Homeowners Preparedness Guide for Disasters and Emergencies

It’s crucial to plan ahead for emergencies as a homeowner in order to protect yourself, your family, and your personal assets. Our homeowners’ preparedness guide for disasters and emergencies below will prepare you for a wide range of natural disasters, from avalanches to flash flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, and more.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2021

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In an emergency, the last thing you want to think about is how to prepare. You want to be prepared already, have a plan in place, and be ready to make sure you and your family are safe, no matter the emergency. That’s why it’s crucial to plan for emergencies as a homeowner.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can happen everywhere and anywhere. Although it’s unlikely that a blizzard will happen in Florida, for example, being prepared for when nature threatens your home is important, and can take many shapes and forms.


An avalanche can be scary, and it can happen very quickly. You should always know if you are in an area that has a potential for avalanches. If you are, you should be sure to keep an eye on any avalanche alerts. Be prepared to leave very quickly. Having a small bag with any essential documents and some essential supplies is a great idea if you are in this zone.


National Avalanche Center: Get the training

Avalanche.org: Avalanche Encyclopedia


Pretty snowfall is one thing. A blizzard, a snowstorm that lasts a long time and results in a heavy amount of snow, is totally different. These storms can cut power and make travel difficult, if not impossible. Staying warm and having enough food and water are key, so insulating your house well and keeping a store of food that doesn’t have to be heated, as well as bottled water in case your pipes freeze, are all good ideas.


Ready.gov: Snowstorms and extreme cold

United States Search and Rescue Task Force: Blizzards


Earthquakes are hard to predict, they don’t just occur in winter, and almost anywhere can be hit by an earthquake, although some places are more susceptible due to fault lines. If you live in an area that has a history of earthquakes, you should make sure to know where to go during an earthquake, how to safely evacuate if needed, and what supplies you’ll need. Bottled water, food, and important documents and medications should all be kept together in case of an earthquake.


US Geological Survey: Prepare

United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Earthquake preparedness and response

Extreme Heat

Extreme temperatures, whether heat or cold, can be dangerous. Extreme heat is particularly dangerous for seniors, young children, those who work outside, and pets. Making sure to get your air conditioner regularly serviced can be a good measure to take before any extreme heat waves, and it never hurts to check on any elderly neighbors.


National Weather Service: Heat safety


Floods can happen almost anywhere. You may need to evacuate, and when you return, you may have extensive damage to your home and belongings. Being prepared by having a bag to grab in an emergency, lots of bottled water in case of water contamination, and an emergency evacuation plan can all be helpful if a flood threatens your home.


American Red Cross: Flood safety

North Dakota State University: Flood preparedness and response


Hurricanes generally happen close to the coast, but their effects can be felt far inland as well. You may have some advance warning, but having the materials to board up your home, knowing the best evacuation route, and having supplies at home in case you stay and lose power are all great preparedness ideas to avoid being caught scrambling.


National Hurricane Center: Hurricane preparedness, be ready

Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency: Hurricane preparedness tips for home


Tornados can show up quickly and without warning. Learning about tornado safety is important even if you don’t like in a place prone to tornados is important. Things like creating a plan, picking a safe room in your home to shelter, and learning to administer first aid can make your family safer and make you an invaluable aid for others.


Missouri Storm Aware: Preparing for a tornado

Healthy Children: Tornado preparedness: tips for families


Landslides, like floods and avalanches, can wreak havoc on your home. It may be important to evacuate quickly and with little advance notice, so if you live in an area where a landslide could occur, you should absolutely have a “go bag” and a plan to let your friends and family know you have evacuated safely.


United States Congress: National Landslide Preparedness Act


Lightning can occur with even the smallest of storms, but you should always keep an eye on lightning happening near your home or wherever you are. Make sure to stay away from windows, unplug anything you can, use grounded outlets, and don’t go outside!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lightning

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Lightning


Tsunamis are mostly limited to coastal areas, but even people living inland may experience flooding or other issues. Tsunamis sometimes give warning, but it still is important to have an evacuation plan and a plan to get any essential out of your home quickly.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Tsunami


Chances are that if you live near an active, or even a dormant, volcano, you know and have plans in place to prepare if it ever erupts. But active volcanoes can impact people far away from the volcano as well. Since volcanos can erupt or ooze for months or years, as well as spread ash, knowing the dangers is important and having an evacuation plan can help keep you safe.


National Geographic: Volcano safety tips

University of Hawaii at Hilo: Evacuating during volcanic activity


Wildfires can happen almost anywhere, and it is essential that if there is a threat of a wildfire you be prepared to evacuate and pay close attention to warning, evacuation orders, and the progress of the fire.


