needed as well as advice from knowledgeable staff. Everything is also available on Amazon and other internet sites.

The Hartford website is a valuable source of information on earthquake safety. Excellent advice on how to secure everything in your home can be found on doityourself.com.

Natural disasters can strike suddenly. They can’t be predicted. You can only be as prepared as possible in order to ensure the safety of your family, home and valuable possessions.

As a personal property appraiser, I am often asked to assist with claims after the fact.  It is much better to have your valuables documented and appraised before a disaster strikes.

Sources

Wildfire and Earthquake Safety

Build a Kit

Securing Appliances, Furniture and Valuables for Earthquakes

How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

Pet Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

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Kathi

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time appraiser of antiques, furnishings and decorative art with a specialty in art glass. Locations in Palm Desert and San Diego, California.