How You Can Prepare for a Natural Disaster

Share via
Special to The Times; <i> Written by Amy Mickelson of the Energy Extension Service, a division of the Washington State Energy Office</i>

No matter where you live, a natural disaster can occur--flood, earthquake, fire or winter storm. For most people, the major focus following a serious earthquake will be personal safety, assessing injuries and removing people from hazardous situations. Commonly forgotten, however, is potential danger from quake-vulnerable utilities and heating systems. With some planning you can protect you home from these disasters. Below is a checklist of some things to consider for keeping your home safe in case of a catastrophe.


--Locate water, gas and electric shut-offs. Know how to turn these off.

--Keep tools required to turn off utilities in a convenient place.

--Label gas and water main inlets, and main electric circuit breaker for easy identification.


--Securely strap your water heater to the studs. Use two-inch wide sheet metal strapping and lag screws with oversized washers. This prevents it from falling over and rupturing gas line or causing an electrical short.


--Use flexible connectors to gas appliances. This reduces the risk of rupture.


--Keep trees or other vegetation at least 15 feet from chimney or stovepipe.

--Line chimneys to safeguard structural walls from fire damage.

--Inspect all sheet metal flues connecting the furnace or water heater to the chimney. All joints should be secured with a minimum of two sheet metal screws per joint to prevent separation.


--Use non-combustible or fire-resistant roofing materials.

--Choose wind-resistant roofing material.

--Make sure your roof is designed to handle the wind, snow loads in your area.

--Install gutters to divert water away from roof and downspouts to carry water at least two feet away from home.

--Keep roof and gutters free of leaves and pine needles.

--Make sure gutters and down spouts are secure during wind storms.

--Provide convenient roof access and a place to wait out rising flood waters.


--Trim trees to eliminated limbs that overhang your home or garage.

--Plant vegetation outside of power line areas.

--Keep tree branches trimmed away from overhead power lines.

--Keep firewood and other combustibles stored away from house.

--Plant low growing and less flammable trees and shrubs. Consult your county extension office for advice on those most suitable for your environment.

--Maintain a non-combustible space around your home. Clear flammable vegetation a minimum of 30 feet from the structure.

--Plant trees that when fully grown remain at least 10 feet from the exterior of the house.

--Build a reinforced concrete wall or other retaining structure around your home in flood-prone areas.


--Slope soil around house in a way to divert water away from home.

--Make sure street access and driveway are wide enough for fire fighting equipment.


--Make sure house number is clearly visible from the road.

--Install smoke detectors. Test and replace batteries regularly.

For your family, prepare an emergency survival kit. For a list of what to include, contact your local Red Cross chapter and ask for their fact sheet--Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit.