Hurricanes, earthquakes, and your home

by Dan Krell
© 2011

When I wrote about disaster preparedness earlier this year, who knew we would experience an earthquake and a hurricane within a few months? Now that Hurricane Irene and the “surprise” earthquake are still fresh in our memories, disaster preparedness is a top conversation. However, protecting your home, possessions, and family from disasters and severe weather goes beyond just having a preparedness kit along with several days’ worth of food and water.

Consider that basic home owners’ insurance typically doesn’t cover damage from flood or earthquake; and unfortunately, many home owners don’t know the extent (or limitations) of their own home owners’ insurance coverage. Unless you live in a flood zone, where you’re lender would require you to carry the extra coverage, chances are that you don’t have flood insurance. Additionally, who thinks about earthquake insurance in the east coast? Actually, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America ( about only 12% of Californians have earthquake insurance – so it is likely that you might not either.

Although regular home maintenance could possibly avoid a catastrophe caused by severe weather and water penetration; any disaster (whether it’s a natural occurrence, manmade, deity made, alien made, or whatever your beliefs are) has the potential for major devastation regardless of how much you prepare.

Have you looked up toward your roof lately? If your roof fails, high winds and heavy rain could not only lift and peel away shingles, but could allow water penetration into your home (which could affect other systems). Regular checks of the roof system, including shingles and flashing could prevent surprises when you’re relying on your home’s roof the most.

Additionally, don’t wait for wind or birds to clear the debris that has landed on your roof. Debris, such as tree branches, leaves, Frisbees, etc. have the potential to not only damage shingles and sheathing, but can also clog the gutters and downspouts. Instead of carrying water away from your home, clogged gutters and downspouts could force rains to cascade to the ground and pool around your home’s foundation. Additionally, a gutter that has pulled away from the roof can also allow rain to cascade off the roof and pool around the home’s foundation. To ensure proper function, gutters and downspouts should be checked and cleaned regularly.

If you have a basement, check if you have a sump pump. The sump pump is used to pump water away from your home’s foundation to prevent water penetration into your basement. Although sump pumps have an average life span of ten years, pumps can wear out much sooner. Regular testing makes sense to know if the pump is operational. Since power loss is often associated with severe weather events, you might consider a battery backup for your sump pump to ensure it can operate when you need it the most.

An additional source of water penetration could result from failing windows and siding. If the home’s windows are not sealed properly, strong winds and rain could force their way into the home. Additionally, siding that is not properly attached to your home can not only allow water to penetrate, but could separate from the home leaving wall systems unprotected.

Protect your home, possessions, and your family by conducting regular home maintenance, as well as regularly consulting with your insurance agent to ensure you’re properly covered.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 5, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.