National Fire Protection Association: Wildfire Preparedness

Ready for Wildfire: Prepare for wildfire

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Other Disasters and Emergencies

Beyond natural disasters, many other emergencies can occur. Although you should hope for the best, preparing for the worst is always the best course of action. These emergencies can impact almost anyone, and being prepared is key to protecting your home and family.

Home Fire

A home fire, no matter how large or small, can be devastating. Material possessions can sometimes be replaced, but it is a good idea to scan all important documents or photos into a cloud drive, and you should regularly remind your family where the fire extinguisher is and how to quickly evacuate, as well as fire prevention tips.


National Safety Council: National fire prevention week

Bainbridge Island Fire Department: Fire prevention facts

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a real threat, but knowing the signs, keeping a working and active carbon monoxide detector in your home, and knowing what to do if you are exposed to dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide are great ways to cut down your risk.


Mayo Clinic: Carbon monoxide poisoning

International Association of Certified Home Inspectors: Carbon monoxide poisoning and detectors

Car Accidents and Breakdowns

Car accidents can happen to anyone, and can range from an inconvenience to a life-threatening emergency. If you are in a minor accident, try to move your car over to the side of the road and stay out of traffic that could compound the accident. Never move someone who is not moving themselves after an accident.


Tufts University: Motor vehicle crash

University of Dayton: Car accident preparedness kit

Emergencies when Traveling

When traveling, the last thing you want is to deal with an emergency. Some simple preparation can make those emergencies easier to manage when they occur. Keep copies of your ID and credit cards in a safe place you can access, and always note your emergency contact in your phone!


US Department of State: Get help in an emergency

Medicare.gov: Travel

Poison Emergencies

Poison can be a real danger for kids and pets in particular. Knowing how to keep poisons safe and who to call if an emergency does occur is very important! Always clearly label any household poisons and keep them as far away from food or common areas as possible.


American Association of Poison Control Centers: Prevention

Health Resources and Service Administration: Resources


Acts of terrorism are becoming more and more frequent. We should not be afraid, because that’s the point of terrorism, but should be prepared. Especially when traveling, always let someone know approximately where you are going and always have an emergency contact stored in your phone.


Federal Bureau of Investigation: Terrorism preparedness

FEMA: Terrorism

First Aid

First aid is an invaluable skill to learn. Not only can it help you keep you and your family safe, it also can help you be an asset in an emergency. First aid kits are widely available, and learning basic first aid, like CPR, can help save a life.


Healthfinder.gov: Learn first aid

YMCA Twin Cities: CPR training

Emergency Preparedness Kits

Like a first aid kid, everyone should have an emergency preparedness kit. These kits generally include bottled water, a flashlight, pet food, garbage bags, crank radio, and much more. They can be kept in a sturdy bag or a storage container.


South Carolina Emergency Management Division: Family emergency kit

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Planning Ahead

The best way to prepare for any kind of disaster is be prepared. Although it may seem like a lot of work, preparing ahead can be the difference between a stressful situation and a tragic one. All of the tips and resources above can help you plan ahead for emergencies, although hopefully you never have to go beyond that!


University of Florida: Emergency management university plans

Oregon State University: Emergency management

Post Disaster Recovery

If you are in a disaster, you may have to evacuate or reassess and regroup, sometimes without power, water, or access to goods and services. You should always let people know you are safe, and you should look for city or state resources that are trained in and available during post-disaster management.


American Bar Association: Post disaster resources and assistance

Disaster Assistance: Other recovery help

Disaster Preparedness for Kids

Kids can help with disaster preparedness as well! It’s especially important to teach kids about preparedness so that they can be responsible for themselves and help keep everyone safe. Kids should also learn that an emergency is time to listen to an adult.


State of Utah: Ready…set…prepare! A disaster preparedness activity book

Sesame Street: Emergency preparation

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Disaster Preparedness for Business Owners

Business owners should prepare for emergencies both at home and their business. There can be disaster assistance available for small business, but owners should never put their business above their safety or that of their employees, and should always keep the same emergency supplies at work as they do at home.


Small Business Administration: Prepare for emergencies

Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners

Pet owners have another level of responsibility, pets aren’t able to take care of themselves in emergencies. Pet owners have to make sure they have first aid and emergency kits that are useful for their pets, that they have a way to evacuate their pets, and that they keep their pets microchipped, up to date on shots, and on a leash during any emergency evacuation.


ASPCA: Disaster preparedness

American Veterinary Medical Foundation: Pets and disasters

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